Yasmine Davis, Recruiter with The Lee Group in Chesapeake, Virginia

For some jobs, location is key. If you’re an artist, you’ll likely work in a studio. If you’re building airplanes, you must be in a hangar.

But for many jobs all you need is an internet connection and you can work virtually anywhere.

A virtual workplace is a workplace that is not located in any one physical space and not tied to any geographic boundaries. Employees and management are connected via a private network or the internet and interact with each other via phone, Skype, cloud computing programs and a whole host of other virtual options.

Employees who work virtually may work out of their homes, in satellite offices, at an emerging network of co-working spaces, or really…wherever they are most productive.

The rise in virtual workplaces (also called teleworking) began in the 20th Century as new technologies such as PCs, cell phones, voicemail, and of course the internet became commonplace.

By the early 21st Century, people who worked at least one day at home per week increased by over four million, and today nearly half of working Americans say they spend at least some time working remotely, and all signs indicate virtual work will continue to grow.

Working remotely has its advantages.

For many companies, virtual workplaces reduce overhead costs, and it’s more sustainable. Having the ability to telecommute also saves on commuting costs such as fuel. One study found that if 10 million employees telecommuted twice a month then 21 million barrels of oil would be saved a year. If the average cost of gas is around $4 a gallon, this would amount to $1.7 billion of fuel costs savings a year!

Employers benefit from virtual workplaces by saving money on real estate and office costs. With everyone working virtually, there is no need for office space, supplies, electricity, etc. A study done by the Telework Research Network estimated that the average real estate savings realized from a full-time teleworker is $10,000 a year.

Another benefit is that working virtually is highly valued by millennials, the largest generation in the workforce. As the first generation to grow up with the internet, millennials are expected to embrace new technologies, virtual workplaces, schedule flexibility and work-life balance.

Studies have also shown that employees who telework are more productive, less stressed and miss less work.

While there are many proponents of virtual workplaces, there are also those who feel that working virtually results in a sense of isolation among the employees, poor communication and high susceptibility to distraction, among others. While, working virtually isn’t for everyone or every business, it is changing the landscape of the typical office setting as we know it.

So what tools help make up a virtual workplace?

Project Management

Project management applications like Trello and Basecamp are a must! These applications help with the sorting and tracking of assignments, managing to-do-lists and they work across multiple platforms, computers, tablets and mobile, so you can have access wherever you go.

Virtual Assistants

The use of Virtual Personal Assistants (VPA) is one of the newer trends in the virtual workplace. Exactly as it sounds, VPAs are people who assist “virtually.” VPAs do everything from keeping their manager’s calendar up-to-date, to booking travel and making online purchases for the company.

Conversation

A chat tool is another must. Since working virtually means you can’t just walk down the hall and ask a colleague a question, a chatting platform is the next best thing. Yammer is an example of one of the many private social media platforms that supports real-time communication and file-sharing, which is only available to employees in the network. Slack is another popular chat tool that allows for public or private messaging with team members. It essentially takes the place of “hallway” chats.

The Cloud

Cloud computing is the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer. Tools such as Dropbox and Google Suite allow employees and managers to collaborate virtually and have access to shared documents, calendars, drives, etc., that would otherwise have to be emailed or faxed constantly back and forth.

Whether you are looking for a standard or virtual work environment, The Lee Group is happy to help you with every aspect of your job search or recruitment needs.

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