The Benefits of Being Virtually There

netconnect A Virtual Office is just not the right fit for every company and every management team. Often, companies, when approaching the topic and considering a Virtual Office establishment for themselves tend to look at one half of the associated characteristics. Most frequently, I speak with companies that are either looking at only the positive, hopeful outcomes without consideration of the negatives and other elements that are red flags for incompatibility with respect to their current circumstances. Then, there are the other companies that only see the negatives and reasons to not move forward without seeing how the positives, for them, may actually outweigh the less than ideal accompaniments.

For now, I wish to briefly touch upon the benefits that can be gained through the successful implementation of a Virtual Office.

As with many large undertakings it is important to make sure your set of expectations are properly aligned with the reality of what a Virtual Office can deliver, and remember to…

…Expect good things.

There are clear cost savings to be had by…

  • Not having a physical need for office space. Large savings can be had, especially in a metropolitan area (e.g. NYC) where cost per square foot of space can get very, very expensive.
  • Not being limited to any specific geographic location for recruitment. Being able to recruit from places where the skills and the PRICE (employee salaries) align ideally with your own can also add up in the company’s favor.

One of the primary drivers, on the business-side, for a Virtual Office is cost savings. Through a Virtual Office you do not have to limit your recruiting search to a single geographic area, but can reach out to people, where ever you find those with the target matching skill-set. The cost savings benefit can often be best understood when evaluated in contrast to the non-virtual alternative. For example, in a city, or large metropolitan region, the business will assuredly pay a premium to hire local talent, where the cost of living is highest. Through the leveraging of a Virtual Office, the business can hire individuals with the same skills (or better) than the local candidates at a fraction of the price. The savings can add up fast; especially when hiring for high-skilled jobs like developers, where the salary difference between regions can be as great as $30k or more! Of course there are new and different costs associated with setting up a Virtual Office, phones, home Internet connections, etc., but they have negligible impact on the savings that will be gained through the cost savings of the reduced salary expenses, as well as the elimination of commercial office space fees.

Time and availability take on a unique meaning and provide special value through…

  • Flexibility of work hours and schedule that, with the right people hired, lead to significantly positive morale and dedication to the company’s work and goals.
  • Increased work hours resulting from the employees ability to optimally configure their work environment, as well as the aforementioned enhanced employee morale.
  • Expanded availability for the occasions where the critical deadline needs to be met or a critical emergency needs to be immediately addressed — it is much more convenient for the employee of a Virtual Office to have everything at their fingertips and work an extra hour or walk into the next room to address the immediate challenge at hand.

Engagement. Keeping employees engaged and focused is a challenge in any office setting. A typical employee situation that I have experienced and observed across multiple companies is that you will find the Virtual Office employee is a good deal more engaged with their work. There are no concerns about commute time or appearance. The employees are both more available to the company and, equally important, to their family. The Virtual Office employee can setup their office environment to suit their needs and optimize their environment to empower themselves to produce their best work. In start-ups the type of focus and extra hours generated from the more intense engagement are invaluable.

When structured and run well, a well connected Virtual Office further facilitates the engagement and the ensuing team spirit that develops; lowering the bar for putting in extra hours, when needed, or being available for support or emergencies. More time, more engagement, more accessibility — great things for all companies, even more valuable when resources are lean as is common in a start-up environment.

Sounds great. Let’s get started!

Remember, the Virtual Office isn’t for everyone. I have only painted about half of the picture so far. Becoming aligned with the rosier expectations associated with this model of a Virtual Office is the easier half of the equation to evaluate.

Today, take away from this part of the conversation…

  • The Virtual Office is not for everyone, and might not be the best thing for ‘us,’ the company,
  • And, the positive expectations may align well with the desired goals, but the need exists to equally weigh and honestly assess the negatives and challenges associated with the successfully executed Virtual Office.

Those downsides, and further guidance in assessing whether or not a Virtual Office is for you I reserve for separate, future The Product Guy blog posts.

So, for now, read, understand, internalize, and come back for to learn more about the experiences that I can share regarding Virtual Offices, many of the common challenges and their solutions. To make sure you don’t miss those posts, and other posts by The Product Guy, you can subscribe to The Product Guy by following this link: http://feeds.feedburner.com/tpgblog

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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About Jeremy Horn

Jeremy Horn is an award-winning, product management veteran with thirteen years of experience leading and managing product teams. Jeremy has held various executive and advisory roles, from founder of several start-ups to driving diverse organizations in online services, consumer products, and social media. As founder of The Product Group, he has created the largest product management meetup in the world and hosts the annual awarding of The Best Product Person. Jeremy can currently be found pioneering the next generation of content management and sharing at Viacom, acting as creator and instructor of the 10-week product management course at General Assembly, and mentoring at Women 2.0 and Lean Startup Machine. Follow Jeremy on twitter @theproductguy or his blog at http://tpgblog.com.

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