Are Virtual Companies Our Future?

Companies all over the world are shedding a huge overhead cost and tapping into an international talent pool, going virtual.

In 2017, with internet access a certainty for most of the world, smart companies are realizing that they don’t need a brick-and-mortar office to succeed.

Widely-known companies such as Basecamp, Mozilla, Upworthy and Buffer don’t care if their employees come to a physical headquarters each day or work from home in their pajamas, so long as the work gets done. Some experts believe that as much as 50 percent of the U.S. workforce could be telecommuting by 2020.

Studies show that upwards of 3.7 million Americans work remotely at least half of the time. Remote working (among non-self-employed people) has increased 103 percent since 2005. Additionally, at least 80 percent of survey respondents said they’d like to work remotely at least part-time.

This isn’t an American concept, either. Manpower points out that 13 percent of the European workforce considers themselves teleworkers, working at least part of the day remotely. The Manpower survey found that 40 percent of E.U. respondents expressed interest in becoming a permanent virtual worker.

So why are employers and employees ditching the office?

Brick-and-Mortar is Outdated

In San Francisco, a global hub of innovation, small Y Combinator-backed startups can pay as much as (and in many cases, more than) $6,100 a month for rent.

Unless you’re in a rural area, you’re going to be spending thousands of dollars per month just to be able to have everyone in the same place. Maybe you’ll even buy a ping-pong table and bean bag chairs. Meanwhile, your employees are burning gas and money to drive to your office.

That’s money coming out of your coffers and out of your employees’ bank accounts just so you can have an address on your business cards.

In my opinion, this is an outdated way of thinking. Entrepreneurs who bypass the office and go completely virtual save a windfall on rent and maintenance. If the power or internet goes out, it only affects you — not an entire company. You can then invest those savings back into the company, hiring more employees, offering more to attract top talent, or fund perks like employee rewards.

All over the world, co-working spaces are popping up, allowing companies to enjoy the benefits of an office without the high cost. If you need a private room to woo a client or get the team together for a vision meeting, you can simply rent one by the hour.

Think this would be unpopular with your employees? You’re wrong. A Cisco study shows that 45 percent of workers are even willing to take a lower salary in order to telecommute and 31 percent would take fewer holidays.

An International Talent Pool

This is another huge benefit to going virtual. So many companies enslaved to an office are greatly limiting their potential talent pool to those who live in the general vicinity of the building.

Since most companies lack the ability to pay for relocation, except in the cases of C-level positions, this places the burden on the worker to move to be closer to you. Qualified candidates may have never even heard of your company, since they’re only looking in the Nashville metropolitan area and you’re based in Phoenix.

When you open up and become a pure virtual office, your workers can come from anywhere. You can have top talent from Singapore, Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York and Paris all working together.

I know what you’re thinking. If you, the CEO, are based in Los Angeles, shouldn’t you at least look for people in the same time zone? I figure that’s a huge limitation. If someone internationally is interested in your organization, you might be surprised with how open they are to working on your time.

When you’re not limited to one metropolitan area, you can place job ads in multiple areas and increase your chances of finding your next superstar employee. Meanwhile, your office-bound competitors have to choose from those who live nearby or who have the financial ability to uproot their lives.

While going virtual might elicit confused looks from others, they’re not the ones who matter. Companies that eschew cubicles, commuting and florescent lighting for a virtual office are growing in number and influence.

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