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Virtual Offices Empowers All-Important Flexible Working

LONDON--Flexible working. It’s more than just a nice-to-have perk. It’s now at the heart of employee expectations. So says a Vodafone UK study. Virtual offices can help make flexible working a cost-effective, productive reality.

According to Vodafone, UK companies are sharpening their focus on softer workplace benefits to attract and keep the best talent. That is one of the key takeaways in the report, entitled, “Exploring the shift in employee expectations.”

The report shows that flexible working is having a major impact on job satisfaction in today’s job  market. In fact, employees now consider flexible working more important than financial benefits, such as a stake in the business, perks, bonus schemes and pensions.

The study also reveals that work-life balance is nearly as important today as basic salary. As employers battle to hire the best, the study shows that flexible working is emerging as one of the most valuable weapons an employer can have.

“Flexible working has gone from being a nice-to-have perk to now being at the heart of employees’ expectations,” says Peter Kelly, Enterprise Director at Vodafone UK. “British business clearly understands that motivation and job satisfaction are more than about money: work-life balance and feeling supported at work are also vitally important. Finding better ways of working will strengthen an employer’s offer to potential new talent but will also enable current employees to find a work-life balance that suits them."

Virtual offices and flexible working are synergistic. Although you don’t need a virtual office to employ flexible working, you can be much more productive and present a more professional business image if you tap into virtual communications solutions. Chances are the productivity and freedom virtual offices offer will lead you to arrange your work schedule with enough flexibility to encourage greater work-life balance.
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Thinking About Transitioning to Virtual Offices?

IRVINE, CA—2012 has just begun. But smart business leaders are already looking ahead, planning where their organizations need to be in 201. So says Kim Shepherd, CEO of Decision Toolbox, which provides project-based hiring and on-demand Recruitment Process Outsourcing.

“More and more companies are realizing the benefits of transitioning to a virtual model and in a few years virtual work environments will be the norm," Shepherd says. Shepherd isn’t just whistling virtual office Dixie. Decision Toolbox has been a 100 percent virtual workplace since 2003.

“Being pioneers in this space, we have learned firsthand that there is much more to a virtual workplace than having employees work from home offices,” Shepherd says. “Thus, we've adopted the term ‘cloud culture' to describe our own unique virtual environment."

Shepherd outlines the top business reasons why more companies are transitioning to virtual office space.

1. Cost savings: Rather than paying for sticks and bricks, "cloud culture" companies can invest in the best people, tools and technology for business success.

2. Quality: In a cloud culture company, there is nowhere for under-performers to hide and there are no appearances to create distraction. It's all about the numbers.

3. Scalability: “Cloud culture" organizations can grow quickly and turn on a dim —as more talent is added, there is no need for more office space, furniture, etc.

"Remember, to be successful in the cloud, you must act as though you have bricks and mortar and maintain the same cornerstones that are essential for success in a traditional workplace—culture, performance, appreciation, continuous improvement—and more," concludes Shepherd.

Decision Toolbox can help on the recruiting side, but Davinci Virtual Office Solutions offers virtual office space, virtual office technologies, virtual assistants and virtual receptionist that will help you transition your company to a virtual workforce.

Check out this video on managing a virtual workforce:

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Virtual Offices Help Employers Battle Chronic Workers Stress

NEW YORK—Are you stressed out? Join the club. According to Towers Watson’s latest Staying@Work survey, chronic stress is so chronic and so stressful that it’s actually driving an increase in disability claims. Virtual offices can help.

“The evidence overwhelmingly shows that effective health and productivity programs can make a real difference to an organization’s bottom line,” says Wendy Poirier, Health and Group Benefits Leader for Towers Watson in Canada. “There are unrelenting pressures on employers and employees today, but improving employee health is an opportunity for a true win-win.”

One way you can ease the unrelenting pressure on workers is by allowing them to work from a virtual office in a flextime telecommuting arrangement. Virtual office technologies make it possible for employees to stay connected to the corporate network and communications systems, yet get a reprieve, of sorts, from the daily grind. Study after study shows that employees are actually more productive from a virtual office. So allowing virtual office use can kill two birds with one stone.

So, to review, allowing employees to telecommute from a virtual office drives up productivity and reduces stress, i.e. the stress of fighting traffic to get to work on time, the stress of dealing with office politics, the stress of distractions while you are on deadline and so on.

Alternative workplace strategies have been heralded as a means to reduce corporate real estate costs, but these tactics can also be used to reduce stress, which can have a ripple effect on the productivity of an organization. Virtual offices and other virtual technologies can also allow employees who are out of the office long-term continue contributing to the team effort, even if it is only part time.

Check out this video on dealing with job-related stress:

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Avoiding Workplace Violence in Virtual Offices

NEW YORK—I read a shocking report today that made me glad I work from a virtual office. "Violence in the American Workplace," a report from AlliedBarton Security Services, reveals that more than half of Americans employed outside their homes have witnessed, heard about or have experienced a violent event or an event that can lead to violence at their workplace.

These events include open hostility, abusive language or threats and can escalate to significant physical harm to someone by another person. Even more significant is that 28 percent of workers report a violent event or one that can lead to violence happened to them at their current place of employment or they have been personally affected by this type of event. Overall, 12 percent have witnessed, heard about or are aware of an incidence of significant physical harm to another person, and 5 percent have had this happen to them or have been personally affected by this type of incident.

"Workplace violence often starts as verbal assaults or harassment and can escalate into threatening behavior, bullying, physical assaults and even, in some instances, deadly encounters," says Bill Whitmore, chairman, president and CEO of AlliedBarton Services. "With the significant increase in unemployment in the past several years and the downturn in the economy, there is every reason to believe that these incidents may increase.”

The disturbing study results go on and on. And the survey continues to reference people who are “employed outside their homes.” Working from a virtual office can cut down the exposure to workplace violence tremendously. At worst, a hostile e-mail from an angry coworker is nowhere near as intimidating or dangerous as open hostility in the workplace.

Until now, I had never considered that one of the benefits of working from a virtual office is avoiding workplace violence. I guess that’s because I didn’t realize how prevalent workplace violence. Obviously, everyone can’t work from a virtual office. But if you do work form a virtual office, you have one more reason to be thankful.
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Could You Be a Virtual Office Worker?

LOS ANGELES—Could you be a virtual office worker? Can your employer trust you to work from a distance, even if yo you are both in Los Angeles, New York, Miami or whatever city you call home? Maybe you could, but there’s still a little bit of work to be done to overcome some misconceptions that unsupervised employees are unproductive employees.

According to a recent WorldatWork study, 80 percent of American employees would like to work from home. But the number of workers who work from a virtual office only adds up to about 2.8 million people, according to the Telework Research Network.

Still, the number is growing—the number grew more than 60 percent between 2005 and 2009, to be exact. And that number doesn’t take into account home-based businesses, many of which use virtual office technologies to get the job done. There were 3.1 million home-based business workers in 2008.

Charles Tran, founder of CreditDonkey.com, a consumer credit card comparison and education site that published an infographic tracking telecommuting trends, says part-time teleworkers include millions of mobile workers. At least 40% of the U.S. workforce (52 million people) hold jobs that could be done via a virtual office.

The typical teleworker is a college-educated 35- to 54-year-old, non-union employee working in telecommuting-compatible professions such as accounting, graphic design, engineering, computer programming, journalism/copywriting, administrative support or customer service.

“Despite the bottom-line benefits, it’s mostly the larger companies—those with 100-plus employees—that are hopping on the telework bandwagon,” says Tran. “In the long term, it’s inevitable that many more jobs will be done at home, but in the near term, the spirit is willing, but employer trust is weak.”
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