A virtual workplace is a workplace that is not located in any one physical space. It is usually in a network of several workplaces technologically connected (via a private network or the Internet) without regard to geographic boundaries (Source: IGI Global definition).
A virtual workplace is also been referred to as “telecommuting” or “teleworking” or “working from home”. It is a work arrangement in which employees do not commute or travel (e.g. by bus or car) to a central place of work, such as an office building, warehouse, or store. Teleworkers in the 21st century often use mobile telecommunications technology such as Wi-Fi-equipped laptop or tablet computers and smartphones to work from coffee shops; others may use a desktop computer and a landline phone at their home.
The beauty in this is that you get to work with some of the most capable employees from different parts of the world, regardless of their location and you get to work with them anywhere you go – flexibility. Working from a Virtual workplace is the future and a lot of companies are already embracing it with open arms even though others feel there are downsides to setting up a virtual workplace for their company.
There have been arguments to support the disadvantages of working remotely such as being frustrated when you can’t communicate effectively due to time zone limitations. Problem solving also becomes an issue over varying time zones because the client wants prompt resolution which is almost impossible. Other challenges include:
- Lack of a sense of purpose across the virtual teams
- Over-reliance on electronic communication thus losing the human touch
- Less trust and cohesion in the different teams as there is no rapport between members.
- Less satisfaction with the team experience across the board. ( Source: PI Worldwide)
The fact still remains that if you haven’t considered using a remote team, you may be handicapping your business—it’s likely that your competitors are already taking advantage of its benefits. Fuel prices and long commutes are just two of the reasons that working remotely can improve both your employees’ income and your bottom line. (Source: Forbes)
Let’s take a closer look at these benefits;
- Cost Savings – You get to save costs both as a telecommuting/remote employer and an employee. Employers who use virtual workplaces enjoy savings by cutting off expenses on office space, employee resources like office supplies and electricity.
According to the Telework Research Network, the average real estate savings realized from a full-time teleworker is $10,000 a year. Companies that have implemented several virtual workplaces have seen large cost savings in real-estate cost. For example, IBM has reduced its real estate costs by $50 million and Sun Microsystems saves $68 million per year. (Source: Wikia)
As an employee, working remotely from home for example, provides you with savings on commuting costs like fuel and productive time that you would have wasted while trying to get through traffic. With video conferencing softwares like Zoom, GoToMeeting and Skype employers are able to communicate with their employees around the world without having to meet them physically. While these programs may not totally eliminate the need for virtual teams to meet face to face like once a year (the solution to distrust among virtual teams – one of the challenges of not managing a virtual workplace well), they minimize the travelling costs for all parties involved.
- Increased productivity – Endless productive hours spent in traffic is saved by operating from a virtual workplace. Check out these statistics below:
According to the Telework Research Network, if the 41 million Americans with telework-compatible jobs worked from home just one day a week the U.S. savings would total $772 million including:
- $494 million in commuter costs
- $185 million from 2.3 million barrels of oil saved
- $ 93 million from 775 fewer traffic accidents
Plus the environment would be spared 423,000 tons of greenhouse gas-the equivalent of taking 77,000 cars off the road for a year. They also revealed that companies such as JD Edwards, AT&T and Compaq reported that their telecommuting employees are more productive than their office counterparts.
Very high traffic cities in Africa (like Lagos) can reduce a lot of unproductive hours that employees waste commuting endless hours by embracing the future in a virtual workplace. And by the way, increased productivity would lead to increased profit which is good for business.
- Larger candidate pool – One of “my favorite” benefits when it comes to working from a virtual workplace is that it provides a bigger pool of resources to make up your team. It allows you to choose the best and most capable employees for the job, regardless of their location. Thanks to technology such as the internet and smart apps being developed every day, virtual teams can collaborate and leverage on these advantages.
Other benefits include being able to leverage on the advantage(s) of having virtual team members from different or multiple time zones who can still interact and work with one another in a collaborated environment (online) regardless of where they are in the world.