I am the first to extol the benefits of the virtual workplace. Our company, Complete Controller, has always been a virtual company and has grown into a nationwide presence over the past decade without ever relegating a single team member to a cubicle, requiring a time consuming commute, or insisting upon a structured 9 – 5 workday schedule. Our workplace is entirely ‘in the cloud’ and this structure has proven to be very effective. Here are some benefits of a totally virtual workforce and some things to look out for:
Keep Costs Down – One of the most obvious benefits of a virtual workforce is the savings on leasehold improvements and overhead expenses. As accountants we are always watching the numbers and the idea of improving an office space just so we could limit our talent pool by requiring our staff to be within driving range of that space, just doesn’t seem practical.
Keep Morale Up – By keeping it virtual, we are naturally more concerned with work product than work-time. We already know how long it takes to perform the work, so we can easily determine if a staff member is struggling and provide them with the training or support they need in order to get up to speed. If their work product is excellent, they can have a job for life, no matter what life changes may occur.
Hire Smarter – A virtual workforce allows us to select from an entire nation – an entire world if you like – of talent. Our recruits are hired solely on their merit and abilities, we don’t care how they dress, what ethnicity they are, or where they live. Because we are dealing with people’s money and sensitive documents, we chose to hire only within the U.S. but other types of business can draw from an even larger talent pool.
Knowledge Share in Real Time – We are very comfortable with conversing and collaborating via email and we have learned to clean and extract that written knowledge quickly and make it available on the group level. This allows for quick evolutions of process and continuous knowledge share within the various roles in our organization. In order to support the quick identification of information as important and evolutionary, every team member should have an understanding of the organization’s mission and core values – these will guide the way.
Build a Culture – One of our values is the promotion of ‘Autonomy – Independence without Isolation’. By facilitating collaboration and knowledge share each of our team members is empowered to make smart decisions. We encourage exchange between team members on a technical as well as social level. Although some employers may view it as a waste of valuable time and resources, a great deal of bonding occurs during ‘watercooler’ or ‘coffee break’ time together – a loyalty is developed through these exchanges and our team is greatly enhanced by glimpsing one another’s lives beyond the workplace.
I believe that entrepreneurs will continue to move in the direction of total office virtualization. It’s the smart choice for most service businesses as our business ‘community’ becomes the web of interdependent experts that support each enterprise. Businesses today have unprecedented access to expertise outside of their geographic area at lower cost than ever before – be assured that they will move away from choosing the local alternative and begin to avail themselves of these resources.