A virtual office is a mobile office that is located on your computer or in the Cloud. If your job doesn’t tie you down to a specific location, you can set up your tools to work from anywhere in the world. For more and more people, working remotely is becoming a realistic and challenging alternative to commuting to work in a traditional office.
While it offers an incredible amount of freedom, working virtually and possibly on the road also requires great discipline and excellent organizational skills. I have been working and traveling for over a year and hence can tell you a thing or two about working from a ‘virtual office’.
Effective communication is the key to being productive. Email remains an essential virtual office tool for professional communication and it doesn’t look like it will be replaced anytime soon. Your email client should be set up to automatically filter your mail, it should make it easy for you to tag and sort mails, and you should be able to access your mail online in case something happens to your computer.
For me, Google Mail with some custom settings and several Google Labs features enabled satisfies all these requirements. We have written countless articles about GMail on MakeUseOf. Some of the best tips and tricks, however, can be found in The Ultimate Guide To Gmail.
I also recommend reading the following articles:
Organizing & Planning
No virtual office is complete without a calendar to remind you of deadlines, events, and appointments. Due to its seamless integration with GMail I use Google Calendar.
The following articles reveal how you can make the most of Google Calendar:
If you need more help than a simple calendar can provide, consider setting up your own virtual assistant system. An excellent solution for managing your bills, travel details, and more is Pageonce. Another great tool for keeping organized is Remember the Milk, a tool to manage lists, tasks, and reminders online or wherever you want, for example in GMail.
It’s important to connect with people. Direct communication via IM, voice, phone, or video calls also helps to relay information more efficiently than through an email. Either way, you will need to communicate directly with colleagues or customers.
Skype covers the entire direct communication bandwidth. You can use it to instant message, voice or video chat, and call a phone number.
Check out the following articles for tips and tricks for Skype :
Online File Storage & Sharing
If your office is not only virtual, but also in The Cloud, you need a reliable online file storage tool. You might also need a tool to exchange or collaboratively work on documents with your partners. Dropbox can do all that and more.
Look what we recommend you to do with Dropbox:
- 2 Tools To Make File Sharing on Dropbox Faster and Easier
- 3 More Ways To Manage Your Dropbox Files You May Not Know About
- How To Recover Lost Files In Dropbox
- How To Create Direct Links To Dropbox Content & Automate The Process
- How To Encrypt Your Dropbox Data With ENCFS [Linux]
Finally, let me briefly mention hardware that will come in handy. You obviously need a computer and possibly a mobile phone. The device selection will largely depend on personal preferences or maybe you are going to rely on public computers entirely. Either way, there are two pieces of accessory hardware you should consider:
- Backup and File Transfer
For data you can’t or don’t want to store online, get a SD card or a USB flash drive with sufficient storage capacity. You can also install mobile apps on these devices in case you are going to rely on public computers.
- Headphones and/or Headset
When you work in a busy and noisy public place, good headphones can be a critical for your focus and sanity. When you occasionally need to make calls via your computer, be sure to get multifunctional headphones that also double as a headset.
A virtual office is a highly individual setup of computer hardware, desktop software, and online services. Like in a traditional office, the virtual office tools you choose greatly depend on your personal requirements and preferences. You can keep the organization simple and effective, but never forget to protect your data and back up religiously.
What apps and hardware do you use in your virtual office?
Image credits: EDHAR