Maybe Grandma carefully should cross-stitch a new sampler to hang beside the old standard, “Home is where the heart is.” The new stitchery will read, “The office is where the laptop is.” More and more professionals are abandoning not only their old-fashioned downtown offices but also the not-so-friendly confines of their basements, garages and dens, setting up shop wherever they are and whenever they must. Not only economic hard times but the decided advantages of virtual offices are contributing to record-high vacancies in brick-and-mortar office complexes. By most standards, work in “the cloud” just works better.
“No one really works at work.”
“Everybody knows that you cannot really work at work,” quips Dana Morrison, a southern California freelance journalist who abandoned her traditional office nearly 10 years ago and never has felt a moment’s remorse. “The news happens out here,” Morrison points to the Orange County landscape, “and business happens in here,” she points to her laptop. “The rest is totally negotiable.”
Recent surveys indicate that Morrison has lots of fellow tenants in virtual office space. Andrew McAfee writes in Technology Review, “The idea that the office is a specific place where our professional lives happen is becoming less universal, and less important. These days many knowledge workers can be productive anywhere, thanks to smarter, more numerous mobile devices, faster network access, and a growing number of online collaboration tools.”
Advantages of a virtual office
Virtual offices are becoming especially popular with independent contractors and owners of small and medium businesses who say they increase productivity and radically reduce operating expenses when they stake out space in the virtual world. They point to several significant advantages:
The “hangout” replaces the office.
The old song tunefully told, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came.” What used to be the getaway place now has become the principal location for “quality face time.” Morrison asks rhetorically, “Is it really such a big surprise that my sources open up and reveal the whole story when I take them to lunch at my favorite diner instead of meeting them in an office or conference room?” Because the best business relationships are personal, virtual office workers say they arrange their important meetings in congenial surroundings to put people at ease and promote meaningful discussions. “Cold, sterile, enclosed places make people shut down,” says Morrison. “Good food and warm atmosphere encourage people to talk.”
Marshal Ryans is a small business owner who utilizes cloud services and virtual office tools to send large CAD files, hold virtual meetings and manage project files remotely.