Making working from home work

Proactive and forward-thinking companies across the globe have begun adapting to an ever-growing remote workforce. There has been a tremendous increase in the number of people who work from home, and several companies have taken advantage of this. One such company is Walkabout Workplace.

A Buffalo-based organization, Walkabout Workplace has created one of the most comprehensive online workplaces in the country, giving employees working from home a virtual office experience.

Antoinette Forth, Co-Founder and CEO of Walkabout, has looked to develop the ideal online working experience for decades, and feels that her team has done just that with its latest design.

“For the past 20-25 years, we’ve managed remote teams, but we were not able to find a technology solution that really helped us communicate in a spontaneous and highly personal way,” said Forth. “Everything we did happened through chat or email. If we wanted to talk face to face, we had to play phone tag, or we had to send a bunch of emails to get a meeting scheduled. We just felt there was a need for something that was much more personal, dynamic, and spontaneous.”

With those needs in mind, the company began doing extensive research to find what employees really looked for when working from a remote location.

“We found out that people who worked remotely felt like they were kind of forgotten about--out of sight, out of mind,” Forth stated. “They were called part of a team, but didn’t really feel they were a part of it. They felt like they were missing the benefit of being able to walk down the hall, knock on somebody’s door, and ask a quick question. ”

After looking over the feedback they received, Forth and her team hit the ground running. They looked to create an efficient virtual work place (closely resembling some of our favorite computer games) that also included a strong sense of belonging. This became Walkabout Office.

“What we’ve done with our technology is create a heads-up display,” Forth noted. “That heads-up display shows where everybody is in the online office, and that’s something our clients look at constantly throughout the day. They log in in the morning, and they can click on the heads-up display (which is a floor plan). They can see who’s in the office and if people are meeting together. If they need to talk with someone, they can just click on that person’s avatar and have an immediate conversation.”

This feature, along with several others, gives the company the social aspect they looked for from the outset.

“We make it easy for people to get together. We have a virtual breakroom where you can play games or chat about your weekend, do the things you would normally do in a breakroom,” Forth said. “But it is only technology, so unless the culture of the company is such that people are encouraged to talk with each other, the technology isn’t going to solve the problem.”

With more companies than ever embracing the remote workplace culture, Forth feels her application has the possibility of being used to its full potential.

“Companies are embracing working remotely, they accept people working from home,” Forth noted. “However, there are some companies that feel they are not getting that collaboration. That’s why our product has been so popular. They are looking for different platforms that make people feel like they’re physically together.

“We say that we’re not a tool, we’re a place,” she continued. “We’re not just having someone log into our tool. When they log in, they are actual entering a virtual building, and that is a big difference.”

The virtual building approach is something that has made Walkabout Office stand out from the competition.

“Instead of another tool, we really look at our virtual workplace as a place that you go to every day, get people together, and facilitate collaboration,” Forth added. “There are other companies that are working toward this, but we feel we’re one of the first ones on the scene, the leaders in the marketplace.”

Read more articles by Sean Brock.

A native of Western New York, Brock has worked in the field of writing and public relations over the past several years, while also gaining a master’s degree from Canisius College this May. He has worked for several universities and professional sports teams in a public relations capacity during that time, and has always kept a love for writing. In his free time Brock enjoys hiking, history, reading and watching as many baseball and football games as he can.   
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