The U.S. version of The Office television show closed up shop in 2013. But already, the popular mockumentary’s depiction of office culture seems almost as dated as the famous assembly line scene from I Love Lucy from back in the ‘50s.
There are 54 million US freelancers out there today, more than a third of the country’s workforce. In Canada, more than 2.7 million are self-employed. They’re using tech tools to take on projects and juggle client lists more seamlessly than a traditional firm with a stable of stodgy account managers. The virtual office is now the default office for a healthy majority (65 percent) of companies.
The trend is to turn that lead into a lock. Companies of all sizes are using enterprise-class technology, mobile apps and a quantum of startup-savviness. They’re running long-distance, global operations with freelancers and remote employees – and they’re doing it in a way that the heads of companies could only dream about a decade ago.
Many innovations make the modern un-office possible – but the key ones all center around how we communicate with each other.
The mobile phone made you mobile. The smartphone made your company smart.
The average person uses 27 apps a month on their smartphones (out of more than a million) – but the average entrepreneur or remote worker needs fewer than a handful to run their entire business these days. We log into Slack for keeping in touch with the team, Wave for accounting, Hootsuite to engage customers through social media – and so on. We’ve turned workplace culture upside down with a fully-functioning office that fits into your pocket.
Mobile Point Of Sale (POS) that lets you serve customers from anywhere.
The remote office isn’t just a realm for fast-moving freelancers. To run a growing business that serves customers in the field, you’ll probably need functionality and integration that you can’t easily get with a half-dozen or more independent apps. That’s where the Mobile POS comes in.
Some of the best ones will integrate apps seamlessly, such as Dream Payments that lets companies accept customers’ money from anywhere, over their smartphone, including debit card transaction with chip and pin technology built right in. We’ve come a long way from the point-of-sale at the physical shop cash register, which allowed you to take money and print out receipts – and not much else. Today you can manage inventory, dispatch drivers, do scheduling, do geographically-targeted pricing and much more. There’s a lot of competition in this space, with different POS solutions offering a range of levels of utility that’s far more accessible even than when companies ran all of these functions out of their corporate HQ.
VoIP is the remote connection for you and me (and your customers).
In an age of overflowing email inboxes and simultaneous Slack chats, the fact is that the most important business you’ll do today will probably happen over the phone, talking to someone. Whether you’re landing that big deal or dealing with a customer service call to make sure you retain their goodwill, that conversation is probably going to happen over VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).
The VoIP revolution made it easier than ever to keep in touch with your business stakeholders, whether you’re calling from down the street or half a world away – from your phone or whatever other device you want to use. But for companies any bigger than a few employees, the real change was in getting the capabilities of a fully-functional communication system for your remote workers. Without investing major capital in phone system hardware that could take weeks to install, an entrepreneur can get VoIP setup in minutes, adding locations, departments and users almost instantly. VoIP is instantly scalable; when a company starts growing (or sees a temporary dip in the size of their workforce), they can adjust quickly.
As the old office standard of the Dunder Mifflin paper company crumples up in an increasingly paperless world, today’s entrepreneurs are using technology to set up the global office of tomorrow.
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