How can you begin creating your new environment?
In the last few years, a plethora of technological advances have put the possibility of creating a virtual workforce within reach for most companies. No longer is the virtual workforce only relevant to international organisations or businesses that depend primarily on office-style working. The technologies that support virtual working can be used by anyone from warehouse workers to wholesalers, from delivery drivers to directors, from consultants to contractors. This technology allows access to crucial data, documents and software wherever the user is, whatever device they use to connect to it.
However, while the technology is now widely available, many employees are continuing to use existing and often outdated software which requires that they be in a physical place at a specific time to be productive. Creating a virtual workforce and accessing the benefits it promises will require some investment – although this need not always represent huge up-front costs. Many tools used to build a virtual workforce are provided as a service, meaning you pay a relatively low monthly fee for each individual licence.
So, what are the investments you’ll need to make in order to build your virtual workforce?
Equipment and hardware: While the virtual workforce can help you spend less money on maintaining Servers in your company’s buildings, you will still have hardware requirements.
First among these will be devices for ‘virtual’ staff. You may opt for a policy that allows workers to use their own computers, laptops and tablets to access company data, but it may be more effective to provide your own tools for consistency and training purposes.
Additional materials: If some employees are spending much of their time in home offices, you may need to think about providing appropriate office chairs, desks, keyboards, headsets for voice calls and additional monitors, for example. You will also need to consider broadband in their homes. While internet connections are generally improving in the UK, there are areas where coverage is still poor. You will need to investigate this for your area, and explore the costs of providing employees with the best service possible.
A central document storage and online hub: It will be essential to provide access to company data in the cloud. Typically, this will require file storage, sharing and collaboration tools which allow virtual employees to access data from wherever they are working.
Effective enterprise mobile apps: Many of the major enterprise IT providers offer their tools as apps that can be used online via mobile devices and laptops. However, if you currently use any custom apps in the business, investigate how you can bring them online so that distance workers can access them.
Telecoms, video and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol): Communication is central to virtual workplace success, and you will need to select a communications tool which supports this; allowing virtual workers to make and receive calls and communicate with colleagues regardless of location.
Security: Essential in any business but especially so when the workforce is accessing data from outside the office, you will need to decide on a security strategy. Central to this will be the granting of permission levels and methods of authenticating the identity of employees accessing data from outside the office walls. You should also investigate mobile device management tools which offer the ability to wipe all data from a device remotely in case it is lost or stolen.
While creating a virtual workforce may involve some upfront investment, the long-term benefits and ROI will outweigh any initial costs. An immediate benefit is that you reduce your IT costs and end the need for expensive upgrades – instead, your service provider takes charge of hardware maintenance and you pay a much lower, scalable and predictable monthly fee. Longer term, you provide staff with more flexible working that fits better around how they actually want to work – encouraging greater loyalty and higher productivity.
Ready to start your journey to virtual working? Get in contact with us today to find out how we can help.