The pros & cons of a virtual workforce

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Over the last decade, we have seen the emergence and subsequent increase in the use of the term “Virtual Assistant” and a remote workforce is becoming a more common concept. There are many factors that have aided this increase ranging from technological developments to increased global mobility.

As a recruiter, over the past few years I have seen more and more candidates interested in flexible working arrangements, be it reduced hours or the highly sought after “virtual” role. These roles are much more attainable given technological advancements in areas such as video conferencing, cloud technology and smart phone applications. Increased mobility sees many executives work onsite with clients or travel for their roles meaning they are not even in the office to oversee their direct reports. Employers are looking at benefits to make their business more appealing to new talent and flexible working arrangements rank high on the list amongst the millennial workforce. These are some of the factors that have perpetuated the trend towards working remotely.  

Some employees are satisfied with the prospect of working from home one or two days per week yet others seek out the “virtual role”, an opportunity to perform the entirety of one’s role from wherever you may be. Whilst this won’t work for every position, there is a long list of roles where it is possible to maintain the same or increased output when “virtual”. Secretarial positions, bookkeeping, marketing, I.T. and graphic design are just a few on the list. With a reliable laptop, smart phone, internet connection and access to scanner/printer you are set to go. This means an individual can roll out of bed and start working immediately, mitigating long commutes and travel costs. Work/life balance can be increased and workplace distractions decreased.

For employers working with a virtual model, the points to consider can be daunting. On the plus side, offering flexible working arrangements can increase your profile as a company, making you more appealing to potential employees. This not only can give you more choice when hiring, but also means you are not limited to those who live a commutable distance from work. Does it mean that you can expand your business operations into new regions where you don’t have an office? Virtual options can be a cost saving measure when you consider the increasing costs of office space which can hinder business growth. Employees looking to work from home are often willing to consider lower salaries given the drastic change to their lifestyle and decreased travel and clothing costs.

Now for the potential downfalls for a business. How do you measure productivity? How do you ensure that you are getting the most out of your staff? This is something that requires a degree of trust and reliance on technology. Setting clear objectives and deadlines is key. Is your business information protected? Is confidential information safer when contained in a secure office space? Data security and protection are costs to factor. We often talk about the culture of a business and the importance of this. How do you shape the culture when your staff are not as accessible? How do you encourage the sharing of information and ideas? How do you develop your staff?

The prospect of a remote workforce throws up many questions and a great deal of thought needs to go into how you make this work for your business. Regardless, remote work is not a trend but something that is here to stay. The coming years will show some exciting developments in how businesses and individuals work as this concept becomes more common. Who knows where we will be next decade. 

Rebecca Siciliano – Director – Head of Temporary Division at Tiger Recruitment, one of London’s leading secretarial/administrative recruitment agencies.

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