Young Upstarts

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The Benefits And Drawbacks Of A Virtual Workplace

Once upon a time businesses operated out of single spaces – single buildings with a few or possibly dozens of interconnected offices. Even if that single space had “satellite” locations, there was still a single mother ship at which most of the company worked.

This isn’t true anymore. Now thanks to the internet, advances in computing and cloud technology, huge multinational corporations can be run from thousands of independent locations.

But does that mean that you should automatically make your business a virtual workplace instead of something more traditional? Of course not. So how do you decide?

Do You Want to Be a Trendsetter?

In spite of all of the technology and the loudly vocalized support for virtual spaces and telecommuting, a CBS News Poll reports that only 24% of the workforce telecommutes regularly. This means, basically, that lots of people think the idea is great but very few have found a way to make it a full time gig.

This means that there are even fewer businesses making virtual workspaces their primary models. Instead larger corporations, like JetBlue, are turning portions of its workforce (like its reservation agents) into telecommuters (source: that same CBS news poll).

So what does this mean for you? There are few models available for emulation and guidance when you’re trying to figure out how your company should run/be set up.

Do You Trust The Cloud?

Cloud computing is the best it has ever been and its infrastructure improves every day. Still, there are some inherent vulnerabilities in keeping your business on and sending it through the cloud. Sure, you might feel safe against outside attacks but do you feel safe about those that might come from inside the house? This brings us to…

So, Really: Do You Trust Your Employees.

With a virtual workforce it can be difficult to hold someone accountable for their actions or to properly police your employee pool. Do you trust that the people you hire won’t try to check out files above their clearance levels? Do you trust them not to share what they’re working on?

As Robert Saman (CLO for STEC Inc), an attorney with extensive intellectual property experience, can tell you: the stealing and sharing of insider information is a real threat to most startups — especially virtual ones.

But What About the Good Stuff?

In spite of the fact that it is relatively new and there are definitely some kinks to be worked out, creating a virtual workspace and workforce does have a number of benefits:

The biggest benefit to having your employees telecommute is monetary. Virtual workforces are cheaper than on-site employees. This is because on-site employees usually require higher salaries to cover the cost of commuting, business attire and even, sometimes supplies. Most virtual employees are willing to take a pay cut if it allows them to work from home.

Another huge benefit to a virtual workplace is flexibility. You can base your business wherever you want (picking an incorporation tax friendly state is a good idea) but you can hire people from literally all over the world. You won’t be limited to a local pool of recruits.

Really, it all boils down to what makes you feel the most comfortable (and what you can afford). If you have faith in your employees, the cloud and like the idea of being a trendsetter, go for it! If you have reservations, you can start out with a traditional model and always change it out later if you discover that virtuality is a better fit.

Young Upstarts is a business and technology blog that champions new ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship. It focuses on highlighting young people and small businesses, celebrating their vision and role in changing the world with their ideas, products and services.

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