A Virtual Improvement! Is it time for a Virtual Workforce?

Is it Time for a Virtual Workforce?
Corporations of all sizes are catching on to the many benefits found in a virtual work environment, both for the employee and for the employer. One such push for virtualism is undoubtedly the tough economic times and the cost savings found in switching from an in-house work force to a virtual one.

Go Virtual – Go Green
It started with the paperless themes that companies began operating under and now some are taking it one step further.  Midwest Family Mutual Insurance Company, a small property-casualty carrier in Plymouth, Minnesota, spent two years converting to a largely paperless environment and now employs a mostly home-based staff.  Going from a 24,000-square-foot building to a much smaller space with a few offices and 24 cubicled spaces for use as needed, this insurance company has undoubtedly earned its green badge, not to mention all the green they saved by this metamorphous; and we’re not talking about trees!  While this example may seem extreme, many companies are grasping the features and benefits of a virtual platform. Cable television provider Cox Communications, for instance, has nearly 2,000 of its customer service staff on a “work from home” platform. And Aetna has a virtual service center staffed with about 500 at-home employees. This is likely to be a familiar trend with thousands of companies within the next 5 years. Many terms and definitions describe this type of employee such as: virtual workers, virtual employees, e-workers, teleworkers, telecommuters, e-commuters, and remote workers. These “virtual” personnel may work from their homes, on the road, from personal offices, or at collaborative work spaces, typically organized for programmers and writers.

Why Go Virtual?
The reasons why companies are switching to a virtual work space are varied and include the following: Talent/Morale/ Retention: Virtual work environments are generally preferred by talented, in-demand workers, therefore reducing the turnover in jobs with higher burnout rates, such as contact center representatives. A virtual work force also reduces turnover by allowing employees whose spouses are relocated, to continue employment by eliminating geographical restraints.

Location Requirements: By eliminating or minimizing geographic requirements, companies can have a much wider selection of the total employment pool and not limited to those within a 30 mile range also reducing the instance of absences due to transportation issues.

Diversity: Telework can provide greater opportunities to employ the disabled. This offers companies many benefits in the form tax deductions and total overhead cost reduction.

Real Estate Costs: Housing less workers means smaller leased/owned office space, substantially reducing a companies’ real estate costs, in addition to the many other expenses that go along with housing employees. Common workspace is usually made available for days when employees have on-site requirements.

Productivity: Employers who permit telework may experience lower absenteeism and higher productivity due to fewer interruptions and an overall improved morale.

Tax and Financial Incentives: Many local, state/regional, and federal governments offer tax breaks, grants, or other programs that encourage green/virtual workforces.

Why Workers Want To Go Virtual
There are also many benefits to the employee or potential employee of an organization that offers a virtual work environment. The costs associated with maintaining employment for the employee are greatly reduced.  These costs include: transportation; gas, car repairs and maintenance, clothing (dry cleaning), food (lunches while away from home) and for some, day care; especially in the summer months when children are not in school.  By allowing employees to save money on the costs associated with maintaining a job they are able to sustain on lower salaries provided by companies.

In turn, employees are more likely to accept lower salaries in exchange for the convenience and benefits of a work from home environment and can afford to do so. Employees who work remotely, enjoy a quieter work area with fewer distractions. In addition, they benefit from less overall “work time” by cutting out travel to and from an office in the morning and in the evening, not to mention the time spent in preparation for work. Depending on the schedule requirements of their employer, they may also have the ability to work during times when they are most personally productive, giving them even more freedom in their scheduling and daily life. Benefits for both employees and companies of a work from home setting are bringing an ever increasing popularity to this business model.  Companies considering a transition from the traditional office setting to a work from home solution will have a lot of variables to consider.  Discussing options with your managed service provider and getting feedback on the process will be an invaluable tool in preparation for the growing pains you may experience.  With careful planning and the right managed service provider, the transition can be seamless.

Environmentally speaking this solution carries exponential benefits that translate into dollars saved for businesses and employees. In addition, the work from home solution allows employees more flexibility within their schedule to care for their children and other responsibilities by allowing more time in their day and money in their pocket. If planned correctly this becomes a money saving opportunity for companies as well. Successful businesses who have taken on this initiative understand how to minimize the minuses and capitalize on the pluses. By taking on the right strategy with external and internal management, companies benefit from this solution through a reduction in overhead costs, and an increase in revenue via enhanced employee production.

Darren C. Prine
Director of Strategic Partnerships
The Northwinds Contact Solutions

~ by Darren Prine on August 6, 2009.

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