Back in July, I posted on a futuristic virtual online office platform that was being developed and rolled out in Buffalo called Walkabout Workplace (formerly Walkabout Office – see here). After posting the article, I began to think how ideal, practical, and efficient it would be to virtually pop into an online office environment, where I could interact with the rest of the Buffalo Rising staff. After talking to the rest of the BRO team, we decided that it would benefit everyone to be able to once again interact in an office environment, as we once did when we were printing and distributing issues.
After folding the last issue, and relying solely on the web to publish, members of the BRO team scattered to home offices, coffee shops and DiG shared space. It was great to see that everyone could still maintain a solid workload, but at the same time, there was that “daily interaction” that was missing. Actually, we didn’t even realize that it was missing until we started to talk about the benefits of Walkabout Office.
Based on a number of recent studies, the total number of people in the US who work remotely on a regular basis is around 25 percent but is expected to grow to over 70 percent by 2025. – CIO Review magazine
Once the decision was made to set up virtual offices, we set out to begin the process, which turned out to be a fun exercise. Each BRO team member got to choose what their office would look like. I chose this one:
Jessica Marinelli (Sales and Marketing) opted for this one:
Before long, I was virtually knocking on Jessica’s door, to ask her questions about her projects. I can always tell when she is in, and available. When she leaves the virtual office, I am aware of that too. She can even leave me a note, saying where she went, and when she will return. When Jessica’s not around, I can browse the office environment, to see who is at work, and who they are meeting with. I can check see if a meeting is taking place in the boardroom, what sort of visitors we have to the office at any given time, and even who is waiting in the reception area.
When the time comes for conference calls involving the entire team, we can choose to use audio, whiteboard, video or chat. I can even invite someone to meet me in the break room for a quick one-on-one outside of our offices. And if I have a question about the online office platform features, I can refer to the handy user’s manual, or I can supply a screen share to an administrator. But it’s all so simple that I have been fine on my own, poking around and looking for handy features.
This morning I learned that Walkabout Workplace had been named one of the Top 20 Most Promising Collaboration Solutions Providers by CIO Review magazine. “We are really proud of the achievement,” said Co-Founder and CEO Antoinette Forth. “To be listed on the same Top 20 list as Cisco, Polycom and Slack is really exciting. We have something different though that people love. Our clients tell us that Walkabout Workplace really makes them feel like they are together in the same place, we call that ‘the feeling of presence’, and that’s what empowers true collaboration.”
A series of features are presently being rolled out that will help Walkabout Workplace users to maximize the virtual office experience. According to Forth, “These enhancements include access on web mobile Android, a virtual receptionist to greet guests and take messages, more robust messaging, faster screen sharing, SMS notifications for out of office activities and the ability to more fully customize your personal office background. We are currently testing support for iPad and iPhone and will have that in production in the next 30 days.”