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New virtual office aims to help cut office costs

Cisco, a global networking giant, knows first-hand the importance of a flexible work schedule. The company employs about 60,000 people worldwide, and 20 percent of them -- about 12,000 workers -- spend at least part of their time working remotely.

So when the company today announced its Cisco Virtual Office, a "zero-touch" tool to plug workers at remote offices into corporate headquarters, it brings its own experience to bear on the problem and its solution.

The Virtual Office, which consists of a wireless internet router and a phone system, has a host of environmental and business benefits. By allowing employees to work remotely either occasionally or full-time, companies can reduce their real estate needs; the cost of heating, cooling and furniture associated with office space; reduce fuel consumption by employees; and as a result reduce a company's overall carbon footprint.

Beyond the economic and environmental benefits, there are less-tangible business benefits to allowing for a more flexible workforce. According to Fred Kost, Cisco's Director of Security Relations (and a part-time telecommuter himself), building remote work into business operations can vastly expand the pool of available workers to any company.

"The best people aren't always local," Kost explained, "whether they're thousands of miles away or just working from home, this makes it easier to get them to work."

Flexible work also boosts employee morale and satisfaction, Kost said; and having the Virtual Office in place for workers who either log more hours or are especially critical to business operations can help keep data secure when employees are working after-hours or if power outages or other malfunctions render the main office unusable.

In addition to the data and voice capabilities of the Virtual Office, Kost explained that Cisco will eventually add a Telepresence feature to enable high-def video conferencing from remote offices.

Licenses for the Cisco Virtual Office start at $700 per seat; more information is online at

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