Virtual Offices Are Not Very Remote After All

It’s funny.  I still sometimes get that boyhood jealousy of the kid playing hookie when one of my friends says “I’m working remotely tomorrow.”  There is this implication of being off the reservation, out there on your own, left to your own devices and personal freedoms with no one looking over your shoulder.  Why is this funny?  Because I work from home every day of my life.

The Virtual Office

Here’s the difference: I work in a virtual office.  A virtual office is nothing like what my friend above might describe as working remotely.  I know this seems somewhat counter-intuitive but it really boils down to this – in a virtual office, everyone is in the same place and no one is remote.

To say that I was pleasantly surprised at how true this turned out to be for us would be a gross understatement.  I am Director of Operations and Sr. Project Manager for a small custom web development shop and things like accountability, fostering culture and collaboration, ensuring sound business process etc., are my universe.  They are also commonly assumed to be less effective in a virtual office environment.  Yes, we were nervous about these things too.  Now with a year behind us since the “move,” I’m pretty sure it was the best ops strategic call we’ve ever made.

The Definition of Remote

The problem with remote is, incidentally, right in the name.  You really are classic-definition-of-the-word,  “remote.”  You’re out there in orbit (read: Starbucks), on your own and maybe you’ve even got a list of things you need to get done, but either way your normal communications process is broken.  You don’t talk to folks in the office like you normally would and they consider you a lesser employee who doesn’t need to be included in whatever conversation or decision is happening in the office.

The number one biggest single factor at play here is that when in a virtual office done correctly, everyone is truly in the same “place” even if they are separated by vast distances.  I feel far less remote than I did when we had an office.  Our ability to communicate and collaborate has increased and our ability to nail client deadlines has improved.  Both client and employee satisfaction are through the roof these days.

Stay tuned as I continue to explore the various facets of a successful virtual office as well as the benefits we’ve been experiencing.

Next Topics:

  • Addressing the Common Concerns
    • Laziness
    • Lack of collaboration
    • Loneliness
    • Communications breakdown
  • Ways to be successful
    • Have a routine
    • Have an office
    • Go out
    • Video conf, every once in a while
    • Play games, social skype
    • Use the internet and its humor
  • Our Transition: A Case Study
  • Why it’s not for everyone and every company
  • Virtual office tools that helped our success
  • Fostering culture over the internets
  • Project management and other process in a virtual environment
  • Hiring