For decades, work has been associated with a nine-to-five job in an office. But although this is still the case for many people, times are changing.
Over the past few years, flexible working has gained serious momentum. The concept has primarily been driven by advances in cloud-based technology, which enables collaborative working from anywhere in the world.
As a result, many companies are now turning to alternative business structures and working arrangements. One of those is the futuristic-sounding, technology-enabled virtual office.
Into the future
Don’t worry; the virtual office isn’t quite as sci-fi as it sounds. It just means you can use your devices and the latest cloud applications to set up base wherever you want — while still benefitting from the collaboration that comes with being based in a physical office.
The virtual office also offers many other key benefits such as increased affordability, productivity and flexibility.
For the majority of businesses, renting a physical office space is one of their most significant yearly overheads. But other than a space to work, what do you get in return for this? Nothing. With a virtual office, there’s no lease, no utility payments and no hardware costs. All those savings can then be put to better use elsewhere.
What’s more, a virtual office means you’ll go from monitoring when people arrive at and leave work to establishing specific daily goals, so you’ll see an increase in productivity almost immediately. You’re also free to find a place to work that suits your needs and helps to boost your motivation.
Plus, who wouldn’t love to be able to cut out their daily commute? Working virtually means you’re no longer tied to a single location — your office can be wherever you want it to be, so long as you’ve got the devices you need with you.
Top 5 Cloud applications for collaboration
In theory, anyone with a web browser and a good internet connection can set up a virtual office. You just need the right tools.
Thanks to an explosion of cloud-based tools, collaboration can now happen in real-time. Documents can be quickly distributed between groups, and the exchange of ideas can continue 24/7 — without ever needing to bring the team into the same meeting room.
Let’s take a look at some of our favourite cloud-based collaboration tools here at Pro Drive…
While there are plenty of competitors out there, Office 365 is the best of the best. No other cloud-based office suite has caught up with Microsoft’s — which is one of the most comprehensive virtual tools available as far as features and functionality go.
From collaboration (SharePoint Online), file storage (OneDrive) and communication to (Exchange Online) to spreadsheets (Excel), presentations (PowerPoint) and reports (Word), Office 365 lets you do it all. What’s more, the cloud-hosted platform can be used with Mac, Android and iOS, as well as Windows.
Strictly speaking, Teams is part of the Office 365 suite — but we thought it deserved its own mention! Teams works on multiple desktop and mobile platforms and is one of the top online collaboration tools out there, allowing you to interact with your colleagues in real-time. Think of it as turbo-charged WhatsApp for business.
Key features include a public and private chat function, as well as file sharing, screen sharing and note taking. You can even run virtual meetings that people can join and leave as they please! Don’t have Office 365? No problem, you can also use Teams for free!
Forget dragging yourself all the way across town to sit in a dingy meeting room. If you’re a start-up business or sole trader looking to dip your toes into the world of virtual meetings and video conferencing, the free version of Skype Meetings supports up to 10 participants and includes screen sharing and PowerPoint collaboration.
Without having colleagues sitting next to you to talk to (or distract you, depending on how you look at it), work can get a little lonely. Not the case with social networks such as Yammer, which have been specifically designed to support collaboration in a virtual office.
The Microsoft-owned platform allows users to communicate privately by creating groups, while external collaborators such as suppliers can be added easily as well. Yammer is generally aimed at larger organisations; the best way to think of it is as Facebook for business!
When working in a virtual office, it’s not always easy to put your heads together to come up with new ideas or hatch out a plan. But although you might not be there in person, you will be there in tech!
Cloud applications such as OneNote allow users to sync their notes, to-do lists and projects across multiple platforms and devices — so you can share your thoughts with colleagues quickly and simply.
Are you keen to set up your own virtual office? At Pro Drive IT, we can help you implement these cloud-based tools into your business — so you can start realising the benefits of collaborative working today. Get in touch to find out more.