With the internet now ubiquitous, and employees able to work from home as easily as from the office, an increasing number of businesses are changing the way they operate.
No longer do employees have to spend time and money commuting into the office each day – an increasing number are being given the opportunity to work from home.
Eager to cut costs, boost employee motivation and engagement, and drive productivity levels, businesses are creating virtual offices and allowing employees to choose where they work.
One company to have embraced this 21st century model of working is Automattic, the company behind blogging software WordPress.
Speaking to Bloomberg Businessweek, the firm’s chief executive Toni Schneider explained that almost all of the company’s employees now work from home.
The company does have a head office, in San Francisco, California, but relatively few of the company’s paid staff ever come in to work.
This is because Automattic has acquired skilled staff in many different locations, and they are able to do the same job they would in the office so long as they are online.
Mr Schneider said that at first, outsiders doubted that the company could operate successfully with so many homeworkers and just a handful of staff based in the office.
“The first few years, there was lots of pressure on us to change and grow up,” he stated.
“I should have kept notes on how many people claimed that this wasn’t going to work- that this would break – and that I’d have to move everybody to San Francisco.”
However, as more people have invested in high-speed internet connections, it has become increasingly common to work from home.
And many businesses allow staff to work away from the office, for at least some of the time, where this is viable.
Smaller companies can potentially go a stage further and create companies with no main office space at all.
The office can be entirely virtual, in the sense that it is simply a phone number and email address, tied to a particular location which can be used for content and legal purposes,
For instance, a home-based enterprise could create a stronger brand impression by establishing a virtual office at an elite city address.
Customers, suppliers and other parties contact the firm at this address, even though the main business of the company is carried on elsewhere.
An increasing number of businesses are adopting virtual offices.
Research published by the Global Workspace Association (GWA) suggests vendors are reporting strong year-over-year revenue growth – supported by rising demand for virtual office environments.
Virtual office revenue increased by 8.2 per cent year-over-year in 2011, as more companies sought the flexibility of a non-permanent base, the GWA reported.
“Today’s workforce is increasingly independent and mobile, and companies continue to pursue cost-containing office arrangements that improve their bottom line,” said John Jordan, president of the GWA.
He noted that business is entering “a new era” in which convenience and savings are no longer opposing forces.
With a few clicks, the virtual office – complete with a receptionist, physical street address, meeting-room availability and other amenities – is available when and where needed,” Mr Jordan added.
He said it is clear that many companies are resisting long-term lease arrangements in many markets around the world.
“This dynamic, and the fact that individual and corporate demand for mobility is soaring, are the driving forces for virtual offices,” Mr Jordan claimed.
A recent study conducted by International Data Corporation indicated that the global mobile worker population will total more than 1.3 billion by 2015.
The analyst explained that this will be more than 37 per cent of the total workforce – a sign of how much, and how quickly, the world of business is changing.