- The shift to flexible work during the pandemic highlights just how antiquated traditional work arrangements have been.
- Workers widely support flexible working, with some surveys indicating employees would leave their jobs if they were refused such arrangements.
- Here’s how flexible workspaces and virtual offices help employees and employers alike overcome the barriers to flexible work, and adapt to hybrid models.
As a result of the ongoing pandemic, the global economy has become volatile.
Uncertainty around business closures, workers fleeing offices, and growing inflation have all contributed to an unstable economy.
At the onset of the pandemic, businesses adjusted accordingly, allowing employees to retreat to the safety of their homes.
For months, many leaders hoped that this work from home (so-called WFH) arrangement would be temporary. But flash forward to 2022, and flexible working has never been more relevant.
Employees agree, too.
Evidence has accumulated that shows workers widely support flexible working on a grand scale, with some surveys indicating employees would leave their jobs if they were refused such arrangements.
But not all flexibility is made the same.
Workers are not keen on returning to the main office, with many citing that they have experienced mental and physical health improvements, as well as a better work-life balance since shifting to remote working arrangements.
However, working from home has been found to hinder the productivity and innovation of some, leaving them to desire an alternative solution that is not their homes, yet not their company’s headquarters.
The pandemic’s role in ushering workers out of the office is not something to be feared, however. This shift has highlighted how antiquated traditional work arrangements have been and in fact, it accelerated the inevitable.
Fortunately, businesses are not having to make the trek into the unknown alone — flexible workspaces and virtual offices exist to help employees adapt to hybrid models.
Challenges Facing Remote Working Arrangements
The global workforce is undoubtedly a more distributed place, especially as employees have come to embrace the ability to work from home and avoid the dreaded commute.
However, a study from the Future Forum shows that just 16% of knowledge workers want to be fully remote, while 72% want a hybrid option.
There are a few downsides to strict work-from-home policies, including:
- Diluting company culture
- Limited access to remote working and online tools, such as reliable internet
- Increased distractions
- Physical pain due to lack of ergonomic furniture
- Loneliness and isolation
- Lack of motivation and productivity
All of the above can contribute to poor workplace performance, and more seriously, employee burnout that can lead to serious mental and physical health issues.
Without the right communal support from colleagues, workers often fail to perform at their highest level and lose sight of goals.
As a result, companies and workers have found solace in virtual offices.
Rather than trying to navigate how to maintain a united and collaborative culture over Zoom, forcing workers to participate in teeth-gritting ice breakers, businesses have turned to virtual offices that make it simple to bring employees together.
Virtual offices offer the amenities of most traditional offices – meeting rooms, private offices – without the high costs. That’s because these amenities are available to users on-demand, rather than a full-time commitment or lease basis.
That means companies who are shedding their physical office footprint have another way to reap the benefits of an office, while keeping their overhead down.
How does this impact the economy?
Layoffs have been rampant since the beginning of the pandemic nearly two years ago.
Companies that may have been on the come up have suddenly found themselves tied to an expensive long-term office lease that they are contractually bound to. To stay financially afloat, they turn to employee layoffs to mitigate costs and keep from going under.
Not only does making these types of decisions hinder overall employee morale, but it also leaves your company with a lack of labor it may desperately need.
A workforce with low morale and lack of labor is the perfect recipe for burnout, which inevitably leads to high quit rates.
Last year proved just that, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that quit rates reached record highs last April, clocking in at 2.7%.
Industries that were most impacted by employee resignations included:
- Retail trade (+106,000)
- Professional and business services (+94,000)
- Transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+49,000)
If this was early 2020 when companies were operating with skeleton crews, the labor shortage may be negligible.
However, this was not the case in 2021 and won’t be so in the coming years.
Demand has skyrocketed following much of society’s reemergence from the pandemic. While on the surface this is good for revenue, businesses cannot keep up without having a well-oiled workforce.
Instead, on-site workers are left exhausted, juggling numerous responsibilities, and unable to perform at their optimal levels in any portion of the workplace.
Take teachers for instance.
A recent poll from America’s largest teachers’ union National Education Association showed that 55% of educators planned to leave the profession in the coming year, citing staff shortages, low pay, difficult work conditions, and limited room for career development.
The biggest takeaway here is that a lack of labor directly correlates to high inflation rates.
Hiring new workers is expensive in and of itself — add increased demands for new employee perks and benefits, and companies are dumping more money into the hiring process than ever before.
“Rapid increases in labor costs are also contributing to inflation,” said Bill Adams, senior economist at banking company PNC.
Employers are increasing wages to attract and retain new workers, leading consumer spending to rise, which causes the price of goods and services to also grow.
The rejuvenation of employee wages and benefits is long overdue, but the convergence of the old economy and new is leading to a volatile atmosphere.
Virtual Offices Can Help the Economy Recover
Amidst this economic uncertainty, virtual offices provide solace for many.
In essence, virtual offices and flexible office spaces have helped individual workers keep their positions, where otherwise they may have been laid off.
Although some experts may question virtual office legitimacy, the sector’s resilience throughout the pandemic speaks volumes.
Here are just a few reasons individuals can benefit from having a virtual office:
1. Workers no longer have to commute into the city:
- By avoiding lengthy commutes, professionals have more time to tend to their workplace responsibility in the comfort of their virtual or flexible office closer to their homes.
- PwC’s 2021 Employee Financial Wellness Survey found that 63% of employees feel their financial stress has grown since the beginning of the pandemic.
- Virtual offices contribute to lower expenses by allowing workers to spend less on gas and food, meaning they can better maintain their financial health, as well as enjoy the camaraderie of a managed office space.
2. Mental and physical health are better supported:
- As aforementioned, working from home has led to mental and physical health issues for some professionals, which is a hindrance to their overall performance. A virtual office allows professionals to better support their own work-life balance and connect with like-minded professionals, which can boost their overall wellbeing and decrease their stress.
- Some flexible office spaces even offer programs for members that directly address mental and physical wellbeing needs. So if you’re trying to validate virtual offices’ legitimacy, locate one of the many coworking spaces that prioritize wellness when designing their space and incorporating the necessary amenities for members.
3. Show that employee demands are being addressed:
- A 2020 survey from JLL showed that three in four employees want some type of office to return to, but do not miss the traditional 9 to 5 schedule. Another survey from Tinypulse showed that there is a 16% decrease in retention rates for employees uncomfortable with giving feedback. This showcases how valuable employee opinions are to retention rates.
- Many flexible office spaces come completely equipped with these types of tools, allowing workers to have access to the resources needed for a seamless workday, without sacrificing the newfound freedom and flexibility they have learned to appreciate in recent years.
4. Employees can experience a spark in innovation and creativity:
- Virtual offices give workers the ability to come into a more professional environment, often designed with innovation in mind. This helps give workers the extra dose of motivation and creativity needed to complete their work tasks, thus boosting the company’s innovation and bottom line.
- Additionally, collaborating with either their own colleagues or professionals from various industries can help boost creativity and critical thinking skills, both of which are essential to the future of work. In fact, research of 61,000 Microsoft employees revealed that working from home may impact teamwork, creativity, and communication.
Consequently, when workers benefit, so do companies. Here’s what businesses can gain from incorporating virtual or flexible office space into their network:
1. Businesses can reduce their real estate costs:
- For organizations seeking to mitigate their overhead costs, virtual offices provide a customizable alternative to traditional offices.
- Instead of signing on for a multi-year lease to take our entire floors of buildings, companies can sign more flexible terms, gaining access to as much or as little as their business requires. For instance, if your business needs a room once a month for client meetings and you do not want to meet in a bustling coffee shop, virtual offices make it easy to book a professional meeting room on an as-needed basis.
2. Maintain safety measures for anxious workers:
- Workers’ relationships with the office have undoubtedly been altered by the pandemic, and while some workers may desire to return to an office environment, there are still anxieties about making this transition.
- Virtual offices make it so companies can broaden their office network, keep occupation numbers low, and ensure that Covid-related precautions are maintained such as physical distancing, sanitation protocols, mask-wearing, etc.
3. Gain access to all office-related amenities and more:
- One of the biggest downsides to working from home is the lack of resources, but a flexible office typically provides members with customizable options to suit their own work needs, whether it’s a working parent seeking a quiet space for heads down work, or someone missing the socialization of the office.
- Virtual office plans offer access to recognized business addresses, meeting rooms, conference rooms, private offices, receptionist services, mail handling, and more.
- These instant offices provide a fully equipped business environment that’s on-demand and payable by the hour, which is more cost-efficient than paying for space on a full-time basis.
4. Companies can easily test out new markets without risking financial loss:
- Virtual offices give companies a simple way of adopting a business address and workspace in a new market, without committing to a long-term office lease.
- This makes expanding a company much easier, allowing them to service regions and experiment with which areas could be most beneficial to their bottom line.
5. Workers and businesses can establish beneficial networking relationships:
- Being part of a virtual office network or a flex office community means that professionals and organizations can have access to like-minded people within and outside of their industry. By doing so, businesses can usher in lucrative relationships with other local companies and access various talent pools to keep their staff diverse.
- A Slack report of 6,899 knowledge workers shows that when the needs of individual workers are met, it is easier for them to participate in collaborative projects that are crucial to an innovative company and the future of work overall.
Small Businesses Are the Big Winners
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of a virtual office is how small businesses can gain access to tools they may not have been able to otherwise.
When small businesses prosper, the rest of the economy follows suit.
In fact, a 2018 report from the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy showed that small businesses account for 44% of the country’s economic activity.
So, identifying methods and tools that support the progress of small businesses should be at the front of leader’s minds — and virtual offices may be the best way of bolstering such companies.
Adopting a virtual or flexible office space means small businesses can:
- Eliminate the limitations of geography and access top talent around the world
- Hire and operate with a distributed workforce
- Kickstart operations more easily
- Keep startup expenses low and avoid the restrictions of high rent
- Diversify their portfolio quickly
- Easily adopt modern technological offerings, such as automation
- Stand apart from competitors with the use of a recognizable business address
- Give employees the option to work in a fully-equipped, professional environment.
Systems and services that make it simple for small businesses to perform their best inevitably help the economy.
The sheer increase of small businesses and the overall shift to e-commerce helps breed innovation. Couple that with the reutilization of office space and growing demand for better working conditions, and virtual offices provide the best solution to growing the economy.
Traditional offices are becoming increasingly irrelevant.
That’s not to say they are dead, like so many claimed at the beginning of the pandemic. Instead, they are evolving to be more accommodating to the user rather than the other way around.
As the global workforce faces an uphill battle of recovering from the last two years, many companies have decided to shed their office footprint altogether. While this makes sense on the surface, there is still a need for some type of physical workplace.
But during a time when finances are limited and workers desire more out of their workplace experience, leaders have no room to potentially lose out on their talent.
Luckily, virtual offices provide the ideal solution for companies facing the dilemma of wanting to keep costs low, provide workers with well-equipped workspace closer to our homes, and boost hiring opportunities, which impacts the entire economic landscape.
Virtual office use has helped prevent total economic ruin, and the last few years have been the ultimate demonstration of their viability.
1. Are virtual offices bad for business?
- No. In fact, virtual offices can play a significant role in improving business across large and small companies thanks to their flexible, agile nature.
2. What are the benefits of virtual businesses?
- Virtual businesses have the ability to cut costs on real estate, take on new markets with low risk, improve the work-life balance of employees, network with other professionals and companies, and access a talent pool without geographical limitations.
3. What are the benefits of working remotely?
- Remote working provides several benefits for both companies and individuals, including maintaining low real estate costs, improved work-life balance, higher employee satisfaction rates, a more diverse workforce, and more.
4. What are the challenges and benefits of working on a remote team?
- Working with a remote team can be challenging. Communication can suffer, productivity can falter due to a lack of proper remote tools, and employees feeling isolated can experience mental and physical health issues, which can all have an impact on business continuity.
5. Is remote work effective?
- Remote work can be extremely effective with the right tools. In order to make the best out of remote work, leaders need to incorporate the right technology and resources, which virtual offices can provide. By incorporating a virtual or flexible office space, you can easily give employees access to a workspace that offers all the amenities and inspiration remote workers may need, without making a huge financial dent.