It’s official: restrictive office-based work is out, and flexible working is in. With surveys and research all pointing to working from home making for happier, more productive employees, businesses are under pressure to loosen up – and a virtual office could be the key.

Communication technology has come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years, opening the door to remote working and making the traditional idea of tying employees to a physical location almost entirely a thing of the past. What’s more, employers looking to generate more productivity and better engagement have found that offering flexibility is not only manageable, but is key to achieving these goals and creating better relationships with employees.

Flexible and Happy

Many business owners, however, are concerned that flexible working is sacrificing company growth for employee happiness. To prove this as untrue, Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Nicholas Bloom conducted a two year study on China’s largest travel agency, Ctrip – a company with 20,000 employees and a market capitalisation of roughly $20bn. No small fry, in any case.

Conscious of how much real estate was worth in Shanghai – where Ctrip’s headquarters are located – the business’ leaders sought out alternatives, including working from home. To test whether this would work without compromising the company’s potential to grow, Ctrip rounded up volunteer employees and split them into two groups over an initial nine-month period: those who only worked at the office, and those who mainly worked from home but came in once a week.

The results? A 13% improvement in performance from the home-based employees, who were also found to work their full shift, unhindered by traffic, long lunches and other office-based distractions. Furthermore, resignations dropped by 50% as the home employees were content in their much calmer environment, and were pleased with both the level of trust and the freedom on offer.

Making it Work

It’s clear then that there’s much to be gained by offering employees the option to work from home, without disturbing the company’s growth. Despite this glaring evidence, however, there are still concerns around calls being missed and the lack of a central location in businesses where there are many remote workers. A virtual office is a solution which settles both of these dilemmas.

A Manchester virtual office, for example, provides businesses with the address of a high quality area in the de facto heart of the Northern Powerhouse, without ever actually having to travel into the city. From this virtual office location, clients and prospects see a physical address, and employees feel as though the organisation is anchored to a singular location, no matter where in the world they are.

On top of that, iHub’s Manchester virtual office offering provides clients with the likes of call answering services and mail-forwarding, as well as physical facilities available on an as-needed basis, such as meeting rooms and event spaces. This provides employers with a sense of security around missed calls, and ensures that remote working can be rolled out with minimal concern for the business’ ongoing health.

As Bloom pointed out to an audience at TEDxStanford in April, “working from home is a future-looking technology”. We can expect to see the workplace further evolve over the next few years, with remote and flexible working continuing to grow in popularity. And for those employers who take advantage of the resources and support on offer to make this happen, there’s a guaranteed competitive advantage on the horizon – it’s just up to them to grab it.

Do you want to inspire happiness and loyalty in your employees without sacrificing growth or communication? Explore our website to find out how Manchester virtual office facilities can help you, or get in touch and ask our team all about iHub’s virtual office service.

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