In the 1980s and 1990s, communication technology and computer processing physically changed the manner and structure of how work can get done. In the 2000s, business organizations drove these technological advances into innovative quality and cost-effective advantages, such as the movement of outsourcing call center resources to India, Ireland and the Philippines. Today, virtual staffing is showing up in many different business applications and located almost anywhere, doing almost anything. From medical coding and technical or customer support to even the simple ordering a meal at a fast food, drive-thru window. Little do we know sometimes that the worker we are engaging with is actually thousands of miles away — and probably a contingent worker.

As defined by Wikipedia: a virtual office provides communication and address services without providing dedicated office space. It differs from “office business centers” or “executive suites,” which do provide office space.

In addition, studies of millennial workers suggest that not only does this generation have minimal levels of loyalty to employer brands, but it also has little interest delivering work in a structural office setting.

Virtual office work structures have been debated in a full-time employment arena for quite some time. There are some benefits and challenges debated ad nauseam, but a professional skilled worker can and should be expect to work anywhere and anytime, whether on a plane or hiking in the Arcadia National Park of Maine. A study conducted and featured through found that 65% of companies surveyed allow their talent to work remotely.

So what are the benefits and challenges of allowing contingent workers to work remotely?

The Benefits:

  • Potentially a happier and appreciative contingent worker.
  • Larger pool of available contingent candidates.
  • No need to find office space or maybe even equipment in the building.
  • Flexible hours (potentially no need to complete the work within limited fixed office building hours).
  • Less concern with office building security access.
  • Easier to manage the ebbs and flows of business demands.

The Challenges:

  • Invisible remote productivity: Are they working when they are supposed to?
  • Required skill and policy training, not all completed in one place, at one time.
  • Depending on the role, can’t control the work environment around them (usually in a house setting where children, pets, repair person noises, etc, that can be heard during telephone activity).
  • Additional environmental risk (uncontrolled) such as phone, internet connect outages in comparison to most company’s office building reliability.
  • Guidance, corrections and disciplinary action has to be completed over the phone as opposed to in person.

The point is that contingent work is emulating the norms and trends found in full-time work environments. Even our own industry has aggressively leverage the remote, virtual office in terms of basic candidate recruiting.  Most RPO solution providers have hundreds and hundreds of stay-at-home parents who work part time as seasoned, recruiting experts and whose productivity is carefully track by ATS technology. This is a core cost-effective delivery model for that industry workforce solution, a competitive norm. An online-staffing is accelerating the remote, virtual office delivery model since the contingent talent one might engage could be anywhere in the world. New technologies are emerging to help track and manage productivity for all kinds of work that is taking place in remote virtual offices, similar to the productivity tracking of a recruiting team on an ATS.

Virtual office productivity is fast-becoming more visible hence the virtual office can be a win-win situation for the contingent worker and the engaging organization, along with more cost-effective for the staffing service delivered.