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Can You Become a Completely Virtual Company?

As technology shifts to mobile communications, work is redefined

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Companies are advancing digital and IT transformation strategies by virtualizing infrastructure and operations. Why not go all the way and figure out how to make the workforce a virtualized asset?

In the United States, about 170 companies already operate 100% virtually, according to a CNBC report, based on data from FlexJobs, an online platform specializing in remote and flexible employment. True, that’s a relatively small number compared to the approximately 6 million businesses in the United States that are not considered to be small businesses. But it’s a start and an increase from 26 in 2014.

According to CNBC, “These companies have no central headquarters to speak of, and the majority of their staff works remotely — from a shared office space, home or even the local coffee shop. The other traits they have in common: incredibly low overhead, better employee retention rates and the ability to attract talent from anywhere in the world.”

Competing for talent

As businesses strive to be agile and responsive, one of the biggest impediments is finding the right skill sets to meet the needs of the business. Look no further than Amazon, where the needs of its headquarters outstripped the ability of the Seattle area to absorb the impact of its continuing hiring.

Competing for workers today, you have to be able to go where the talent is. Not everyone can set up multiple headquarters like Amazon. The virtual company represents a bold new approach.

According to Gallup's 2017 "State of the American Workplace" survey, 51% of U.S. employees say they are actively looking for a new job or watching for openings, and more than one-third would change jobs in order to be able to work remotely some of the time. Younger employees especially value flextime and remote work opportunities. In 2016, according to Gallup, 43% of employees worked remotely in some capacity.

Breaking away from inflexible silos

Businesses that have broken away from inflexible IT silos are better able to fluidly address changing workload demands. They are utilizing infrastructure virtualization, process automation, and a comprehensive service strategy to be more adaptive and responsive.

Still, it can be a challenge for IT to meet the demands of remote workers and win their trust. Part of the issue is providing those workers with the tools they need to be productive and create an ecosystem that provides the right level of support, perhaps around the clock to accommodate flexible schedules.

It’s important to provide the right mix of devices — with assured security — and support for remote workers with varying levels of technology acumen and self-support capabilities. Remote devices need to be secure and IT may need to develop new skills for helping out workers with technology issues ranging from bandwidth quality to access to mission-critical applications.

Furthermore, it’s one thing to monitor employees who are accessing corporate servers; it’s quite another challenge when they’re accessing applications in the public cloud.

As they extend accommodations to the virtual workforce, IT needs to make sure it has the right tools to do the job and collaboration solutions to enhance worker productivity.

To learn more about IT Transformation and remote work, click here.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.