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Like It or Not, The Virtual Office Is Here to Stay

virtual office

Telecommuting is on the rise... Can Your Employees Keep Up?

Even in a hectic workplace, there are people who thrive on being left alone. While they may not necessarily be introverted by nature, they're certainly more productive when they can have enough space away from their coworkers or helicopter managers to complete their tasks as autonomously as possible. Staff members who are typically the life of the office party sometimes prefer a little distance between themselves and the spotlight. Let's not forget that this increased flexibility will also let people spend more time with family, run important errands and keep a healthy work-life balance.

Whether you're the kind of small business owner who is cognizant of these differences or not, the point remains that some employees just don't fit the office mold as well as others. Nowadays, that's just fine. With advances in mobile technology making a company's information accessible literally anywhere there's a strong Internet connection, the people who aren't interested in chatting about Beyonce at the water cooler don't have to anymore. 

If you're waffling about the benefits of a work-from-home policy, take a look at the following highlights of this trend before you make your decision: 

You don't lose anything.

Except for maybe bodies in chairs, but in the long run, having fewer employees in the office might yield unique savings. For instance, if you have a staff member on the books who prefers to work from home, he or she won't need a computer supplied for them. If these employees are given permission to become full-time telecommuters, that will free up office real estate for another hire. This level of flexibility is great for small business growth as it means there's a little wiggle room for expansion, even if it's only in one or two additional employees​ - that's more than you had before introducing a work-from-home policy.

If you're worried about productivity, set clear boundaries.

This is one of the most common concerns about a flexible scheduling policy, and it's relatively unfounded. So what if your employees are spending some of their work time looking at Facebook? If they're still hitting all of their numbers, metrics and quotas, then a little leisurely browsing isn't hurting them. In fact, unless you're the kind of manager who is constantly staring over the shoulders of your employees, it's fair to assume that your employees are completing tasks at the same pace as they would be if they were in the office. Why? Because they have to in order to continue earning a paycheck. Set clear definitions for these policies that staff members can read and abide by. That way, if they stop producing, you can point to the line that says they're still responsible for turning in work on time and then judge their misconduct accordingly. 

Working from home makes some people more productive.

Now that technology has improved to a point where almost every information industry can support telework, more employees are capable of setting up their own home offices. Entire cultures are being born of individuals who prefer to work where they please, including cafés, kitchen tables and even train stations for businesspeople who are constantly on the go. They've adapted to this lifestyle, and they're getting good at it. The fears that plagued employers when this idea first made an appearance on the scene are dissolving now that the numbers are still rolling in, and for the most part, because people can control their physical settings according to their own standards, they're able to construct the ideal workplace. The biggest perks? No more office-related distractions. 

Ultimately, you still have control over what the expectations are for each employee. If you decide that things aren't up to snuff after a pilot launch of this policy, then exercise your right to call employees back to their desks. Give it a few weeks, though, to truly see the above-mentioned benefits blossom. It takes a few tries before people find their rhythms, and then it's business as usual, without the excessive Beyonce chatter. 

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