Virtual working is on the increase in the UK as advances in technology and virtual collaboration tools continue apace. So how does virtual working actually work?
This is a question I get asked often. As a VA (Virtual Assistant) business owner, I'm familiar with the blank looks that come from people when I tell them what I do for a living. Although virtual working from a virtual office can apply to many desk based jobs, let me give you the VA perspective on how the virtual office is a realistic concept for our modern times.
Remember the good old days when there was a secretary in the adjoining office? Well, with the advent of cyberspace, the traditional secretary has moved on. The same assistant is still there and can still perform tasks to support managing the business. The difference is, the modern assistant doesn't have to be stationed in the adjoining office thanks to a plethora of easily accessible technology that enables the modern assistant to perform the necessary tasks from any location.
The virtual office is normally run from home but it can be based: in the local coffee shop; the beach; on a mountain or wherever you can find access to the internet. Nowadays, we have smart-phones, tablets and lightweight laptops at our disposal. These provide us with the ability to communicate and share information, with clients or colleagues, very quickly. We have WiFi connections available worldwide meaning it is simple to work with anyone, in any country.
But how do we collaborate? Web hosted office collaboration tools are in abundance; let me give you some examples:
Social Media channels such as Facebook and Twitter allow us to message and share files instantly.
Evernote is officially described as a note taking tool but it is so much more than that. It is a multi-platform, cloud-based application that is easily synchronised across all devices.
Teamwork - a project management application to manage every aspect of your business with painless tracking and communication between teams
And let's not forget the mighty Google. For some this is the only tool they use to run their business - it's a one-stop shop.
Canva, graphic design software, gives the capability to create high quality visuals for web, print, blogs, social media - anywhere that you want images.
These are just a few, there are so many more, but all of the above are effortlessly shared across all of your devices which means you can keep up to date with anyone, at any time, from anywhere.
So that is how a virtual office works!
Now the hardware and software is taken care of, what other benefits are there to the virtual office? Think about these:
Environmental benefits - no, or reduced, travel - less pollution
Time saving - no more commuting
Financial benefits - lower or zero fuel costs, no work canteen lunches, no new office wear
Productivity - working at a time that suits you, when you are most productive
Reduced stress - achieving a better balance on the home-front, a more relaxed working environment
The idea is catching on fast. Many small businesses are run from home already but larger companies are now realising the benefits of allowing staff to work from home, or at least away from the office, also.
So now that I've covered how a virtual office operates, next time I will look specifically at the working world of the virtual assistant, where the possibilities are endless. See you in a fortnight.
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