More and more companies such as TreeLine or Telebizz, a company that has won an award by BP to handle their Emergency Planning and Disaster Response systems, are ditching the overhead expense of having an office and going virtual. Yes, you may have to forfeit the company culture, but who says you can’t have company culture virtually or when you get together for ‘meetings at the beach?’
The major reason companies switch is to save on overhead. This includes the cost of rent, but also the cost of time wasted commuting for employees, electricity at the office, office furniture, etc. – all money you can save by going virtual. With employees working at home, they can take advantage of the low-cost service they get being a consumer. Of course, computers, software programs and the Internet connection you will have to pay for, but it’s much less than what is in an office.
For Infinity Box, the company has employees open up a shared text file every night and write down anything that took more than a half hour. Implementing strategies and processes like this will help still manage your employees’ time without actually being in the office.
Regardless, whether you operate a physical office, or a virtual one, there are some tools that make it really easy to check status of a project, review shared documents and update tasks / items completely shared by other people. The move over to a ‘cloud’ shared system is something that will stick with us regardless of where the employees are sitting. Here are a few we use:
• Google docs. Almost everyone is familiar with these where you can update spreadsheets, word documents, graphs and data providing access to as many users as necessary. You can give access to someone as a user so they can only view the documents, or you can give administrative access so they can change and edit the documents. The nice thing about google docs is you can see who is accessing the documents when you are and who last edited the document. For spreadsheet data, it is a good tool although there are some nuances about it that work differently than in excel and can drive you crazy at times.
• At Resource Nation, we use Yammer along with Google docs for separate purposes. Google docs is easy to view files that you are using on an ongoing basis to store data and to share across a variety of users, but only give permission to a few members. Yammer is mostly used for collaboration so people can , but there are other collaboration tools out there besides Yammer that are free. These include
• Quickbooks, or Freshbooks. If you are at a company where you bill out your time, or even if you don’t bill out your time but want to identify where your employees are spending their time, Quickbooks and Freshbooks work very well. Your employees can enter the task and time it took in real time so at the end of each day, you and them can make sure they are productive.