Over on IT Business Edge's Knowledge Network, our forum where readers can collaborate with colleagues and industry experts and (bonus) download useful tools such as ROI and TCO calculators and job-description templates, KN Master Patrick Avery recently pointed folks to a Telecommuting IT Checklist. A reader then chimed in promoting the idea of remote offices. I wrote about remote offices about a year-and-a-half ago as part of a post on a broader co-working trend.
Much of my post focused on telecommuters craving human contact or seeking a change of scenery who take their laptops to places with free WiFi. (You see these folks in quiet corners at Panera and Starbucks. I know I always work more efficiently if I eat a couple of scones first.) Frankly, I don't think remote offices make much sense for those folks. Unless, of course, their employers want to offer some kind of shared office space where all employees in a given region could gather. The employer benefits because it doesn't have to lease and outfit an office. (Such spaces are usually equipped with desks, printers and sometimes more sophisticated gear such as videoconferencing set-ups.) And it's easier for employees to collaborate with co-workers if they share a physical space. Regional managers could visit for occasional all-hands meetings.
Startups trying to enter new geographic markets are another group for which these kinds of offices seem well suited. For these businesses, a temporary office makes sense in much the same way as a temporary work force. You can test out a market (or a business model) before committing lots of costly resources to it.This Forbes piece describes a Utah-based financial advisory firm looking for clients in a new market, a situation in which many financially-strapped companies may find themselves. For $100 a month, advisers can use an office suite with access to a conference room, receptionist and other services. Said one adviser:
We are very cautious about the money we spend. We are young, aggressive and in growth mode. I don't want to use capital on an empty office. I would rather use it for marketing.
The article advises those interested in a virtual office set-up to visit the site and thoroughly check out the facilities. Speak to the receptionist and any other staff. Ask the company that manages the office how long it holds a lease for the property, to avoid being forced into a hasty relocation.
Maybe some of these guys should work in virtual offices. Imagine the discussions they'd have about stock portfolios.