How to Run My Virtual Office: 9 Tips
The implications of COVID-19 on today’s workplace and how and when work-from-home (WFH) scenarios and in-office work are needed. Many businesses that have been sceptics or even utterly opposed to allow staff to work from home have been confronted by the reality that remote work has numerous benefits—and that employee productivity has not been affected.
The “Genie Is Out of the Bottle” on Work from Home
The jury is certainly still out regarding the long-term permanency of work from home. Some predict that everything will return to normal once COVID-19 recedes. But many others believe that the “genie is out of the bottle” and it is virtually impossible for most organizations to return to workplace environments that require workers in a designed workspace five days a week, eight hours a day.
Workers have a taste of what working from home means—a better quality of life without long commutes), a smaller carbon footprint (fewer vehicles on the road), and greater flexibility. There was already a groundswell from professionals before COVID-19: 80% wanted to work from home at least some of the time, and one-third of them were willing to take a pay cut to do so. And now that businesses and workers have experienced work from home, the numbers have gone up further. This is leading to projections such as those from Global Workplace Analytics, which predicts that upwards of 30% of the workforce will work multiple days per week by the end of next year.
Regardless, research seemingly indicates that, until a vaccine is discovered, a measurable portion of the workforce will continue working from home—at least for part of the work week (viz., hybrid models). This means that, even for those companies that plan to return to pre-COVID-19 in-office workplaces, implementing effective policies and technologies for running a virtual office is critical. Due to the economic downturn resulting from COVID-19, businesses—from solopreneurs to large enterprises—find themselves in a highly competitive environment where margins have shrunk, customers are demanding price reductions that were previously nonstarters, and inefficiencies can mean the difference between profitability and unprofitability.
9 Tips on How to Run a Virtual Office
With the above in mind, I put together a quick checklist of things that solopreneurs and businesses—down to the level of individual workers—can do to effectively run their virtual offices. Potential impacts range from brand enhancement, to lower costs, to enhanced efficiencies.
Get a Virtual Office Address
A virtual office address creates a professional brand value for a solopreneur or small business. First impressions count and having an address in a prime business real estate location is important. Even for businesses with a permanent physical address, a virtual office address can pay dividends. Acquiring an office in a location that garners professional recognition often costs more than what a solopreneur or small business wants to spend.
But the benefits of a virtual office address adds other benefits during COVID-19. Virtual office address services not only can receive and forward all of your mail to you at home, but they give you the ability to expand your business into new locations—U.S. and globally—without leashing expensive office space. Plus, virtual office addresses like Davinci Virtual Offices come with rented conference rooms, day offices, coworking spaces, lobby greeters, and more (see below).
Implement Work-from-Home Policies
For businesses that did not have work-from-home policies in place before COVID-19, now is the time to implement some. Workers need guardrails and to understand what is expected and not expected of them when working from home. These policies need to answer questions such as, “What is the company policy on lunch breaks? What are considered expected office hours? Is it permissible to take a break to walk the dog or go for a run in the middle of the day? What can I purchase for my home office and expense?” These are just a few of the work-from-home policies that need to be covered.
Find the Right Video and Audio Conferencing
Much has been written on the challenges Zoom encountered at the start of COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders. But those aside, video and audio conferencing has been a substantial success. In a recent study, Salesforce found that workers are using 44% more video conferencing. The number of Zoom users alone shot from 10 million daily meeting participants to over 200 million per day last month.
The telepresence space is rapidly evolving. New technologies are making those experiences more engaging and interactive. Businesses need to select the technology that meets their requirements best.
Institute Collaboration Tools
Real-time collaboration is now a must for organizations with multiple team members. Slack, Microsoft Teams, and other collaboration tools make it easier and faster for business professionals to interact with each other. These even often video conferencing capabilities—a feature businesses should explore. These are having a significant impact on business productivity. Box found in a recent study that workers report a 142% increase in collaboration since COVID-19 restrictions went into place.
Manage Projects Efficiently and Effectively
Managing projects to time and scope is important. In many instances, projects include third-party freelancers as well as agencies. Thus, a project management tool that provides different levels of access and responsibility is a must—something that is even more important for those working from a virtual office. Capabilities such as task management, messaging and collaboration, file sharing, scheduling, report, search, and more are critical. There are a number of affordable, easy-to-implement, easy-to-management project management tools such as Basecamp, Jira, Monday, Trello, and others—with use cases from one user to many users.
Get the Right Cybersecurity Tools
For many businesses that collect personally identifiable information (PII), one major data breach could be the death knell. The attack surface of a business expands exponentially when running a virtual office. Employees no longer are access applications and critical business data on the company network but through home routers that simply do not have the same level of security protections built in.
Businesses need to have a core set of cybersecurity solutions in place to protect application and data access from virtual offices. The required checklist includes endpoint security that goes behind a signature engine to inspect for unknown threats and zero-day attacks, an email security solution for spam and malware, a virtual private network (VPN), and two-factor authentication. Other components might be necessary, but these are a critical starting point.
Acquire the Right Microphone and Monitors
Those in a virtual office participate in more video and audio conferences than their in-office peers and having the right microphone setup make hosting and attending those meetings more convenient. There are a wide variety of options such as the Blue Yeti microphone that come with built-in features and plug-and-play capabilities.
The same can be said about the right monitor setup and productivity. Most work requires concurrent monitor viewing, and one or more monitors connected to a laptop can increase productivity by 20% to 30%. For businesses employees working from home during COVID-19, the ROI on purchasing additional monitors for now work-from-home employees can pay fast dividends.
Leverage Day Offices and Coworking Space
As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, some professionals will need to use day offices or on-demand workspaces like Davinci Meeting Rooms—at least some of the time. Sanitization of these workspaces will be handled by professionals, and thus workers will be able to utilize those spaces on demand knowing that significant precautions have been taken to ensure they are free of viruses from other users. Even businesses with permanent office space may elect to allow employees to work from day offices and coworking space as they explore options to downsize office leases or believe day offices and coworking spaces closer to where employees live are more convenient and practical.
Use On-demand Meeting Rooms
On a similar note, those running a business based on virtual offices need spaces for team meetings, quick check-ins with partners, and meetings with customers and prospects. For those with permanent office space, conference rooms may not be large enough to accommodate social distancing recommendations. This is where rented meeting rooms can help. These come in all different sizes and include presentation and collaboration tools, lobby greeters, and other business accoutrements.
From the Negative Impact of COVID-19 to Virtual Office Benefits
The speed of digital transformation is going to accelerate as a result of COVID-19. One of the factors driving digital innovation is the remote workforce.
As an author in a recent Forbes article notes, “It is far from clear quite what normal will look like after COVID-19, but it seems likely that our desire to trek into the office will be tested after a prolonged acclimatization toward remote working from both workers and managers alike. It’s equally likely that people won’t want to work remotely all the time, but rather have the option to pick and choose, so the ability to successfully manage remote teams will be a key skill in the arsenal of any modern manager.”
We are truly living through a transformation that will have far-reaching ramifications—with the changes in the workplace interconnected with environmental impact as well as societal and community changes. Here, the economic and social devastation wrought by COVID-19 can be offset with significant outcomes in how people work and where they work.