Four tips for launching an efficient virtual office

Transitioning from a brick-and-mortar business to a virtual operation presents challenges to any company, with rapid advances constantly changing the game in telecommuting and online workspaces. Navigating that change presents logistical hurdles, but shifting one's perspective from old assumptions about workflow can be just as essential to success. Here are four expert ideas for businesses interested in morphing into virtual offices: 

1. Build a foundation with cloud technology and cutting-edge hardware. 

Hazel Davis of the Telegraph's suggestions fall under the umbrella of technological dexterity. By setting a company up with sound web storage and top-notch equipment, a virtual business model is less likely to be derailed by patchy connections, data loss and mixed messages. Companies that interface online require lean, reliable tech and storage standards. 

2. Explore virtual personal assistant services

Just because a company no longer needs to stock its inventory with paper clips and Keurig supplies doesn't mean there aren't important administrative tasks like scheduling left to coordinate. Outsourcing to a virtual assistant helps keep a team of telecommuters on track. 

3. Make textured interpersonal communication a priority. 

Matt Mullenweg, the founder of Automatic, emphasizes to Inc. magazine the value of finding community in a geographically disparate team. While virtual offices eliminate the water cooler, there are many modes of interoffice communication besides the impersonal monotone of Google chat. Making an effort to communicate over the phone or via Skype can clear up misunderstandings that arise when tone and context are thinner. 

4. Trust your employees to design their own workflow. 

TreeHugger founder Graham Hill tells Inc. that employees gravitate toward telecommutes so that they can live life on their own terms offline. This can mean whimsical travel, unorthodox hours, and even unique payroll mechanisms. Within reason, companies should seek to accommodate workers whose productivity warrants extra freedom.

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