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What is a True Virtual Office?

I was reading an interesting article from Karen Condi over at Officing Today. In it, she talked about how technology advancements are making it possible for people to work from just about anywhere in the world. She also speaks of the changing rules of business hours. And she points to virtual offices as an enabler.

Let’s listen in to a bit of what Condi, executive director and principal of Alliance Office Strategies, has to say about the advantages of a virtual office:

"The advantages of a virtual office are numerous but it's important to fully understand what constitutes a true virtual office. Conceptually, virtual offices started in the mid 1980s, however, the industry has dramatically evolved as technology has changed the way we work.

"As the 1990s brought rise to the information age, new work solutions were needed to support company expansions and teams spread out over multiple locations. This movement continued through the decade and has led to a decentralization and shrinkage of the conventional office environments and an expansion of alternative officing solutions.

"Alternative officing solutions, specifically virtual offices, through office business centers continue to expand and adapt to the new requirements of today’s remote workers by providing necessary variations of services, providing supportive environments, and offering the most current technologies. As work-life balance continues to be a focus for today’s companies and workers; virtual offices provide the flexibility that workers need to conduct business while enjoying the ability to work on their terms."

Condi makes some good points – and she’s right. Much has changed in the face of technology. With the rise of the virtual office, the possibilities for where to work are, well, virtually endless.
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What You Can Buy for $49 a Month?

Forty-nine dollars doesn’t go as long as it used to. In fact, in 1920 $50 is equivalent to more than 500 of today’s greenbacks. Of course, in 1920 bread was only 12 cents a loaf and round steak was merely 40 cents a pound – and there was no such thing as the World Wide Web, much less Live Web Chat.

By contrast, Live Web Chat just got a lot less expensive with Davinci Virtual’s latest service. Davinci is offering Live Web Chat for just $49 a month. If you haven’t talked to Nate about how this service could benefit your company, shoot him an e-mail at nwalker (at) davincivirtual.com. Here’s a sneak peak of what he’ll tell you:

Live Web Chat is proven to increase the conversion rates of your Web site traffic and will generate leads that you otherwise wouldn’t get. Leads contact info is then sent directly to your cell phone and e-mailed so you can follow up immediately. Nate will also tell you that chat history can be stored online indefinitely so you can read the transcripts.

Here’s how it works: Davinci virtual puts a small button that pictures your Live Web Chat virtual receptionist and an instruction that reads, “Live Help, Start Chat.” You can place this anywhere on your Web site that you wish. Davinci Virtual takes it from there, monitoring and capturing leads so sales don’t get away. It's just that simple.

So what are you waiting for? Nate is expecting to hear from you. He can answer all your questions about Live Web Chat right now so you don’t lose another sale. What you can get for $49 might surprise you.
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Work-Life Balance and the Virtual Office, Part 5

Work-life balance. It's the subject of ongoing studies that make headlines in industrialized countries around the world. But the New Economics Foundation (nef) is putting a new twist on the topic by suggesting a 21-hour workweek could be the answer to work-life balance – and much more.

In the final segment of this five-part series on "Work-Life Balance and the Virtual Office," we're going to take a closing look at key points nef made in its study called 21 hours. The study explores how a 21-hour workweek could, among other benefits, spur a robust and prosperous economy, give people more time to care for children, and ultimately lead to stronger public services. Let's look at these three aspects of the study and see how virtual offices fit into these benefits.

Robust and Prosperous Economy
A 21-hour workweek could bring more women into the workforce and give men an opportunity to live more balanced lives, according to the nef study. A 21-hour workweek would also reduce stress, nef says, because employees wouldn't have to juggle work with home responsibilities and family commitments.

Nef also pointed to evidence that suggests people who work shorter hours are more productive, hour for hour. A 21-hour workweek would also put an end to one of the main causes of the credit crunch – the consumer debt bubble – by moving from an economy based on consumerism and economic growth, to one based around stability, resilience and adaptability, nef concludes.

Caring for Children
Here's an interesting calculation: If you put a price tag on the average time spent on housework and caring for children and adults in 2005, it would be worth nearly £253.7 billion. That equals 21 percent of the British Gross Domestic Product for that year. "By moving towards a 21-hour week," nef says, "unpaid care and housework would be seen as equally valued and important as paid employment, and men could take a more equal share of these home-based tasks."

Finally, nef suggests a 21-hour workweek would breed stronger public services. A 21-hour workweek would give people more time to care for each other, spend with children, stay healthy and contribute to neighborhood activities. As nef sees it, workers could partner with the public sector to become co-producers of public services.

Virtual Offices Breed Benefits

With all of this in mind, could it be possible that the virtual office will become a facilitator of the 21-hour workweek? I think it is possible. Although a 21-hour workweek might seem impossible to some, a virtual office could, at the least, help employees do more in less time – and do it from the homefront so they could be more available for children and family.

A virtual office space, for example, gives employees the flexibility to work several hours in the morning, take a break in the middle of the day to deal with household, health and family issues, then work again in the evening. Virtual assistants and virtual receptionists can help bear the load and keep business moving while workers are tending to personal matters that breed stronger work-life balance.

In conclusion, although a 21-hour workweek seems nearly impossible in a society that's driven to productivity, it is possible that spreading the work among families – where men and women both work and both help care for family – could benefit the society. Virtual office technologies could play a key role in this transition if and when it happens.
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Work-Life Balance and the Virtual Office, Part 4

Could a 21-hour workweek be the answer to many of society's ills? And where do virtual offices fit into the mix? That's been the topic of our weeklong series on "Work-Life Balance and the Virtual Office."

In today's post, we continue looking at findings from a recently published study from the New Economics Foundation (nef) called 21 hours. According to the study, a 21-hour workweek could accomplish the following: reducing unemployment and overworked employees, improving life quality and lowering carbon emissions, and spurring new levels of civic engagement. Let's explore each concept, then look at how virtual offices, virtual assistants and virtual receptionists facilitate these benefits.

More Equitable Work Distribution
According to nef, a 21-hour workweek could help distribute paid work more evenly across the population, reducing ill-being associated with unemployment, long working hours and too little control over time.

A 21-hour workweek would, nef concluded, "make it possible for paid and unpaid work to be distributed more equally between women and men; for parents to spend more time with their children – and to spend that time differently; for people to delay retirement if they wanted to, and to have more time to care for others, to participate in local activities and to do other things of their choosing."

As work gets redistributed, nef suggests, incomes will become more equal, thus reducing the vast range of social problems associated with inequality.

Higher Quality of Life
With a 21-hour workweek, some may earn less but they would have more time. This translates to a higher quality of life, the study reports, because people can start growing their own food rather than buying ready-made meals, walking and cycling instead of riding cars and buses, and mending and repairing goods rather than throwing them away.

"Living life at a slower pace, with more time to do everyday tasks, would cut carbon emissions and improve life satisfaction," study authors believe. "A more egalitarian culture would also reduce the need for conspicuous consumption driven by people’s anxiety about where they stand in the social pecking order."

Finally, the nef study determines, a 21-hour workweek would give citizens more time to engage with government. Citizens need time to learn about political issues, get involved in decision-making and join and support political parties. Spending fewer hours at work would allow people to spend more time as active citizens in their local community, nef says.

The Virtual Office Tie-In
Could a virtual office help facilitate a 21-hour workweek? A virtual office could play a role in driving higher quality of life for entrepreneurs and employees who are trying to accomplish more with less. With virtual assistants, for example, you can manage your time more effectively by having someone to take care of the administrative details of running an office. With a virtual office, don't have to commute to the office, which save time, money and lowers your carbon footprint.

With remote receptionists, you can work from the road or from home and still have your business phone lines answered by a professional during business hours. A virtual receptionist can also save you time by screening your calls and call forwarding services can send your calls to your mobile device while you are on the road so you make the most of travel time. Indeed, a virtual office can help you shave your work hours without hindering your productivity, making a 21-hour workweek possible.
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Work-Life Balance and the Virtual Office, Part 3

Can virtual offices save the world? That may be an overstatement, but virtual office space may indeed help make the world a better place.

The authors of 21 hours, a study recently published by the News Economics Foundation (nef) argue that a much shorter working week could help to tackle a range of urgent and closely related problems: overwork, unemployment, over-consumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other, and simply to enjoy life. It would enable many more people to join the workforce and allow for measures to reduce damaging levels of inequality.

“The last two years revealed many to be consuming well beyond our economic means and beyond the limits of the natural environment, yet in ways that also fail to improve our well-being," says Andrew Simms, co-author of the report and Policy Director at nef.

"Meanwhile many others suffer poverty and hunger. Our research shows that moving to a shorter working week could be the only way left untried to square this seemingly impossible circle. A cultural shift will throw up real challenges, but there could also be massive benefits for our economy, our quality of life and our planet. After all, hands up who wouldn’t like a four day weekend?”

So where do virtual offices fit into this picture? By tackling a range of problems nef outlines. Virtual offices could combat many of the problems nef outlined in its study in one fell swoop. In essence, virtual offices help breed work-life balance by offering employees more freedom and flexibility to work from remote locations.

A virtual office system can do some of the heavy lifting for you and your employees. Virtual receptionists, for example, can field the phones so your employees can work more productively and avoid staying after hours to finish a project. Call forwarding services can give you the freedom to roam about without missing important calls. And virtual office space can let you employees work from home, yet meet in person periodically for company meetings.

In tomorrow's post, we'll continue examining how virtual office space can breed work life balance.
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