Small companies, often starting out as side gigs and part-time pursuits, don’t always have capital for renting an office space. Most times, they don’t even get any income from their work. With a band of freelancers, these startups rely on virtual offices and telecommuting to manage their team. According to FlexJobs, telecommuting has seen a 103 per cent growth in America over the past 10 years. Business leaders at the 2014 Global Leadership Summit have also predicted that half the population will be working remotely by 2020.
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With this rising trend comes a growing variety of tools for virtual collaboration. Besides Google Drive, the classic file sharing and storage system that allows multiple users to work on the same document in real time, companies are also latching onto apps such as Slack, Trello, Redbooth and Asana. An instant messaging tool specialised for team communication, Slack includes file-sharing functions, and allows users to create different threads for different discussions, as well as private threads within the group. Trello is a more visual brainstorming tool that looks like a giant board with customisable columns and cards. A more advanced app used by large corporations such as Uber is Asana, where an organisation’s workspace is separated into various teams, projects and tasks. Each task includes a comment section, and can be shifted according to priority. The app offers project calendars, project conversations, an inbox, and a file section.
While it seems fairly fuss-free to run a small-scale online team, a larger company with thousands to their workforce might be a tad more problematic. In terms of communication, they’ll be at the mercy of an Internet connection and a network delay as well. Depending on the nature of the work, some teams function more productively with in-person communication and meetings – even for SMEs. Nevertheless, the benefits of having a remote team are evident.
1. Save Money
An average serviced office space in Singapore costs between $1,000 and $5,000 per month. With a virtual team, you can keep all that cash in your pocket. No more utility bills, renovation and furniture bills, and miscellaneous costs (i.e. office supplies). According to a group of Stanford researchers, a firm can save about $2,000 annually for each employee that works from home. These workers benefit too from not having to pay for the daily commute to and from the office.
2. Save Time
Normally, employees have to get ready in the morning, dress for the office, and weave through traffic to get to work. That’s about two hours before any form of work actually begins. Remote employees, however, can work in their pyjamas for all they care. And because their house is their office, they can sidestep those long, counterproductive commuting hours. On top of that, unnecessary corporate meetings will be a thing of the past. Let’s be honest. These things are, for the most part, endless as they are pointless.
3. Happier Workers
Imagine getting to sleep in every day, and still receiving a paycheck at the end of the month. Paradise in the 21st century! Remote workers have the freedom to arrange their schedule and working hours according to their needs. This means a better work-life balance, which is essential to personal and professional happiness. They can skip the morning rush, take their time meditating or preparing a wholesome breakfast before starting work. Heck, they can be on a vacation in Paris, and clock in the hours with the world’s best cheesecake by their side. Basically, higher comfort levels equate to lower stress levels.
But how does this benefit your company, you ask? Happy workers are productive workers. Additionally, Cisco discovered in 2009 that 69 per cent of employees who worked remotely were more productive, and 75 per cent of them saw an improvement in the timeliness of their work. Because there aren’t fixed office hours, the concept of overtime also disappears. Employees are free to work after midnight if that’s their most productive hour. As such, they tend to clock more hours as opposed to their office-bound counterparts.
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Virtual companies get to hire the cream of the crop without being restricted to a certain geographical location. Can’t find a suitable recruit in Singapore? Take your job posting to the far reaches of the Internet and meet talents from Japan, Sweden or Morocco – applicants of the highest order from all over the world.
5. Avoid Office Politics
When a group of people with varying temperaments comes together, even an iota of chaos is to be expected. The beauty of virtual workspaces is that if you’ve got two employees who don’t get along, they don’t have to deal with each other at all. Eliminate water cooler gossip, detrimental office flings, and cater to introverts who do their best when they communicate from the comfort of being behind a computer screen.