April 16, 2010

Should Your Company Go Virtual? – Here’s a Great Article from Inc. Magazine

34 million Americans are working from home at least part time. Virtual companies are deriving many advantages, and face new issues, when going virtual. Advantages include infrastructure cost savings and the ability to draw from a larger talent pool; challenges include client perception.

The article The Case, and the Plan, for the Virtual Company: How smart entrepreneurs are finding money and happiness in an office-free life by Max Chafkin, Inc.’s senior writer, discusses Inc. Magazine’s experiment in going virtual and various issues to consider.

Excertps:

Step 1: Crunch the Numbers

Let’s start with the most obvious reason to go virtual: It will probably save your company a substantial amount of money. …

Step 2: Get the Tech

Repeat after us: The technology doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. The more time we spent out of the office, the less we even thought about the technology. Most virtual employees can do their jobs with a laptop, some free software programs, an Internet connection, and not a whole lot else. …

 Step 3: Settle In

This step sounds easy — what could be more comfortable than working in your own home? — but it’s deceptively hard. During the first week of our experiment, many of us were very nearly losing our minds. …

Step 4: Master Your Emoticons (And Everything Else About Communicating Online)

For many companies this isn’t easy — and it wasn’t for us. Making a magazine, like other creative endeavors, involves a certain amount of controlled chaos. We pop in, eavesdrop, and generally express ourselves at will, which can feel a little bit chaotic to outsiders but which also happens to work. …

Step 5: Explain Yourself

So you have shuttered the office, gone home, and gone virtual. You are saving money and your employees are happy. Your company has never been stronger. The only problem is that your neighbors, customers, and competitors all think you have gone out of business. The day after we announced that we were temporarily shutting down our office, a blogger for the Columbia Journalism Review wrote this: “If I were a staff member at Inc., I’m not sure if I would be approaching this experiment [as] a clever bit of participatory journalism, an innovative, cost-cutting measure that could help save the future of the ailing magazine industry, or just be really freaked out that it sounds eerily like what happens when a title in said industry goes to that virtual workplace in the sky and shuts down for good.” … 

Step 6: Consider Your Culture

At its most basic level, going virtual means moving away from a culture of collaboration by a group of competent generalists and toward one based on specialists who are cheap, efficient, and good at meeting deadlines. …

Full article

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