The virtual company owes no shortage of debt to communication software, something each group employs a host of, from instant messaging software to e-mail and PDAs.TCG sets up each staffer with a VOIP phone and conference line services. Every 21 months, Turner buys his employees a new computer, which they buy back from him for $50, keeping the companys assets down. Each company handles supplies differently: Some put the full onus for such purchases on the employee, while others make sure an employees home office wants for nothing. Ziff Davis Media eSeminars invite: Join Toshiba on May 10 at 2 p.m. ET to hear firsthand from mobile technology experts how the Tablet PC can cuts costs and increase employee productivity. "Anything we need to run our home offices is provided by the company, from chairs, desks, back-up hard drives, PDAs. Anything and everything," said Heather Mosley, executive vice president of PerkettPR, working out of her home in Middle Valley, Calif. TCG employees are responsible for buying their own computers, and any other equipment they need, a more common arrangement. Other companies insist their employees absorb their own home office expenses. "But, I am able to claim most of them on my income taxes at the end of the year," said Tara Watson, an affiliate manager at Partner Centric, a marketing consulting team with 18 virtual employees. Yet no company functions on technology alone. From large client meetings, professional conferences, or once or twice yearly all-company meetings, each organization ensures that its employees have at least occasional face time, the managers said. "It really helps us communicate better," said Turner. So, who handles the technical support and fixes a broken computer or faulty connection? This is where the companies vary the most in their approach. Zbar feels that any individuals technical breakdown is everyones problem. "If its affecting the company, they should try to remedy it as soon as they are able. Youve got to have contingency plans for everything, such as back up dial-up. If you are not tech-savvy, it may help to engage an organization or an individual such as Geek Squad or Dial-a-Tech for when youre totally stymied. This is not so much a back-up plan, this is your IT. The individual must have his or her own; your boss in Denver cant send their guy over," Zbar said. Mosley observed that a virtual employee needs more technical expertise than in-house employees. "Were a more tech-savvy group. If you need to get things done, youve got to be able to figure it out." But when this fails, companies like PerkettPR provide a list of local vendors than can come to the home office and fix an employees computer. The expense is then absorbed by the company. Yet, they also take extra steps to reduce the number of break-downs. "We dont have a central server. We use WebEx and their Web office product to store all of our files," Mosley said. According to Mosley, the biggest problems employees run into are e-mail box overloads, spyware, spam and other issues that will keep a computer from running quickly. "We encourage everyone to have a maintenance check-up on their computer every six months," she said. Next Page: Distractions.
Gaeblers company sets each employee up with a Packet8 VOIP (voice over IP) phone, OpenAir professional services, e-mail address, and a Sure Payroll account, a Web-based online payment system.