Today we’ll explore the age-old question of the professionality of a traditional office space as opposed to a virtual office space. And by age-old we mean relatively recent question.
For decades, technology has been making doing business easier and easier. Handwritten spreadsheets were replaced with programs such as Microsoft Excel. Printed interoffice memos were replaced with the, sometimes poorly timed, “Reply All”. Group meetings were replaced by conference calls and GoToMeeting. Even interviews have started moving away from the face-to-face format as many people interview on Skype.
All of changes in technology have had an effect on where we work. In the past few years the advent of virtual offices has absolutely exploded. There seemed to be a lot of pushback initially, especially from the stuck-in-their-ways executives. However, all of that has changed. Managers are now seeing the benefit of flex working and virtual office. Workers are generally happy with the ability to work from a virtual office.
One of the main arguments against virtual offices is that they are not as “professional” as traditional office spaces. Is there any truth behind this claim? Well, employees working from a home virtual office may not have a marbled entry and a mahogany desk, but does that really make for a professional workplace?
Quality of Work
One of the first indicators of professionalism is a company’s quality of work. Regardless of if you are working in fancy high-rise, a strip mall, or a home office that doubles as a nursery; quality of work is key.
For many workers today, it is actually beneficial to work from home because they can deliver higher quality work. Offices can often house a plethora of distractions such as water cooler chats, the boisterous salesman bragging about his most recent close, and of course the never ending meetings that an in-office employee must attend. These are all productivity killers.
A virtual office isn’t without distraction but that is usually more limited to internal distractions such as refreshing your newsfeed every five minutes. The external distractions are far and few between.
Communication Systems and Abilities
Another key determinate if a virtual office can be as professional as a traditional office, is the communications factor. Whether your office is in an office building or a virtual office; communication is key. Phone systems, email, conferencing abilities, and much more will create an atmosphere of professionalism in a virtual office.
Home offices often involve Skype, GoToMeeting, FaceTime, or some other version of teleconferencing. A professional virtual worker will also be readily accessible by mobile phone or chat. There is nothing more unprofessional than a lack of communication.
Some virtual offices come equipped with entire infrastructures. They may have receptionists that can be shared for the different offices located in the company and provide high-speed, secure internet. Some share spaces also include conference rooms so that you can meet with clients face-to-face if you need or want to.
Ability to Deliver and Receive
Back in the Mad Men era, there was a physical copy of everything. Your company’s portfolio, invoices, ledgers, presentations, and employee info was all contained on paper. In order to deliver and receive this type of information, they needed a physical location where someone could either ship it or deliver it by hand.
In today’s world, we don’t need a physical copy of anything really. CD’s and DVD’s are even obsolete. They used to contain large files that couldn’t be delivered over email. However, file sharing and cloud storage services such as Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive have eliminated the need for even a disk. All a virtual office needs to do in order to be professional, is have an understanding of one of those cloud storage and sharing systems.
Well, here is one factor that may not lend itself to the virtual office supporters. Let’s face it, if you have the opportunity to work in virtual office, you probably are not wearing your Sunday’s best everyday. Workout clothes, hoodies, jeans, sweats, and even PJ’s are often fair game for the virtual office worker.
A traditional office space usually has some form of dress code but if you’ve met all the criteria above, does it really matter what if you were in sport coat or a bathrobe?
In conclusion, it is fair to say that a virtual office is as professional as a traditional office space in today’s world. Work and meetings can be accomplished from virtually anywhere. Pun intended. It isn’t seen as a detriment to the company if they all aren’t in the same physical location at once, as long as the results are strong.