Why Virtual Offices Are the Future of Remote Work

By Adam Riggs, Founder/CEO of Frameable

The state of remote work has undergone a fundamental shift: instead of employees working from home out of necessity, they’re now choosing to work remotely because of the flexibility and convenience it offers. According to Pew Research, 61% of remote workers are working from home out of choice, not obligation. However, a recent PwC report found that only 13% of executives are prepared to let go of their physical office for good. 

How can businesses combine the flexibility and convenience of remote work with the visibility and easy communication of a physical office space? The answer lies in an emerging technology that’ll transform remote work as we know it: virtual offices

Meeting software was never meant to replace the office

In the last two years, we've learned a lot about the limitations of meeting software. These video tools helped get us through the pandemic, but it’s become abundantly clear that they are not a replacement for a physical office. Like a popup medical tent on a marathon route, these temporary solutions should not become permanent, especially as remote work becomes the norm for a growing number of workers.

While planned meetings are certainly part of a functioning workplace, teams interact in critical ways outside of scheduled meetings. Therefore, video tools shouldn’t only facilitate scheduled meetings; they need to support natural and unplanned interactions as well. 

The evolution from meeting software to virtual offices

Fortunately, a solution has emerged: virtual offices. This alternative to ad hoc meeting software offers the closest digital replication of a physical workspace. Like a physical office, a virtual office offers a permanent space where workers can “reside” as they carry out their daily tasks, both alone and together. These digital workspaces present a number of advantages, including communication, visibility, and transparency, that allow them to create a quality and quantity of communication that has previously only been possible in an in-person office.

A virtual office endures when you're not using it, so by its very nature, it takes on more meaning than a space that’s made for one-time use. Compare staying in a hotel room to your house or apartment. You’d be less concerned about the design of a hotel room, where you only stay for one night, than your permanent residence. Thus, elements like visual and interaction design, as well as the overall look and feel of the software, become vital elements of virtual offices. 

How virtual offices can transform remote work

Virtual offices present several unique advantages that can make remote teams work more smoothly and effectively. These include: 

Increased visibility and transparency

Virtual offices allow for a much greater level of visibility and transparency than meeting software. A key advantage of virtual offices is the ability to organize them into rooms based on the activity you’re doing. So, if you’re in the “Design Room,” your employer and co-workers understand that you’re currently occupied with a design task. Colleagues can informally bounce around through these virtual rooms to sync on topics quickly.

In addition, you can use a status to indicate what you’re doing. For example, if you’re in the “Design Room,” you can note that you’re specifically working on the “website redesign.” Anyone who can contribute to the website redesign would have a subtle indication that they could come join you to help, without being explicitly invited or scheduling a time.

Improved communication

Without virtual offices, scheduling an impromptu remote meeting requires a constant back-and-forth because you don’t know what your colleague is doing at that moment. This can make the task of scheduling a meeting through Slack texts or email quite laborious. You might also get interrupted by co-workers who don’t know you’re in a meeting (because you haven’t updated your calendar, for instance).

By using a virtual office, you can remove much of that friction. Before you even reach out to your colleague, you know exactly what task they’re doing because you can see which room they’re in, as well as the status indicating their current task. You can also message your colleague on the same platform where you conduct your meeting, which streamlines the whole process of scheduling and hosting a meeting. Plus, your co-workers will be able to see that you’re in a meeting, so they won’t interrupt you unless it’s relevant and the door to your virtual room is open. 

No new hardware required

A major convenience of virtual offices is that they don’t require anything new in the way of hardware. Unlike VR workspaces that require cumbersome and expensive new headsets, virtual offices only require the basics of a functioning laptop: cameras, speakers, and microphones. Even a ten-year-old laptop has these features. Thus, these digital workspaces provide a level of accessibility and affordability that advanced VR can’t match.

Online collaboration space is the key to making hybrid workforces successful

If your company is considering a virtual office, there are several questions you should consider:

  • How many employees do you have? 
  • Does your org structure center around departments, lines of business, or functions that sit together in the physical office?
  • What does a typical day look like for employees at the individual contributor, manager, and executive level? 
  • Are there frequent external visitors to your office?
  • Do employees and teams work individually, or do they need a high level of collaboration? 
  • Is your company hybrid or fully remote? 

Through this assessment, you’ll understand your team’s specific needs, and be able to design a high-functioning, beautiful, and efficient virtual office that meets their requirements. This digital workspace will be able to capture the value of being physically together while still preserving the convenience and freedom of remote work. Companies and employees alike should demand more from their remote workspaces because it’s clear that we’re not going to go back to cubicle life.

Adam Riggs is Founder/CEO of Frameable, which provides thoughtfully-designed software tools to transform your daily digital experiences, connecting people, tasks, and ideas.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.