The future of the virtual office

February 13, 2017 Julian Gros

Collaboration in the office made easier thanks to technology

Nowadays, the term ‘office’ does not necessarily mean ‘that place you go every day from 9 to 5 and work’. Thanks to rapid advancements in technology as well as a collective shift in business priorities, the ‘office’ could refer to everything from your living room sofa to your seat on the train.  

According to research by Regus conducted last year, 54% of Australian professionals now work remotely for at least half the week. This reflects the change occurring across the country: Regus’s research also revealed that 80% of Australian small businesses are more focused on measuring employee output rather than time spent in the office. This shift towards focusing on tangible goals rather than simply ‘witnessing productivity’ has encouraged the rise of the virtual office. Author Kevin Kruse explains this further in the article ‘Top 10 Benefits of Working From Home’:

The perceived benefits of working from home has enabled me to hire top talent with no local geographic limits. It's enabled me to steal away top talent from competitors, without having to increase their pay. It's contributed to a highly engaged workforce with a company culture that won Best Place to Work awards. The benefits to me have far outweighed the hassles.

 

Technology allows employees to work remotely

The virtual office has also been championed by the rising majority of workers: Generation Y (more commonly known as ‘millennials’). By 2020, millennials will make up 42% of the entire workforce, and the majority prioritise the power to work remotely. According to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey (a global survey of 7,700 millennials from 29 countries), only 43% are offered the option to work from home or other remote locations where they feel most productive.

Although it seems that Australia’s working population has more flexible working freedom in general, businesses are still struggling to restructure to remain competitive and relevant in this changing landscape. According to the Study of Australian Leadership (SAL), ‘a significant proportion of Australian workplaces – more than 40% – are not meeting their performance targets for return on investment and profitability’. The SAL also found that ‘around one-third of workplaces underperform against their sales targets’.

So how can the ‘virtual office of the future’ help to enhance productivity (on both a business and a personal level)? The answer: collaboration tools.

 

 

Employees can work remotely on multiple devices, including smartphones.

The proliferation of technological solutions available now – such as videoconferencing tools, cloud-based storage, and mobile apps – make virtual collaboration easier than ever, transforming the workplace from one centred around a shared physical space to one that’s defined by the software it uses. And this is just the beginning.

The video The Future of Work (by Citrix CTO Council) sums up this shift to a more tech-centric workplace: with the amount of information doubling every 1.5 years, technological solutions are – and will continue to be – more focused on organising this new workload and making it easier to manage. Collaborative software will also become more personalised to each worker’s preferences, helping to maximise individual productivity and boost overall output. Rather than trying to fit your best work into standard business hours, virtual offices allow employees to plan their workloads around their most productive times of day with more freedom.

 

VR headsets could simulate virtual offices in the future.

Virtual reality (VR) will also undoubtedly play a significant role in shaping ‘the office of the future’. Many have assumed VR would remain confined to the gaming industry; however, US-based software firm Strata became the first business-to-business VR company on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) last October. ‘I think the most useful application [in VR software] will be in training. [For example], Starbucks pays a fortune to train its baristas exclusively on real coffee machines. Our software will help them do it at a fraction of the cost’, says Strata chief executive John Wright in an article on the Financial Review.

The transformation from physical offices to virtual ones has the potential to completely change the way a business measures output. With technology connecting the furthest corners of the globe, businesses will be able to hire smarter, build more efficient teams and boost productivity overall.

 

About the author:

Teneille Dawe is the SMB Marketing Lead for GetGo, the leading provider of phone conferencing and online meeting service GoToMeeting. Based in Sydney, Australia, she uses her 10+ years of industry experience to manage the webinar and content programme for the APAC team, and enjoys collaborating with other business leaders from all around the world. Connect with her on LinkedIn

 

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