The rise and rise of the virtual office

The concept of the virtual office, originally conceived in the 1990s, has gone from strength to strength, and gained in popularity in recent years. Indeed, in the past year, we’ve witnessed a significant increase in the uptake of virtual offices across the UK by as much as 150%.    Thanks to the digital revolution of the business world, the evolution of technology and the relentless need for online support and engagement, the modern office place is no longer confined to a single physical location. Add in the soaring costs of renting commercial properties, and you can see the benefits mount up for restructuring collaborative processes across many connected satellite workstations, rather than drag everyone across town every day in rush hour traffic in the rain, sleet or snow. With an internet connection and a laptop, your virtual office can be virtually anywhere, the coffee shop, the local park or your back garden. Whether you’re a progressive, forward thinking business owner looking to offer your employees the opportunities to work remotely from home or a freelance start up, there are many reasons why a virtual office may work for you such as
  1. Flexible hours for both yourself and your staff
  2. Eliminate the commute
  3. Lower overhead costs and commuting costs
  4. Happier employees = increased productivity
So how do you start to set up a virtual office?  Here we look at both the hardware and software you may need.

Hardware

Do you need a desktop or laptop? This probably depends on how mobile you need to be. If you offer client face to face services, then it may be wise to invest in a portable laptop.

If the look and feel of a regular office layout helps put you in a working headspace, then just set up a docking station at your virtual office address. This includes a monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, scanner and any other equipment you may need. If you decide on a desktop set up, make sure you take hard drive space, memory for having various programs open at the same time, and a fast processor if necessary. You’ll also most likely to need:

  • Land line telephone (complete with caller ID)
  • Printer and scanner
  • removable media storage device (flash drive or external hard drive)
  • internet connection (see below)
  • surge protector – this will offer you extra outlets that may be required to connect your hardware, but will also protect your office equipment.

Think about smart, agile working layouts such as l-shaped workstations or a standing desk station, to help you get the most of your office space and be most productive.

 

Software & the cloud 

The software requirements associated with your virtual office job will depend largely on whether you are working autonomously or will need to coordinate with others.

You will need all the basic software packages to get up and running such as e-mail, Word, Excel plus any industry specific packages too such as Adobe Suite

It’s also worth considering hosting all your business applications in the Cloud. You can make all your work accessible remotely, using tools like Microsoft Office 365. The advantage of this is that it allows users to access their files from anywhere with internet connectivity, whether working on a desktop, tablet or phone. Indeed, companies in every industry are enjoying the wide ranging benefits of moving their IT to the cloud, regardless of whether they work in a physical or virtual office. You can migrate your entire IT needs over to the Cloud, or get more bespoke solutions for your specific needs.

By moving your IT online, you can also reduce operational costs and capital expenses.

 

Communication & collaboration 

Business communications have evolved rapidly throughout the years. There is so much more to remote communication and collaboration tools than simply emails or phone calls.

  • VoIP solutions: This is ideal for any size of business and is highly-effective for businesses that have more than one location that need to collaborate. Through the easy to use web interface, administrators can modify user settings to meet their day-day requirements.  Like other hosted services there is no expensive maintenance or running costs and you only pay for what you use.
  • Collaboration software: If collaboration is a key process for teams, then collaboration tools that facilitate sharing and working together are key – all-rounders include Dropbox, Skype for Business, Connecteam, Slack, Webex, and Basecamp.

 

Connectivity 

Your internet connectivity and speed is key to your seamless communications with colleagues and clients so super-fast broadband options are certainly worth considering, especially if your industry requires any kind of data heavy files.

 

Security 

Finally, you need to think about what measures you need in place regarding security and privacy of data. . Ensure your supplier has data centres with highly restricted electronic access control, with advanced firewall configurations to provide multi-layer protection from attacks, worms, spyware, viruses and other forms of malware. Ideally look for a supplier with provide state of the art encryption technology.

 

It is inevitable that virtual offices will grow in popularity as technology continues to evolve – we can help with all your virtual office needs, from an initial assessment of what your business needs to move virtually, through to the implementation and support. Check out how we can help here.

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