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Rural Innovation Programs Will Rely on Virtual Office Technology

March 15, 2019
By Tracey E. Schelmetic - Virtual Office Resource Contributor

When we first became aware of the concept of a virtual office in the 1990s, we assumed it would be a cool way to allow employees to work from home on occasion. Companies could ensure business continuity and reward loyal employees by eliminating one day of commuting each month. Contact centers could keep costs under control and not have to outsource to India. Nobody really imagined the breathtaking variety of applications the virtual office as enabled.

One of the best uses of virtual office technology has been in recruiting and retaining talent from a bigger pool. Younger Americans are increasingly worried about how to maintain their work-life balance. Companies are moving out of large cities to reduce their overhead expenses, but they’re being challenged by the smaller pools of workers they have to choose from. Virtual office technology can solve everyone’s problems simultaneously, when it’s managed properly.

“On the one hand, we have current and rising generations that are no longer attracted by traditional corporate lifestyles in big cities,” wrote Abdullahi Muhammed for Forbes. “On the other hand, we have companies that are seeing the value of remote work environments. Further, we have declining rural towns that are looking for a way to revitalize their economies.”

The technologies that help build a virtual office environment include voice over IP (VoIP), unified communications platforms (UC), project management software and video conferencing. All these technologies help workers who are separated by distance find a virtual workplace in which they can communicate, collaborate and innovate as well as they could if they were gathered in the same conferencing room. The drive to develop rural opportunities is helping push the implementation of virtual office solutions.

The Vermont-based Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) provides seed funding for the development of rural technology hubs for remote workers. It relies on financing from both public and private partnerships, including the U.S. Economic Development Administration and local colleges and universities. Nine rural locations have been chosen for a pilot program, including areas of Missouri, Iowa, Michigan, Oregon, North Carolina, Minnesota, Kansas and Arkansas.

“As these projects move forward, there will be many eyes watching to gauge their success,” wrote Muhammed. “And if that success occurs, they will obviously become models for other rural communities to apply to participate. CORI is counting on it and is already providing resources and advisement to small towns looking to re-vitalize and jump-start their economies.”

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