This post has been sponsored by Microsoft Office 365 and Cloud Powered Work, but all opinions expressed are mine.

Virtual Offices Can Be Successful
Hello, 21st century! Are you working from virtual offices?

Virtual offices once seemed like a crazy idea, but I think it’s safe to say that the idea of a bricks-and-mortar office is sounding more and more like a needless expense to the latest generation of entrepreneurs. If you’re in this boat, you’ve probably wondered why you should spend thousands of dollars to rent in part — or in full — a building to house your employees when technology exists to alleviate this need. In addition, you have to pay for the equipment, Internet, vending machines, and other miscellaneous stuff to keep your employees happy, and none of this usually comes with the rent for the building (unless your landlord is really, really nice).

Really, nowadays, it’s likely that all of your employees can do what they do from home in virtual offices.

But aside from saving thousands of dollars a month, is this a successful strategy for your business? You may be hesitant to give it a shot because you’ve heard all the arguments against letting employees work from home (maybe there’s a coalition of angry office landlords out there spreading lies!), but you can make it happen if you approach the virtual offices strategy carefully. With the help of tools like Microsoft Office 365 to help you collaborate with your work-from-home team, here are some things that I would consider imperative to your business’ success with the use of virtual offices.

In Virtual Offices, Close Communication is Key

You’ve now started a team working together in virtual offices. How do they — or you — know what everyone else is up to? Communication is the simple answer. There are many solutions out there that you can use. Instant messaging, voice over IP, and email are all ways to keep connected over the course of a work project. Even if the distance between team members is physically impossible to close without the assistance of a major airline, Office 365 keeps everyone collaborating in spite of time zone variations; no one is left out of the loop.

Define Goals for the Virtual Offices of Your Team

Make sure that everyone on your team is on the same page and knows what you are working toward. It’s no good saying “you can now work from home” without giving someone very specific details about how they will carry out their tasks and what needs to be done by deadline. Keep your team members moving toward accomplishing the goals of your business and make sure they understand what is expected of them. They are acting individually to carry out the tasks and assignments that you’ve given them.

Train Your Virtual Offices Team Well

While technology is what you’re going to use to keep tabs on everything that’s happening and to allow your team members to communicate with each other, it’s possible that you may find a technological solution with which some members of your team may not be familiar. A team that is poised to succeed is a well-trained team, so make sure that no one’s left behind whenever you add new tools to your home office arsenal. If you’re using Microsoft Office 365, you’re in luck, because there’s plenty of training help available.

Set Performance Standards for Your Virtual Offices

Along with setting goals for your team, make sure to define measures for success so that your team knows it should have project X’s tasks one through four finished by the end of the day. It is your team’s job to keep up with current performance standards, but this is probably going to be a learning experience for you, too. If you expect too much work to be done within an unreasonable time frame, you can actually break your team! Don’t break your team. Try giving your employees as much leeway as possible when assigning deadlines and understand that — whether in an office environment or at home — everyone has their own pace at which quality work can be expected. Reward team members for efficiency when appropriate.

Foster a Collaborative Mindset Among Virtual Offices

When the words “united we stand, divided we fall” were first uttered in ancient times, they probably applied more to one tribe’s need to defend itself from another tribe than home office collaboration, but the concept is the same. While team members are working together toward a common goal, you might find that some are more competitive than others. Fostering the right balance between self-motivation and a collaborative mindset can be challenging, but a team with its eye on the prize for the good of all rather than the glory of one will usually produce better results.

This isn’t to say that you should try and stifle the more outgoing members of your team, but remind them that everyone on the team is valuable and brings something to the table. A truly cooperative team is composed of individuals pulling their own weight for the benefit of everybody on that team — and your business.

Virtual offices are here to stay, and they’re finally being accepted by many in the modern workforce as sustainable alternatives to traditional office overhead costs. Will you be a pioneer in this trend toward streamlining, or do you prefer to cling to the practices of past centuries? The choice is all yours.