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Why Would You Want to Work Virtually?

You may choose to become a teleworker or your company may simply send you home to work. Either way, you should be aware of some of the pros and cons for both, you and your employer. After all, there are two sides to every coin. Advantages of the virtual workplace definitely outweigh the disadvantages for your employer, and it can be the same for you.  Working in the digital office first of all saves relocation time and travel costs, for both you and your employer. Secondly, productivity tends to be greater and development times shorter. Finally, it is obviously a convenient commute.

The new workplace is more responsive to connection and likely to increase a company’s knowledge base because remote employees must share their knowledge with team members in order to get the job done. This new environment values creativity, self-assessment, reflection, and high performance standards. The PJ worker must be able to problem-solve and make critical decisions. Companies can also access the best resources, including talent, at the cheapest prices therefore keeping costs down.  Individuals working remotely often feel a greater degree of freedom, personal privacy and autonomy.  Leadership can organize teams along functional lines or cross-functional lines according to need, without being concerned about each individual’s physical location. Organizations have an unprecedented level of flexibility, cohesiveness and connection.  Both product development and commercialization can be achieved from the virtual office.

There are also a few disadvantages to the new workplace. Interaction must be intentional rather than accidental because there is a lack of physical contact. You will no longer run into the boss or a colleague in the break room, you will no longer be able to walk by your colleague’s desk and discuss the next project. Things by necessity are done in a more intentional and structured way but may not require the same level of formality, which may sound like an oxymoron. The virtual workplace defies traditional power structures and minimizes formal protocols. For example, if you have a question, you have to seek out someone who has the knowledge you need. This can be achieved via a phone call, an instant message, or a text message. The entire internet is your knowledge base, and you don’t have to wait for the next meeting to get the information you need.  You generally do not wait to speak to your supervisor unless it is absolutely necessary.

Responsibility is evident in the procedures you follow when working remotely because the virtual worker is held accountable in different ways than the traditional worker. While this is not necessarily a disadvantage, you may struggle with a new way of “keeping track” of the work you do. In a traditional office, the person being physically present often defines “working”. Often times the assumption is made that if you show up to work then you are working that day.  This is far from the truth.

In the digital office “working” is defined by getting the job done. If the job does not get done, then the virtual worker did not “work” in the eyes of the boss. This brings about the need for more structure with clearly defined expectations.  Technology tracks your positions and progress, when you are logged in, how long you were logged in, your email chat history, and the web pages you visited. Some companies even install invisible programs on company-issued laptops so managers can spy on their remote employees. Managing the PJ worker is certainly a huge concern for employees as well as employers.

Before you shake your head in total abhorrence at these stealth technologies you must understand that the challenges to management of the virtual workforce are exponential. These challenges are complex and related to distance, culture, language and time, to name only a few. Cultural and functional differences may lead to a variety of different thought processes and obstacles. The freedom and mobility you experience can negatively impact productivity if you are left without support. All team members need training on an ongoing basis as well as encouragement from leadership. #VirtualWork #PJEffect #RemoteWork