Working a 9 to 5 vs the Virtual Office

I spent close to twenty years in a traditional working environment, but more recently, I swapped that ’9 to 5’ lifestyle for something much closer to home. In fact, it is my home, although I mix it with plenty of other locations which I think puts me squarely in the bracket of running a virtual office.

A virtual office is simply a set of work tools and communication methods that only exist in the cloud. It means swapping a physical telephone for Voice Over IP (VoIP) or Skype, replacing any form of paperwork with that of the digital variety and utilising cloud services that enable you to work anywhere, providing you have access to the Internet.

In this post, I’m going to take a look at working a 9 to 5 versus the virtual office and list some benefits and disadvantages for each.

The virtual office

The most modern of working environments, the virtual office enables us to do our jobs with nothing more than a laptop and Internet connection. Advancements in technology and cloud services have made virtually any task possible via a virtual office.

While not suitable for every industry, virtual offices can be incredibly liberating, by opening up the working environment to virtually anywhere that offers connectivity, and dispensing with set hours each day.

Key benefits

  • Work-life balance. Having run a virtual office for the last two years, I’ve been able to work anywhere and drop every digital aspect of my life during holidays.
  • Portability. Virtual offices can be setup and interacted with anywhere, providing an internet connection exists.
  • An end to commuting. With a virtual office, sitting in traffic or undertaking long journeys on public transport becomes a thing of the past.

Key disadvantages

  • Isolation. By its very nature, the virtual office often leads to working in a solitary fashion, and if you do that too often, you’ll put yourself at risk of isolation.
  • Heavy reliance on connectivity. If every office tool you rely on exists within the cloud and you loose your connection or find yourself somewhere without connectivity, productivity will suffer.
  • Blurred line between work and social life. Flexible working hours can be as harmful as they are liberating - particularly if you choose to work from home regularly.

The 9 to 5

The standard 9 to 5 working arrangement is something most of us have experienced at one time or another. It offers consistency, security and very few surprises. You arise from your bed, leave for work and later head home at pretty much the same time every day.

This method of working is particularly important in industries that are bound by specific periods of time. If you work in the retail sector, for example, the shop within which you work, or the B2B clients you service will have specific opening times. Similarly, factory operating hours often dictate those of any adjoining office operation.

Within this classic form of working, the office itself is typically a physical space in which various teams reside, armed with the tools they need to complete their jobs. Everyone marches to the beat of the same drum and relies upon one another to be present and productive during a specific time period.

Key benefits

  • Consistency. With a 9 to 5, you can plan your leisure time around a specific working period.
  • Team ethic and culture. With everyone working the same hours, a solid team ethic and productive working culture can develop.
  • Clearly separated work and personal life. Because most 9 to 5 jobs require employees to visit a specific place of work, it’s much easier to separate that place from the home, thus improving the work-life balance.

Key disadvantages

  • Monotony. Unless you’re particularly fond of routine, the 9 to 5 can get quite monotonous over time, leading to complacency.
  • Inflexibility. If you need to do something of a personal nature during work hours, you’ll have little choice but to move a lunch break or dip into the holiday allowance.
  • More chance of taking work home. The restrictive nature of a 9 to 5 often results in employees taking work home with them, thus working more hours than for which they’re paid.

Final thoughts

I’ve spent considerable time working in both realms above, and have come to realise that they’re both relevant in the digital age. One might be right for you, or, alternatively, a mix of the two could be the best way to achieve maximum productivity.

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