How to Run a Virtual Office with a Flexible Workforce

The world of work is changing. Many business owners and employees are no longer chained to a desk - thanks to modern mobile technology and connectivity, they can work on the go and remain productive while they're at it.

For mobile businesses, particularly startups or home-based companies that don't need a full-time office, one concept that's growing in popularity is the virtual office.

In a nutshell, a virtual office lets you rent a building address and use it as your company head office, even if you don't work there. Received mail is collected and redirected to your permanent address, and you can rent the local phone number too. On-site receptionists will even answer calls in your company name, before forwarding them onto you.

It's ideal for small businesses who want an established business location or who want to protect their home address. Find out more about UBC's virtual offices here.

The next question is, how do you manage a 'virtual' team?

UBC works with many virtual office clients who themselves manage businesses of varying sizes and sectors. They have their own ways of working with dispersed staff, just as we do. Here are a few tips we've picked up along the way:

1. Stay in touch:

Above all, regular communication is essential. When you can't see an employee, you may wonder what they're getting up to. To stay on track, keep in touch by scheduling a regular call - maybe once a week or fortnight - and keep it as a recurring date in your calendar. Inbetween times, use email or IM to stay in touch.

2. Avoid email overload:

That said, email may not be the most suitable form of communication. Phone calls might work, but regular calls can be an unwelcome distraction (hence it helps to schedule them instead). So why not consider an online project management tool? One example is Asana. You can delegate tasks, assign deadlines and communicate with workers inside the web-based app, which helps to keep all task-related communication contained within one place.

3. Meet up:

Despite great advances in virtual technologies, face-to-face communication still retains much of its original value. Make time to meet up with employees or remote workers from time to time, particularly if you're working on a large project together. If you can't always meet, or if you're working thousands of miles apart, video conferencing is a great alternative. Use tools like Skype or Google Hangouts for free video chats, or upgrade to professional standard tools like GoToMeeting.

4. Use the cloud:

If you're managing a virtual team, you've probably already got a working knowledge of cloud computing. To avoid sending emails loaded with files backwards and forwards, consider using cloud storage or a shared folder. This means you can work on files together, safe in the knowledge that you're using the latest version and that it's safely backed-up.

5. Enjoy your flexibility

Working 'virtually' allows great flexibility and freedom, which is a major perk and a great reason to do it. From time to time working alone can get a little lonely and it's easy to become distracted or de-motivated. You can utilise a coworking space or a day office to enjoy some professional collaboration, or hire a meeting room when you need to meet clients in a formal environment. Above all, remember why you're doing it - and enjoy your virtual office flexibility!