Is Working From a Virtual Office Safer?

BOSTON—I haven’t seen any specific studies that offer insights into whether or not working in a virtual office is safer than working from a traditional office. But we can draw some conclusions from a new Stables.com survey of small business managers and office workers on office health and safety.

The Staples survey showed gaps in office workers' awareness of companies' safety plans and preparedness. That, the survey concluded, is a situation that could lead to increased accidents and injuries.

For example, 70 percent of managers say their company has an emergency communication plan. But nearly half of office workers are either unsure if a plan exists or say their company doesn't have a plan. In addition, 50 percent of office workers said they participate in safety drills only once every few years or never. Only 19 percent of office workers think their company is prepared for a major medical emergency.

It seems to me that working from a virtual office would eliminate a lot of that confusion. I mean, if you are working at home from a virtual office you know what to do in case of an emergency. There may not be any formal policy, but it’s common sense. Most people have a first aid kit at home and if the emergency is any greater would seek medical attention.

In the case of natural disasters, like flooding, 50 percent of employees in the Staples survey felt their company was adequately prepared. That’s concerning, since the National Weather Service Forecast Office reports that flooding causes more damage in the United States than any other severe weather-related event, costing an average of $4.6 billion a year. Of course, if you are working at home from a virtual office flooding is probably not as great a risk. When flood warnings come, you simply evacuate and shift your virtual office somewhere else.

All in all, virtual offices expose you to fewer safety and health issues—even the common cold. Working from a virtual office doesn’t mean accidents never happen, but when they do there aren’t corporate legal hoops to jump through before you can appropriately respond.


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