Are ‘Virtual Offices’ The Way We Will Work In The Future?

Business Innovations

28 May 2018

Are ‘Virtual Offices’ The Way We Will Work In The Future?

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

In today’s new entrepreneurial world, with its disappearing geographical boundaries, varying time zones and seamless connectivity, it is quite possible to be at one location and work for anyone, anywhere.

So, does the location really matter a lot? Given the increasing popularity of virtual offices, one would be inclined to believe not so much.

Let’s look at how the concept evolved and what it means for the businesses of today.

The meaning of virtual offices

A virtual office, quite simply, is a model that gives businesses a physical address and all the many office-related services without any of the associated overheads that a long lease and administrative staff might run up.

This needn’t be restricted to a one-person show but can include a whole team, with all employees sitting and working from their preferred location, and yet operating with the same mailing address, telephone and messaging services. A virtual office can, if need be, extend to physical locations and include facilities like meeting rooms, video conferencing and other business requirements, but at a much lower cost and greater flexibility.

Virtual offices find most patronage from start-ups and small businesses who do not wish to as yet invest into a physical property, whether on rent or to purchase but have the need for a common, professional image. Many times, the business continues to thrive and grow without ever feeling the need for a physical location to call its own.

How did virtual offices come into being?

As more and more people began using laptops and smartphones, and seamless internet connectivity became reality for many, the concept of work-from-home and flexitimes emerged.

However, the origin of virtual offices can be traced to even before that, when the Industrial Revolution began to be replaced by the Information Age. This was the time when there was a migration of people from smaller towns to larger cities, leaving behind traditional jobs like farmers, blacksmiths, smaller retailers, etc. to join the multitudes of office workers.

Several individuals started their own businesses, some large, some small; and this necessitated the need for a place to conduct business from. However, not everyone could afford the high rents or mortgage that it entailed. And that is what led to the creation of the virtual office.

Who coined the term first?

It was Ralph Gregory who, when he became a father, wanted to spend more time with his daughter and yet maintain his professional image. He devised a method in which his secretary could transfer calls from the office to his house. He saw a business opportunity in that and launched the concept as a company, and ‘The Virtual Office, Inc.’ was born in 1989.

How did the concept of virtual offices catch on so quickly?

The emergence of virtual offices was (and continues to be) largely dependent on the sudden and many technological advancements that had made their way into everybody’s lives.

  • Inexpensive fax machines: Fax machines, earlier owned exclusively by large businesses, were now available to the common man and anyone could send any document to any location.
  • Mass produced personal computers: Computers made their way into homes and smaller businesses were able to own them as well.
  • Email: Rather than rely on post or fax (soon becoming obsolete) email made communication faster and more affordable, breaking down geographical boundaries instantly.
  • Scanning: Fax machines are being replaced by scanners, which can retain the document in its original form and yet make it small enough to send by email, without compromising on quality.
  • Internet: The internet has been the backbone of the virtual office revolution, where information is sought, accessed and shared easily.
  • Mobile phones: This was the final invention that severed the cord that had tethered people to their offices. Smartphones have combined the convenience of mobiles with the power of the internet, contributing largely to the evolution of the virtual office.

What is the present day scenario?

A home address creates an amateur impression, but investing a large portion of hard-earned money into an office in a prime location isn’t feasible either. This is why many entrepreneurs and start-ups are starting to realise the benefits of virtual offices.

Virtual offices bring more than just effective communication to the table. For entrepreneurs, the virtual office helps bridge the gap between wanting an office and being able to make a long-term commitment. They get a professional sounding business address, and trained professional staff who can collect their mail and packages, and even answer calls for them. Everything works like clockwork, just like it would in an actual office.

Conclusion

Massive changes in technology have made it much easier to work remotely. However, as a business grows, it needs the backing of office services that only a virtual office can easily provide, as and when there is a need. Ralph Gregory just wanted to spend more time with his daughter. Today, his idea has spawned an entire industry and a new way of working that is enabling business growth and entrepreneurship like never before.

The Awfis Virtual Office

Whether you are an entrepreneur, a start-up, an SME or a large corporation, a freelancer or a consultant, the Awfis Virtual Office is your one-stop solution for a professional image.

All your mails and packages are collected on your behalf, and timely notifications are sent out to you to collect them at your convenience, during normal business hours.

When you sign-up to the Awfis Virtual Office program, you get much more than an address. There are meeting room credits, discounts on meeting rooms, a one day complimentary access to the flexi seats at your chosen virtual office centre, as well as access to the exclusive Awfis Rewards program that offers you amazing deals on F&B, travel and much more!

 

Visit Awfis Virtual Offices to know more.

Three Lunchtime TEDTalks for The Entrepreneur in You

Business Innovations

20 November 2018

Three Lunchtime TEDTalks for The Entrepreneur in You

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Jokes aside, who doesn’t love TEDTalks? Nothing beats these quick, bite-sized inspirational videos that showcase fascinating insights on topics ranging across the board. What began in 1984 as part of a conference on Technology, Entertainment and Design (yes, that’s where TED gets its moniker from, in case you didn’t know; I didn’t), is today a massive global community that shares ideas and triggers conversations.

A TEDTalk works in numerous ways: it can teach you to become a better professional and even inspire you to be a better person. It aims to help people get a deeper understanding of the world they live in. It sparks curiosity; it motivates; it teaches something new every time; a TEDTalk can shift your perspective and broaden your horizon; it can even show you what’s possible and help you reach you true potential.

As an entrepreneur, you need to constantly challenge your assumptions and beliefs. A TEDTalk will give you all that, and more.

However, with thousands of existing TEDTalks, and new ones being added regularly, knowing where to start can be daunting. If you’re looking for quick inspiration during your lunch break, you’ve come to the right place. Here are three short, yet essential, TEDTalks that you must watch:

#1 Creative problem solving in the face of extreme limits

Start-ups operate on the premise that there will be restrictions and limitations – of capital, resource and time. However, when is little too little? And how can a start-up apply innovation even in the face of these limits?

Watch this TEDTalk by Navi Radjou to understand creative problem solving techniques under extreme limitations. The demands of a start-up are high and relentless, and that is what drives greater creativity, much needed for innovation, scientific discovery and even social constructs.

The next time you feel backed into a corner, watch this talk to understand how you can turn this challenge into an advantage.

#1 The one reason start-ups succeed

Why do some start-ups manage to become more successful than others? Are there any factors at play here, or is it just a matter of luck, of being in the right place at the right time?

Bill Gross, a serial entrepreneur and a mentor for several startups, attempts to explain the reasons for this through his TEDTalk. In his vast experience in the business world he has seen rock-solid ideas flounder terribly, while doubtful businesses flourish. And it led him to wonder why.

In this video, Bill measures each start-up according to the power of its idea, the timing of the launch, the attributes of the team at the front, access to capital and also its business model. What he finds is how one factor leads to success more than any other. Watch the video to know which one.

#1 Do what you love

A no-brainer, right? Your start-up is your passion and that’s what you love to do. Watch Gary Vaynerchuk as he does a fantastic job of still convincing you of this in his inspiring TEDTalk.

Perhaps you decided to start off on your own attracted with the idea of making more money; or just the thought of running your own business and being your own boss got you excited. But those ingredients aren’t enough to be really successful. You also have to be part of something that you really care about; and you have to actually enjoy what you do.

Conclusion

If you haven’t watched these TEDTalks yet, then add them to your list right away. And in case you noticed, we’ve pegged them all at #1 because there really isn’t any criterion for comparison. Each of these videos will expose you to new ideas, opening your mind to new experiences. Your journey towards successful entrepreneurship hinges on this.

Is our workplace ready for AI assistants?

Business Innovations

28 October 2018

Is our workplace ready for AI assistants?

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

The world is rather interesting these days, thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI). The technology has long moved out of the ambit of sci-fi and has made a definite entrance into our professional lives. But how far has it really penetrated?

Today there are digital assistants scheduling meetings, chatbots working alongside teachers as their assistants and even AI working with HR to make better hiring decisions. The implications of AI in the workplace have started to get noticed. The day isn’t far when HR will leverage the combined power of human intelligence and Artificial Intelligence to deliver a more personalized employee experience.`

It has been predicted that by 2022, one in five workers will have AI as their co-worker. Imagine that!

#1 Humans and AI will work side-by-side

Today artificial intelligence is working effortlessly alongside HR managers and teaching assistants. Chatbots are quick on the uptake and, as Jill Watson, the AI-empowered teaching assistant at Georgia Institute of Technology showed, they can very soon begin to answer routine student queries. This will allow teachers and their human assistants to free-up a significant amount of time and focus on more complex areas of teaching.

As AI becomes a new, trusted member of the team, taking over more routine tasks, HR leaders will now need to spend time orienting and training chatbots, and also educating the rest of the team on how to work with them. The result of this will be more time for human employees to do tasks meant for humans, such as complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity.

#2 Can AI take over some roles entirely?

There is a fear that AI will take over some tasks entirely. Even in the worst case scenario, this is unlikely. At best, certain activities will need to be re-defined, and that could call for revising business processes and introducing new job roles. As the point above outlines, AI can take over certain routine activities, allowing individuals who earlier performed these roles to bring greater value to their customers and employees.

#3 Sourcing and recruiting new hires

Another notable area where AI is helping companies is the way they source and recruit new hires. With the backing of AI, recruiters can prioritize jobs more efficiently, find the right talent faster, and match candidates more effectively. Rather than relying on filters such as years of experience or education levels, machine learning can help shortlist candidates based on core skills such as agility, cognitive abilities, etc. This ‘horizontal sourcing’ model can even help talent move across business verticals, domains, and industries. This is a fantastic example of AI truly reinventing a business function.

#4 Machine learning will help improve careers

There is a trend that is gradually being noticed across industries and sectors. Employees at all levels are staying 30% longer in their roles. This is an excellent opportunity for companies to help employees focus on their career and not just aim for promotions. Managers at Cisco are already leveraging machine learning to help their team members present their skills, interests, and passions, and then look for internal roles that can help further their career goals.

#5 AI as a virtual coach and to reinforce learning

Several newer companies are investing in chatbots that will provide employees with individual coaching in the workplace.

Take the example of the MIT Media Lab startup GiantOtter. The company is riding on AI to develop and train ‘Coach Otto’, a training bot that provides online coaching for companies. An employer can use this chatbot as a coach or a companion to improve an individual’s performance on the job, for instance preparing a manager for a difficult conversation with an employee.

Conclusion:

There is no doubt that AI + human is the future of work. Now it is simply a question of businesses using AI to create a seamless employee experience. What do you think? Will the advent of AI threaten existing jobs, or will the two work seamlessly and create a more efficient system?

6 Astonishing Tech Trends That Are Changing The Way We Work

Business Innovations

17 October 2018

6 Astonishing Tech Trends That Are Changing The Way We Work

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

While no one can actually predict what the future will look like, a few farsighted ones can definitely take an educated guess on how technology will change the way we work.

Here are top 6 tech trends that we see shaping the way businesses work. Are you ready to step into the future?

#1 Virtual and augmented reality will involve the entire community

Right at this moment, virtual reality is pretty much an individual experience. You pick up a headset and plunge into a virtual world that has just a sole occupant – you.

Going forward, Virtual Reality, and to a great extent even Augmented Reality, will let individuals enter and explore untold worlds together. They’ll play and work together, and share everything in this alternate reality.

#2 Blockchain will find newer areas to work in

It seems like everybody’s talking about blockchains and cryptocurrencies. However, the rapid rise of blockchain technology will no longer be limited in the coming future.

There are newer areas to work in and newer arenas of society to conquer, including the government.

For instance, blockchain can make it possible to reduce the risk of fraud and manipulation, massively impacting how votes are collected. When more voices are heard and make a difference in policy decisions, the overarching benefit is to society as a whole. Never know, blockchain might even endpaper ballots entirely.

#3 Consumer tech will become more appealing (if it wasn’t already)

Let’s face facts; technology is addictive. And helping us all stay addicted are today’s smartphones and digital devices. No longer boxy with sharp edges, they slide into our lives with their soft, rounded and inviting appearances.

As consumers demand more options that fit into their lives seamlessly and are an extension of their selves, hardware will start to become more expressive and responsive.

#4 Data will make life smarter but still be private

Big data is big business. But it can also be intrusive. How do companies plan on tackling that without losing out on the game?

Smartphones and other digital devices are already measuring and noting down various aspects of our lives, like how long we slept, how much we walked, etc. The trend now will be to use low-fidelity audio and visual sensors that can do the same task of providing data about people and their behavior, but without revealing any identifying information.

Customers get better experiences, and companies still get their precious data. Everybody is happy.

#5 Ultra-tiny robots will replace medicines in some cases

Not too far down in the future, a doctor might ask you to pop a nanorobot into your mouth, which will then go on to journey through your body and clear your veins of any plaque buildup. Popping pills and injecting medicines might not always be the first line of attack against an illness, according to some tech forecasters.

Various other nanorobots can travel through your system and send back personalized and targeted, intelligent advice to help you lead a healthier, better life. A form of edible health robots might also come into the picture, travel through the bloodstream to deliver important nutrients.

#6 The way we travel will change

Already ride-sharing is changing the vehicle market. Add to that mix a preference for electric vehicles (EVs) over the traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) ones. We’re not too far away from the tipping point.

People who buy used cars will be seen buying their first used EV in just another few more years. Very soon it will not be economical to purchase, maintain and own a car with a traditional combustion engine. And car makers are gearing up for the demand.

Conclusion

The world of technology is exciting. And when it intersects the working world, it has the potential to completely change the way we work, or even our jobs themselves. The only way to know is to wait for the future to reveal itself.