Gone are the days when office meant a specific location where people gathered to work but with modern advancement in thinking and technology, telecommuting or virtual offices have come into vogue. While there are many who vouch for traditional office settings, there is a considerable population that believes that any means is good enough as long as the goal is achieved.
In the last decade or so, there has been a huge increase in virtual offices and it has worked well both for employers as well as employees. A virtual office has both advantages and disadvantages and while it works well for some organizations, it might not be the case for others.
Here are some advantages and disadvantages of virtual office workers:
Advantages of Virtual Office Workers:
1. It can make environment smile: Imagine if half of the world population workers were Virtual Office workers. There would be lesser need for commuting and that will mean lesser vehicles on the road which means lesser pollution and a purer environment. Less fuel consumption means lesser burden on the economy and fewer expenses for the Virtual Office Worker.
2. Enhanced productivity: Since the time and stress spent on commuting is eliminated, there is more time for work. This leads to more productivity and enhanced job skills. It will also mean that extra time is devoted to work.
3. Work-Life Balance: In modern times, a major factor for the growing stress among working population is attributed to the imbalance in work-life pattern. People are forever busy with work, they do not get much time to spend with family or for themselves. Virtual office workers get to spend time with their family and can have a great work-life balance, the result of which is greater enthusiasm and cheer in working.
4. Improved retention rate in the number of employees: Virtual office workers tend to stick to the job and have a lesser chance of leaving the job for greener pastures than a traditional employee. This improves the retention rate of the office or organization.
5. Decrease in the number of leaves: Virtual office workers no longer have to stick to a regular monotonous routine and neither do they have to spend much time commuting to and fro from work, which means they remain stress free and thus do not fall or report sick often. This means a decrease in leave applications and increase in work output.
6. Saves office space: An organization that has a considerable number of virtual office workers, can save a good part of their office space which they can put into better use or even better, rent it, thus earn extra income.
7. A variety of candidates to choose from: The company can now hire more efficient and capable candidates from even faraway locations. Thus they get a wider resource pool to choose from.
8. Saves time: Considerable amount of time is saved in the form of constant meetings since there are only urgent or weekly or once in a day meetings with a virtual office worker, a lot of time is saved in mundane matters such as these, which can be effectively put into productive output.
9. Virtual office workers are a boon for small and upcoming firms: Small firms and start-ups often do not have resources to rent a place as their office. If they work with a team of virtual office workers, then this problem is solved and can lead to a proper functioning of the firm, that can lead to its success.
10. Relocation issues do not exist: Relocation is a major issue with regular employees but with virtual office workers, this issue does not arise at all and the office can be located or shifted anywhere, the employees do not change.
11. Helps scale up the business: When a firm plans to increase its employee number, the next question arises as to where to accommodate them. It often means hiring a bigger place which may not be always feasible. In such a case having virtual office workers work great as they do not occupy office space. That money can be utilized for scaling up the business.
12. Cost cutting in many areas: Virtual Office Workers amount to cost cutting in many areas such as office space and equipment, electricity and internet charges and more, thus helping the organization save quite a big amount.
13. A Virtual office worker means a dedicated professional: Those who succeed as virtual office workers are the ones who can independently handle work and can work smartly to meet deadlines.
14. Efficient but physically handicapped people can be hired: In cases of certain jobs such as accounting or writing work, if a person is found to have special talents but is physically handicapped, the organization can appoint them as virtual office workers and can gain their virtual assistance. Hence this system helps in maintaining diversity.
15. Virtual office workers are better at time management: Since they work balancing family and work and have to meet deadlines most of the time, they are better at managing time and even understand the value of time better.
Disadvantages of Virtual office Workers:
1. A greater chance of jobs being outsourced: Now that the organization do not have to worry about the location of the employees, chances are that they may outsource jobs to countries where they would not have to pay much. This will mean lesser job opportunities.
2. A chance of losing out on promotions: A disadvantage with Virtual Office Workers can be that since they are not anywhere in the proximity of the office bosses, where their social skills and communication expertise can be tested, virtual office workers may get a lesser chance of being promoted.
3. They may not be accessible that promptly: Though bosses can be in touch with virtual office workers through modern technology such as video conferencing or through internet, there can be occasions when a sudden meeting with the virtual assistants or workers might not be possible in case of any emergency.
4. The danger of being labelled as unprofessional: Even though virtual offices are a reality now, if an organization works only with virtual office workers, there is a chance that some clients might consider the organization not too reliable.
5. Lack of social interaction: When people spend time with each other in a conventional office, there is camaraderie between them which leads to better working relationship among them. With virtual office workers, this camaraderie does not exist and this can lead to a sense of aloofness among the employees.
6. Security related concerns: In a traditional office, data and confidential information are secured but with virtual office workers, the office not being in a secured or permanent space, there is a risk of data being in a vulnerable state.
7. Lesser productivity: The issue of productivity is often seen both as an advantage and disadvantage factor. Since there is no constant supervision on virtual office workers, and hence no motivation, it can happen that their work output may be reduced.
8. Less professionalism: Since virtual office workers work without any boundaries of space, time or rules, there is fear that they may be less professional than regular employees.
9. Chances of miscommunication are higher: Since there are no face-to-face interaction with the virtual office workers, there can be instances wherein a message can be miscommunicated or a chance that the message has not even reached the person which can lead to work related issues.
10. Too much dependence on technology: Virtual office workers tend to depend too much on technology for their daily work and any disruption in the services of the gadgets or internet facility can mean stopping of work and this can cost a loss to the organization.
11. Being isolated: Virtual office workers work in an isolated environment and hence they may feel alone or isolated and may tend to remain out of sync with regular counterparts. This factor may not work well for an organization.
12. Many do not get the recognition and respect they deserve: Even today, those who work in conventional offices are considered as professionals and get enough recognition and respect while virtual office workers do not seem to be getting that recognition.
13. Not all can become virtual office workers: Only those who can work with minimum supervision, and are honest and who can deliver work on time can be virtual office workers. Those who need constant motivation and a proper office environment should work in a conventional office only.
14. Team work takes a backseat with virtual office workers: Virtual office workers work remotely and hence they do not take part much in team meetings or brainstorming sessions. This means the spirit of team work is lesser in virtual office workers.
Any kind of process will have its own pros and cons. Similarly virtual office workers also come with their own advantages and disadvantages but it is up to the bosses and the organization to create a leverage and work on the cons and try to enhance the pros, so that the resultant workforce remains satisfied, stress free and the working environment is transformed into a fruitful one.