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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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Could Virtual Offices Help Workers During Olympics?

LONDON—Did you know that more than half of London employers are embracing flexible work strategies as the summer Olympics approaches? So says new data from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)/Hays Resourcing and Talent Planning Survey.

“Options such as flexi-time and home working can enable employees in parts of the country likely to face travel disruption as a result of the Olympics to spend their time working rather than stuck in traffic jams or adding to the pressure likely to be faced by our public transport system,” says Rebecca Clake, a research adviser at CIPD.

According to the study, nearly 30 percent of employers say they will try to accommodate requests from employees to work from home. Another 17 percent will extend flexible working opportunities, while 13 percent will actively encourage staff to work from home. That means virtual offices will suddenly be en vogue.

"The Olympics is a golden opportunity for UK businesses to review their flexible working policies to ensure they are supporting their staff,” says Barney Ely, director at Hays Human Resources. “Communication is key to ensure both parties clearly understand and adhere to the guidelines around flexible working. By embracing this exciting time companies will benefit from more engaged employees.”

Virtual offices are already popular in London, but the Olympic games could introduce the concept of virtual offices to a whole new audience of employers and employees who are looking for a way to stay productive during the commuting mayhem. Virtual offices and other flexible working strategies are consistently front and center in corporate talk about the London Summer Olympics.

Check out this inspiring video on the 2012 London Olympic games, which also offers a hint at how commute times will be affected:

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Virtual Offices and the War for Talent

CHICAGO-One in three employers worldwide cannot find qualified talent. So says a new study from ManpowerGroup. Could virtual office space help attract and retain talent?

This year’s data reveals the crisis' deeper impact as 56% of employers now indicate that unfilled positions are expected to have little or no impact on constituents, such as customers and investors, a considerable increase from 36% in 2011.

Why can’t employers fill the roles? The most common reason is a lack of applicants and/or a lack of technical competencies/hard skills. In particular, employers cited the lack of industry-specific qualifications in both professional and skilled trades categories.

Could it be possible that opening up these positions to telecommuters who work from virtual offices in flex time arrangements might attract some best and brightest talent? I think so.

Studies show that young talent appreciates flexibility. All other things being equal, allowing workers to set up shop from a virtual office at least part of the time could help you win their heads and minds.

Virtual office technologies mean employees aren’t out of sight or out of mind. You can keep in touch with virtual office workers via technologies like web conferencing and Skype, which offers presence tools.

In the war for talent as the economy recovers, virtual offices could play a significant role in separating the companies that win competent workers and the ones that don’t.

Check out this video on attracting and retaining talent with work-life balance strategies:

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Are Mobile Workers Using Virtual Office Space?

NEW YORK-At some level, mobile working and virtual office space have a connection. Although not all mobile workers use virtual office space and not all virtual office space users fully embrace mobility, there is some definite cross over.

That’s why I looked twice when I saw the latest iPass Mobile Workforce Report. According to the study, 60 percent of mobile employees reported 50 to 60 hour-plus work weeks that also include weekend days as the most popular time to work remotely.

"Connectivity is like oxygen for today's mobile workers. The improved ability to work anywhere as long as they are connected appears to be driving higher productivity,” says Evan Kaplan, CEO at iPass. "While having control over when, where and how one works is a significant benefit in terms of well-being, mobile workers themselves need to take care to manage the unique stressors that an always connected work-life brings."

Speaking of work-life balance, the percentage of mobile workers sleeping with their smartphone has risen slightly since 2011. Seventy-one percent of Asian mobile workers report they sleep with their smartphones in the bedroom, followed by 58 percent of North Americans and 55 percent of Europeans.

Mobile usage is also causing more friction in mobile workers' personal lives with their partners, family and friends. The highest amount of friction was reported in Europe at 38 percent, followed by 33 percent of North Americans and 30 percent of Asian respondents.

Mobile workers may be able to achieve greater work-life balance and reduce friction—maybe even stop sleeping with their smartphones—if they work from a virtual office. Setting up a virtual office on the home front can serve as a stationary oasis from the demands of the mobile working lifestyle.

You can get a lot more done on a large screen than you can on a smartphone, tablet, or even a laptop—especially from a quiet place. So if you are a mobile worker who can’t seem to unplug, test out virtual office technologies that help you drive more productivity so you can get your work wrapped up faster and balance your life better.
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New Ways of Working Includes Virtual Offices, Telecommuting

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