The Benefits Of Going Totally Virtual

By many indications, the office – as so many of us have known it – may be on its way out.

Leaders, career experts and workplace consultants are talking and saying things that share a common theme: Is the company headquarters obsolete? Do certain small business owners need a physical location at all? Do the benefits of a remote workplace outweigh the challenges? Such are the questions percolating in leadership and HR circles.

There are any number of issues to take into account just in hiring and managing remote workers, let alone going completely virtual. Yet many mainstream businesses are just now building momentum in the direction of the remote workplace. Some companies have gone completely virtual. And entrepreneurs, championed by millennial upstarts, are building fully remote businesses at the outset.

Editor’s note: ERE Media is a 100% virtual company.

But now traditional companies and established organizations are catching onto the many benefits of integrating virtual work into existing functional patterns, and possibly going office-free altogether. Remote teams that remain tied together, absent the age old corporate headquarters or satellite locations, help businesses boom. The benefits are many.

And here are just a few reasons why this changing idea about the place of work is gaining traction:

Recruiting top talent anywhere

By going virtual with their workforce, companies are no longer bound by geographic boundaries in recruiting talent. This freedom creates new prospects for employers to grow and deepen their well of qualified applicants. When organizations are sourcing talent, they can command the highest and best contributors by going beyond the limits of the city where they are based. This means that talent acquisition is enlivened by a funnel that may be statewide, regional, national and even international in scope.

Improved retention

It’s been said ad nauseam over the years by leaders, but it really is true that, “Our people are our greatest asset.” They’re also among the most expensive outlays on a business budget.

Once a company has invested so much time and money to source, hire, onboard, train and maintain a staff member, it’s a significant loss of investment for that to result in turnover. Going virtual and having employees who can work from wherever they are most effective is a strong driver of retention.

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One of the main reasons people turn down job offers or leave existing roles is because of inflexibility. An Ernst & Young study found that bosses who don’t allow flexible work are among the top five reasons people abandon ship in search of a different professional life raft. Employees are human resources, but they also  represent other assets, like a company’s knowledge bank, operations, innovation and more.

Cost savings

When organizations go virtual, employees can work from home, co-working spaces or elsewhere they can log on, be engaged and maintain a reliable, secure connection. Companies realize ample savings by not leasing office space. Average costs for office space vary throughout the country, from $1.74 per square foot in Atlanta to $6.16 per square foot in New York City.

According to Global Workplace Analytics, 60% of employers identify cost savings as a major benefit of telecommuting. And by way of example, many large employers have achieved six-to-eight figure savings by instituting work-from-home programs. McKesson slashed costs by $2 million annually, and Nortel has saved $100,000 per employee they did not have to relocate.

Not just financial benefits

Growth, not only in revenue or profits, but gains in other ways you can count: That’s what getting out of those four company walls (literally and metaphorically) represents. Imagine expanding your recruitment pipeline, amassing industry expertise, eliminating major revolving expenses and elevating your company’s profile with this one step.

Of course, planning and executing the strategy can be a major undertaking. I understand from experience that getting out of the office and into something brave, new and untested is not easy on an enterprise-wide basis. Every company is different and so, too, are the roadmaps to offsite models. But the rewards are equal opportunity, primed for the taking, for organizations bold enough to adjust.

Tricia Sciortino is the COO of BELAY, which provides virtual services to companies.

She joined the company, formerly known as eaHELP, in November 2010 as a virtual assistant and first employee of the company. She has a background in senior retail management, including experience overseeing a team of more than 150 employees, and supporting senior leaders in the church construction industry.

Originally from New York, Tricia currently resides in Charlotte, N.C., with her two daughters. She obtained her B.A. in Business from the University of Hartford in Connecticut. When she is not working, you’ll find her near water — pool, lake or beach.

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