As the world continues to become ever more ‘digital’, it was only a matter of time before workforces started becoming entirely virtual. In this day and age, it is getting more and more convenient to work with team members on a virtual basis.

But, is that always a good thing? Businesses of all shapes and sizes depend on all kinds of software – lot tracking, invoicing, inventory maintenance, and more – won’t it be difficult for them to keep track of another suite or program? Not necessarily.

Virtual employees are, as you might expect, team members who you collaborate with online. They work for you remotely and are often available on an ad hoc basis. For businesses running low on time, space, and money, going virtual in this respect is undoubtedly appealing.

Let’s consider the pros and cons of both virtual and physical employees. Prefacing this, however, what may work well for some businesses may not always work well for you! Therefore, it is well worth keeping an open mind.

Why Hire Virtual Employees?

The first obvious reason for hiring virtual employees is for flexibility. Businesses can find a variety of different specialists and experts who offer their services online. For example, you may find graphic designers, personal assistants, and even engineers who are happy to work for you from afar.

For the average SME or startup, this is a very attractive prospect. There’s no need for you to host a physical workspace for them, and you can hire them to work with you as and when you desire. Therefore, there is never any need for employee contracts, benefits, or anything else in between.

What’s more, virtual employees can be more cost-effective than hiring physical staff. Monthly payroll aside, you pay for the time they work for you. Rather than paying a flat rate for time physical staff work under you, you only ever pay in blocks or hours as you demand them. That could mean a huge saving for your firm.

There’s also the fact that you can run your service for longer hours. It’s entirely possible, for example, to hire a virtual specialist in Australia to work while you are clocking off in the UK. Virtual employees open up more time for you to scale up your business.

Why Virtual Employees May Not Be the Best Fit?

There are, of course, going to be reasons why a virtual office or workforce might not work for you. A key reason lies in the fact that without physical premises or in-house staff, you might not have that strong a brand in your local area. While you may be making a splash online, a physical office goes a long way in generating trust.

Some businesses may find it challenging to communicate with virtual employees. This may be a result of a data connection; however, many do also prefer to work with physical staff. Therefore, deciding for or against virtual employees may be a matter of personal choice.

Why Physical Employees May Be the Best Option?

There is the school of thought that states physical teams have worked well for decades. There are certainly going to be some industries and businesses which demand physical staff. While virtual offices and workforces are appealing in a more flexible age, there are still going to be scenarios where employing physical teams makes more sense.

There is the benefit of you being able to manage all your productivity and technological issues and concerns in-house. Instead of depending on virtual employees’ connectivity and resources, you will have complete oversight and control if your team is physically in-house. Therefore, it is likely to be an appealing option to business owners who wish to retain as much control as possible over their affairs.

Physical staff will also be available at all times to collaborate with and instruct. While it’s entirely possible to set up virtual teams and offices to run continuously, some business owners may prefer to have consistent, physical access to their staff.

Which Option Works Best?

This really will depend on the individual circumstances of any given business. In a world where customers and clients demand 24/7 support and guidance, a virtual approach to staffing is infinitely more flexible, as well as being more affordable to physical staffing. Business owners will only ever have to pay for the services and time they use.

Virtual employees are also likely to be self-starting specialists. You are immediately hiring time from people with years of experience in their given trade and industry. On a physical staffing basis, you may even need to upscale training through your own facilities.

Physical staffing is still popular, and necessary, where manual collaboration is critical. For example, manufacturing and some design firms are still going to benefit from a hands-on approach. Virtual staffing will appeal to those businesses that revolve around digital record-keeping and files.

Physical employees may work out more expensive on paper, but it depends to what extent they are employed from day-to-day. If they are crucial to your processes, employee salaries and benefits will likely level out and pay for themselves in a short period.

That said, the world is pivoting towards virtual staffing and outsourcing. This means even the more traditional workplaces are considering ways in which they can improve the efficiency of their daily running.

What Does the Future Hold?

This is something that is not easy to predict. Automation is on the rise, and outsourcing freelance specialists is getting easier. Therefore, it’s likely that the concept of virtual staffing will continue to roll on.

However, there is certainly no need to discount physical workforces just yet. Experts may suggest that hybrid models may work best in the future, just as they are doing for many companies right now.

It is always worth considering your own specific needs before diving right into virtual staffing. However, you may find there will continue to be a need for physical teams and specialists even as the New 20s continue.