Chinese Firm Proves Virtual Office Benefits

HONG KONG—The Wall Street Journal offered up an interesting article on Monday entitled, “Chinese Firm Experiments With Telecommuting.” The article looks first at Ctrip, China’s largest travel agency. Ctrip recently completed a nine-month virtual office experiment that was overseen by economists at Stanford and Beijing University.

The Journal reports: “Ctrip, was looking to save money on real estate costs and cut turnover. It asked 996 employees in its Shanghai call center if they’d be interested in working at home four days a week. Half were interested, and 252 qualified for the experiment by virtue of having at least six months on the job and broadband access from a quiet corner of their home. Those with birthdays on even days were selected to work at home, those with odd birthdays stayed in the office, making this the sort of random experiment that academics relish.”

The result: Ctrip saved plenty of cash with no ill impact on productivity. Such is the promise of telecommuting from a virtual office. Alternative workplace strategies, which include virtual offices, save companies money in a number of ways. The primary way is by tapping modern technology to cut back on the largest cost a company posts: office space. By slashing the amount of bricks-and-mortar space, a company can quickly boost its bottom line.

At the same time, telecommuting from a virtual office helps employees remain more productive. Numerous studies prove that virtual office workers are more productive than their brick-and-mortar colleagues. There are fewer distractions for virtual office workers, who avoid the hustle and bustle of the office and the distractions around the water cooler. Allowing employees to telecommute from a virtual office can also help you attract and retail the best and brightest workers.

Of course, most companies can’t put all—or even most—of their employees on telecommuting status. But many companies can allow part of their workforce to telecommute from a virtual office full time and work remotely at least part of the time. With that in mind, expect the virtual office trend to continue to gain momentum in 2013.


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