The Persistence of Virtual Office

In the month of March in 2020, the United Nations declared Covid-19 a global pandemic. Millions of people across the globe went into social isolation; businesses were closed; future became uncertain; and people were left wondering how would the post-pandemic world look like. The most important challenges came in the field of workplace as offices were shut down, workers lost jobs, and business owners appalled by the huge sums of losses. There was a realization that the traditional notions of workplace need a change; and the concept of remote work was stressed upon.

Remote working, virtual workspace and co-working spaces are not an invention of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they got a boost when pandemic forced people to work from home. Virtual reality, virtual offices and virtual communication became popular. Now a debate is on about how this change might persist, and how the traditional workspace might change forever. Virtual offices are growingly becoming important for businesses that want all the facilities of a traditional office, but were compelled to work from home and now want to continue working remotely. Due to this, many experts, such as CEO of Butterfield, said that working will never be the same. Though no one is certain in which ways it will change.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Worklife conducted a survey with several professionals and experts to explore the post-pandemic world of workplace, and found many leaders believing that pandemic has provided an opportunity to reimagine the ways the work is done and companies are run. Today, professionals believe that they have gotten a chance in the shape of COVID-19 to shun ineffective workplace practices such as irrelevant workforce and fruitless meet ups and adopt efficient ways of doing business. Many professionals are of the view that virtual reality and virtual offices give the world of business an opportunity to work in flexible schedule outside the traditional 9 to 6 working hours and work from the comfort of home, while still managing all the business operations effectively through a virtual office. This digitalization of workspace has the potential to bring speed and betterment to business practices.

The most significant shift can be seen in the attitude of workers towards the ways of work. Their perspectives are not like before anymore, they are liking the change and may want to pursue the new ways of working. They are finding the flexible working hours, working from home, and work-life balance that the virtual offices provide appealing. According to researches, majority of a large segment of workers under study wanted to move on to adopt the new ways of working permanently. A small segment wanted to go back to the old ways. Most of the workers opted a hybrid remote office set up, such as a virtual office to which they do not have to travel, and which would allow them to work in flexible hours.

It is evident that working from home is going to be the new normal, at least for some part of the week. A hybrid office-remote work system is likely to emerge. This system will be instrumental in increasing efficiency through remote working, while still providing full chance to colleagues to interact and benefit from workplace communications. This will be a healthy mixing of innovation and creativity that certainly can redefine how people work. For now, a huge majority is working remotely out of the fear of the coronavirus and to curtail its spread. Viewing the fact that coronavirus continues to haunt humanity, the emergence of a hybrid work setup seems more likely.

As far as the benefits of remote working are concerned, it certainly boosts efficiency. It saves the time and energy spent on daily commute of workers, provide flexibility and increase responsiveness of the company. Hence with remote working, productivity is not reduced but enhanced. However, there are certain drawbacks as well. Absolute remote working for a long period of time can compromise workplace collaboration, relationships, disturb work-life balance and affect mental health of employees. Therefore, a hybrid office-remote work system with a hybrid workforce and flexible work distribution is necessary to help companies run sustainably.

Businesses that want to adopt such workplace set up have their workforce divided across home, a physical office, and a virtual office. Employees have the choice to work they way they are most comfortable in according to the type of work they do. Moreover, the firm must be prepared to fit into this model; the administration must know how to coordinate the operations of different segments and motivate their workers to carry out company goals. Additionally, the organization must be well-acquainted with virtual technologies. It must have the ability to benefit from the facilities that a virtual workspace offers such as data saving on cloud, document management, mail reception and forwarding and virtual communication.

In addition to all these factors, there must be a positive work culture in the virtual space that prioritize trust, mutual collaboration and healthy workplace interactions. By implementing these measures, the intent of present day businesses to transit to a hybrid workplace environment can meet realization and transform the world of work altogether in the post-pandemic world.