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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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Are Virtual Office Users Really More Productive?

NEW YORK—Sixty-two percent of Americans believe more people want the option to telecommute—and another 83 percent believe that telecommuting is on the rise. So says a survey from online meeting software firm TeamViewer and Harris Interactive.

Check out these additional statistics from the study and then we’ll tie this in to virtual offices:

  • 53% says smartphones and tablets are increasing the use of telecommuting

  • 49% says access to telecommuting is increasing

  • 29% say telecommuting is getting easier

  • 30% say the use of telecommuting is increasing in small businesses


When asked about what Americans believe their own behavior would be as a telecommuter versus working in an office every day, 54 percent said they would be at least somewhat more productive and 32 percent  said they would even be more or much more productive.

As more Americans discover the ability to telecommute, a surprising number of them admit they would be willing to make sacrifices in order to get the option to work from a virtual office:

  • 34% would give up social media

  • 30% would give up texting

  • 29% would give up chocolate

  • 25% would give up smartphones

  • 20% would give up shopping


As you can see, employees are willing to give up quite a lot to work from a virtual office. The good news is, no one has to lose in the virtual office scenario. Employers gain productivity from workers and employees can still eat all the chocolate they want.
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Virtual Offices Can Drive Employee Empowerment

NEW YORK—What do employees really, really want more than anything else? More empowerment, according to a new survey from Fierce, a communication training and leadership development company.  Virtual offices can help.

Think about it. Most companies create best practices around various issues. But are those best practices really driving the success of the organization? Not always. Forty-four percent of employees claim their company’s best practices actually hinder productivity and morale.

If that’s not bad enough, another 47 percent report that their organization’s current practices consistently get in the way of desired results. And when asked which practices hold their organization back, nearly 50 percent of respondents identified a lack of company-wide transparency and too little involvement in company decisions as key areas of concern.

Now let’s flip the script and talk about what employees want. Nearly half of respondents said the most beneficial practices are the ones that encourage accountability, development, and individual empowerment within the organization. It's clear that in order to implement practices that are beneficial to the individual -- as well as the organization as a whole -- companies must foster an environment where individual efficacy is encouraged and where communication is both elicited and valued. Virtual offices can play a key role in this scenario.

Virtual office users can tap into accountability and development tools like WorkSimple’s Social Goals, for example. Virtual office users can also leverage distance learning options for continuing education—right from the comfort of their virtual office. Need better communication? Virtual office technologies like web conferencing fit the bill. The point is, you don’t have to work in the same building to drive employee empowerment to new heights—and you don’t have to sacrifice accountability. Virtual office technologies let you balance both.
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