Ocado is casting 1,250 head office staff and regional managers into a virtual office via a deal with Google Apps for Business.

Following a trial, the online retailer has signed up to the service to allow remote working and to boost internal communication.

Staff at Ocado's Hatfield, Leeds and Manchester sites will now be able to log into and share documents and files from any secure internet connection, whether they are in or out of the office, and gain access to company emails, calendars and other internal data.

Operating in Google's 'secure cloud' would help build a more collaborative approach to the daily running of the business as communications improved between staff, said Ocado head of retail Jon Rudoe.

Switching to Google Apps would also reduce IT costs as maintenance on the company's soon to be defunct server would no longer be necessary. There would also be no need to pay for costly software upgrades and licences.

Rudoe said no redundancies would result from the switch and existing IT staff could be redeployed to other business-generating projects. He added: "We are a forward-looking, technology-centric business and that is the principle we follow for our IT. This will be more cost-efficient and easier for employees to use."