The Virtual Office
Neil Bromage has run his own small business and is a freelance business writer working on a range of newspapers including The Times, Sunday Times, Telegraph and Financial Mail on Sunday. This book is based on a wide range of columns and Q&As written and answered by Neil for Business Link over a number of years. He is based near Preston, Lancs.
In the past businesses that operated from home were often seen as part-time, and not treated as serious. Today, however, they are seen as the future for many individuals and companies. Improved communications tools mean that it’s possible to work from almost anywhere. A PC in a spare bedroom enables businesses to communicate with the whole of the world instantly and the small owner/manager to talk to the CEO or president of a major worldwide company.
Unless a public front is essential – to sell products or services for instance – working from home is an alternative. Telephonists, sales people, administrative support and executive staff can all work efficiently at home providing the appropriate systems are in place.
Working from home has attractions for people and companies alike. For the individual, the convenience, improved working environment and removal of unnecessary travelling are all big gains. Walking straight into the office half an hour earlier, having spent an extra ten minutes over breakfast may help you to get more work done. Coupled with the ability to take a ten minute ‘quality break’ sitting in the garden, this sounds idyllic. For this to happen it’s important to ensure that workspace is properly organised and where possible away from the rest of the home. Friends and family also need to understand that a person is working just because they are at home in a pair of shorts doesn’t mean they’re on holiday.
For the company, remote working is becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to providing expensive offices. As the idea of the virtual office gathers pace employers are seeing the benefits of reduced overheads and more effective, happier staff. There are also savings on fuel and travelling expenses which add to the bottom line. Home working provides the opportunity of reassessing operating methods. The ‘new economy’ is rapidly being made up of businesses that operate globally from very small bases, and the traditional corporate model can learn much from this approach.
Businesses considering the introduction of remote working should have a clear strategy for its implementation and understand the needs of staff and the implications upon the necessary introduction of an improved IT infrastructure.