Today, just about everyone telecommutes from time to time, bouncing between the office cubicle and the dining room table. But what would work be like if you had no corporate office to go into?
A growing number of companies are taking this route, forgoing a stable office location—with its face-to-face interactions—for what some may see as the ultimate freedom in work environments: the virtual office. But that freedom brings a new set of challenges for employees, IT managers and technical support.
"The Internet, and now the cell phone, have made it happen," said Jeff Zbar, Coral Springs, Fla., an expert on telework and author of the book "Teleworking & Telecommuting: Strategies for Remote Workers & Their Managers."
"By cutting the landline and using a wireless card, you can be a virtual employee from any location: Starbucks, the beach, anywhere."
Yet, while the perception of telecommuting employees in the wireless age is a large latte, laptop and table space at the local coffee shop, full-time virtual employees and their bosses paint a different picture.
For one, not all companies feel they can do without a central office, whether it is regularly used or not.
"Physically, TCG has an office, with a secretary—that is there on occasion," said Daniel Turner, CEO of TCG, an IT management group out of Washington, D.C., with 18 virtual employees. "The office serves as a place to store the companys files, servers, and as an official address."
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Likewise, Gaebler Ventures, a small business incubator with 12 full-time remote employees, has a similar set-up, renting an office in downtown Chicago. The location serves as company headquarters, a billing address. It also serves as the CEOs office three days each week.
"Theres desk space here, too, for client meetings or if an employee wants a place to work for a couple days," Ken Gaebler, Gaebler Ventures CEO, said.
However, other companies, such as PerkettPR, a public relations firm with 12 virtual employees across the country, do entirely without a central office.
Zbar suggests that employees home offices have nearly everything they would have at their companies headquarters.
"What you want to do is mimic the corporate office, including [Microsoft] Word and presentation software. The difference is that you need collaborative office software, too."