NBC’s hit series “The Office” came to an end last month, but the virtual office is just beginning. In today’s post, Todd Miller, author of the book Going Virtual, and Mike Pugh, j2 Global small business expert, bust 3 common myths about working virtually.
Myth #1: Offices are the most productive places to get work done. Studies have consistently found that offices are among the least productive places to get work done. Knowledge economy research and advisory firm Basex estimated that nearly 3 hours per day is lost to office-related interruptions and distractions, costing American businesses over $750 billion per year. If you ask an employee where they are most productive, chances are they will not tell you “at the office.”
Technologies such as Web conferencing applications or cloud-based phone solutions like eVoice that can route calls to landlines or cell phones mitigate the need for face-to-face interaction with co-workers. Software as a Service (SaaS) CRM solutions put the information employees need right in their hands whenever and wherever they need it, and virtual white boards foster highly-collaborative environments as if coworkers were in the same room.
Myth #2: Supervision is the key to productivity. Do you know what the top Web application used by closely supervised office workers is? If you guessed Salesforce or WebEx, you’d be wrong. The #1 Web app used by bricks and mortar office workers is actually Farmville.
Whether employees are motivated and productive has little to do with where they work or how closely they’re supervised. Instead, what makes a company turn and burn is its leadership – its ability to inspire employees with a compelling vision, translated into crisply defined goals and objectives. If employees understand where the company is going, are excited about that direction, and understand clearly how they’re contributing to its success, they are an overwhelmingly powerful force, propelling the juggernaut forward.
Myth #3: Traditional offices are not expensive. Actually, bricks and mortar are very expensive. The combination of real estate, utilities, equipment, absenteeism, and lost productivity can cost a business as much as $40,000 per employee each year. Recruiting employees from an office-centric geographic area like Silicon Valley can dramatically drive up payroll. Additionally, costs from catastrophic events can prove insurmountable to businesses anchored in a traditional office. Last year’s hurricane Sandy cost downtown New York City businesses an estimated $17 billion. Much of this was due to downtime—employees were simply unable to work because they had no place to work and no infrastructure with which to work.
A distributed home-based workforce is the new disruptive best business practice of the 21st century. Cloud based infrastructure, like eVoice, Salesforce and eFax, eliminates the need for expensive and inefficient office-based IT hardware, software, and personnel.
Mike Pugh is vice president of marketing at j2 Global, Inc., a pioneering provider of cloud-based communications services including eVoice®, a phone system for small businesses and eFax ®, a cloud-based Internet fax solution. Serial entrepreneur and author Todd Miller is CEO and founder of gwabbit.com, a world leader in business contact and relationship management, and the author of Going Virtual: How to Succeed in Business in the “New Normal” Economy of the 21st Century (Escargot Books).