Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of virtual offices, including telecommuting?
Virtual Offices and Telecommuting are older terms used in the late 90’s that are marketing buzz words that have no physical association to a thing, device or software. They are mental concepts that could be a collection of a whole host of devices, software, connections and configurations. Once these collections are assembled they form an area in which people from the same company can share and manage information that aids in running the company. This information is not usually accessed by people that do not belong to the company.
The information is accessible outside the office by various means such as VPN (virtual private networks), dial-up, or dedicated connections such as old school ISDN connections. These connections are also encrypted. The latest industry trend is to out source the services to a third part company called an ASP (application service provider).
My company uses both concepts. Our internal servers manage our internal systems. A company called http://intranets.com at (to view the demo) hosts our virtual office. The term virtual office is being replaced by the following terms which have a more exacts meaning: “intranets”; VPN; work from home; and road warrior.
The advantages are remote access to all your information, any place and any time. The disadvantages are remote access to all your information, any place and any time. Having this unprecedented access to that much information allows people who work at the office to work at home and on the road, and people who like their work tend to work even more, putting in a lot of hours. Family and social life can be affected.
I have remote access ability from just about anywhere in the United States, except rural areas without telephone or cell phone service. Outside the U.S. remote access is much more difficult and very expensive. I await the cheap satellite data phone access and that problem will be resolved.
The studies you to believe that the local communities that the business is in would be affected by virtual offices and that is a disadvantage. That is pure nonsense. I am not sure where that came from but it is definitely wrong. It has a positive impact as it aids in reducing travel and fighting traffic.
If there is any contribution made by a person that consumes resources in the area of the business office, that consumption is simply transferred to the local community where that employee is working.
For example, if I eat lunch at several places near my office, working from home I will be eating from the restaurants in my community. I would prefer to support my community over a place that has a tax break for a business office building.