Memo to Office Staff: Stay Home
Don't feel bad if your online business doesn't include a suite in a high-rise building, a
conference room with a 20-foot long mahogany table and dozens of suited-up executives standing at attention when you arrive each morning.
You're a lot better off maintaining a home office and virtual staff, according to recent articles in "Forbes" and the "Huffington Post."
If you've ever watched an episode of "The Office," you know that Michael Scott wasn't the only character who spent a lot of time goofing off at work. Creed spent more time playing solitaire and Jim spent more time playing pranks on Dwight than doing anything that helped the company earn money. And productivity didn't improve when Robert California took over as Dunder Mifflin manager.
Productivity Enemies: Facebook and Amazon
Real-life research backs up what the fictional office team demonstrated: onsite workers waste a lot of time.
Russ Warner, CEO of ContentWatch, wrote in a guest blog for "Forbes" that nearly 2 in 3 persons use the Internet for personal use for part of every work day.
Some workers admitted in a survey by Salary.com that they spent more than 10 hours a week on activities such as posting on their Facebook or LinkedIn pages or shopping on Amazon.
Employees cited boredom, dissatisfaction, long hours and lack of incentive for their time-wasting activities.
Productivity Friends: Skype and oDesk
If you've ever worked as an employee, you might empathize with workers' reasons for slacking off. But now that you own an online business -- or are considering starting one -- you need to think like a cost-conscious entrepreneur.
If you need help running your business, don't fill an office with slackers. Engage a telecommuting staff instead.
Telecommuting can reduce overhead costs by as much as 42 percent, according to an article in the "Huffington Post" by Sara Sutton Fell. The less you spend on labor, the more money you can earn in your online business.
Tips to Take Charge of Your Virtual Staff
Worried that an unsupervised, out-of-sight staff will spend a lot more time -- maybe all day -- goofing off? Here are 3 ways to get the most value and the least risk out of hiring freelance or permanent telecommuters.
- Use time-tracking software. You can purchase software that tracks the time contract workers (or employees) spend on task. The software takes screenshots of a virtual worker's computer every few minutes. If you don't want to invest in software and don't need full-time workers, you can hire freelancers from sites that give you the option of using time-tracking devices. Examples of sites that include this option are Guru.com and odesk.com.
- Keep in frequent contact with workers. Skype makes it possible to hold "in-person" conversations with workers anywhere in the world. If you'd rather not be camera-ready at all times, you can use voice-only Skype or use it as a form of instant messaging. If workers know you will check on them daily or more often, they will be motivated to stay on task.
- Set up a system to manage your telecommuting staff. The University of California San Francisco makes its own guidelines and procedures available for anyone to use.
University Study Supports Telecommuting
Still not convinced that a virtual staff is more productive and less expensive than an onsite one?
A Stanford University study published in July found that home workers were 13 percent more productive than office workers and 50 percent less likely to quit their jobs.
A final consideration: It costs very little to begin or end a telecommuting arrangement. But, if you decide to fire your onsite staff because you don't like the arrangement, you're still stuck with a lease, furniture, copiers, computers and office attire you can no longer use.