Do you know how I like to spend a day at the office?
Sipping on a cappuccino at a favorite coffee shop. Preferably, one that’s located sea-side with a view.
Or cuddling with my cats, wrapped in blankets, being productive and cozy, while drinking ever more coffee.
Sound dreamy? It sure is.
It’s also possible. Working remotely doesn’t come with the constraints you might image. The vital person-to-person interactions that keep most businesses alive and thriving are still possible from the comfort of…wherever.
Read on for a complete picture of how you can bring the virtual office dream to life.
What is a virtual office?
Remember the days of being shackled to a desk by landline and typewriter?
But, what I do remember, is the need to report to the same location to be able to successfully collaborate with my team, and accomplish 90% of my work.
Times have changed.
Now, in all of its on-the-go, work-from-wherever glory, the virtual office is the modern-day business solution to traditional bricks and mortar. According to our friends at Wikipedia, a virtual office is:
“The operational domain of any business or organization whose workforce includes a significant proportion of workers using technology to perform their work at home.”
In other words, a virtual office primarily exists in cyberspace i.e., without a designated physical location. Employees can work from virtually (heh) anywhere with an internet connection.
What do I stand to gain with a virtual office?
In addition to your freedom, there are financial gains to be made from going virtual.
The overhead of buying, leasing, and maintaining a physical location can be a daunting expense for many businesses. The virtual office frees up more capital to reinvest in your company.
Then, there’s the flexibility factor. You and your team can work where and when you work best, which translates to less stress, better work, and happier employees.
How much happier? 82% of telecommuters reported lower stress levels than when traveling to an office. This coupled with reduced turnover and the ability to broaden your talent pool outside of your geographic location (get the cream of the crop!) puts the virtual office in a favorable light.
So what about accountability?
Working remotely requires a particular mindset. You need go-get-’em employees who are motivated and self-directed.
That said, virtual works! In a study by SurePayroll, 86% of respondents say they hit maximum productivity when working alone. Their managers agreed; two-thirds reported workers are more productive than their in-office counterparts.
Not to mention, the promise of working how you want can be a powerful motivator. Equip yourself with the proper tools and checking in with (and up on) your team is easy peasy.
How do I do it?
If you’re using productivity or project management apps in your business, you’re already halfway there. These apps will become the lifeblood of your new virtual office.
Now, you can be anywhere, with anyone, at any time. Video conferencing with tools like Zoom makes an online meeting super simple. Collaboration tools like Slack offers a space for individuals and whole teams to interact. The faces, voices, and input of your team are always but a click away.
Besides the human factor, project management tools like TeamWork, Asana, Trello, or Basecamp keep everyone on the same page, even if they’re on different points of the map.
Look to sites or apps like Harvest or TimeCamp to generate activity reports and invoices from one location.
If there’s a function you aren’t managing online yet, there’s an app for that. Do some online research, ask around, capitalize on free trials, and get yourself equipped with the right technology mix.
What about my clients?
“But what about our customers? Won’t it be weird for them to engage with us? How do they call us without a desk phone?”
So glad you asked.
Let’s talk customer contact.
In addition to video conferencing tools like Skype and Zoom, there are offices you can rent by the hour when you need a place outside of the home office that is not buzzing with espresso machines.
When it comes to appearing less piecemeal and more official, relying on virtual receptionist and online chat services can be your best move.
We are in the business of representing over 10,000 companies—virtually. From our offices (yes, we have physical locations for quality assurance), we establish relationships and a professional appearance for over 10,000 companies nationwide.
So, I suppose you could say it takes one to know one.
Here is how Ruby can help your virtual office feel like home:
- Present a professional, unified front. Your callers will likely assume that Ruby’s receptionists work right in your office. We answer how you want us to with a highly customizable service designed to fit the unique needs of your business. From 100% live call-answering and transferring, taking messaging, making outbound calls, scheduling, and more, you receive all of the skills you’d want from an in-house receptionist without having to actually hire one.
- One number to rule them all. Still taking business calls on your personal cell phone? We can help with that. Whether you’re a one-human show or a team of ten, having one central number for your customers to call eliminates potential confusion between both you and your customers, as well as between you and your teammates. Port your local number over to Ruby (or we can give you one), and we’ll handle the rest. You’ll be able to make calls (and text!) on your business number from your cell phone. Same convenience, more privacy, better customer experience!
- Live chat for your bottom line. We also have a live chat solution fit for meeting your customers (and prospects) where they are, 24/7. This means that you don’t have to expend virtual people-power on tasks like constantly monitoring the chat box on your website, while still resting assured that someone is. People can interact with your business on their terms, while you continue to work on yours.
- Keep it human. You could opt for phonetrees and chat-bots, but there is nothing more frustrating for a customer than having to press “0” until their thumb falls off or meeting a dead-end with a chatbot incapable of answering their contextual q’s. Create a customer service experience that makes you and your business feel accessible to your clients, no matter where you might actually be!
Whether you’re looking for a better way to run your business or simply needing a little extra wiggle room in how you work, going virtual is probably a lot more viable than you would have expected.
Where would YOU go if there wasn’t an office-bound desk holding you back?