#WFH: Why Use Those Silly Virtual Smiles?

Since the arrival of positive psychology, much work has been done on discovering your personal strengths. By emphasizing your strengths instead of your weaknesses, you will feel you have the power to accomplish more in your life. You need to feel that you call the shots in your life and control your own destiny. While positive belief and self-efficacy are important for everyone, these thought systems are essential for the virtual worker. Because you spend so much time alone with yourself, it is important to pay attention to what you say to yourself. It is easy to take things personally or out of context in the virtual world. You assume everything reflects on you. Negative internal chatter creates a more isolated and negative environment. Because of the lack of cues and feedback from others, virtual workers have to work a little harder to make sure that what they think is happening is real.

Using emoticons or including extra phrases like “virtual smiles” or “thumbs up!” help to set the tone of messages and texts. All conversation, especially when the cues are removed, is subject to the perception of the individual. Staying in a positive frame of mind and being aware of what you are thinking and saying to yourself is paramount if you are going to act with autonomy.
Interestingly, this is the exact opposite of what many of us have been taught to do. For most of us, social norms and education mores taught us to comply: Raise your hand if you want to speak; stay in line. This was great training for conforming but not for autonomy. In the virtual workplace, creativity and spontaneity are important. You have the ability to create your own schedule, focus on your goals and meet them. Virtual workers struggle with having no more conformity, order and control because that is what they have been taught most of their lives. The limits, boundaries and restrictions came from others. With those removed, you have to put a conscious effort into how you make use of your new freedom and flexibility.

The rhetoric of rugged individualism has been a part of certain political components in the U.S. since pre-colonial days. Unfortunately, society and the media have done little to help us truly establish ourselves as independent identities. Real autonomy is important. The virtual worker has the opportunity to redefine identity on a much more level playing field. You can define yourself without the visual cues and social inequalities of the cubicle. You can also participate in many things unobserved and change your perspective more easily, although in the digital world there is ongoing, recorded testimony of who you are. Personal and social identities are defined not only by us but also by others for us as well. Real autonomy starts with your ability to think and act for yourself.

Your ability to collaborate on virtual teams and interact with others will be greatly influenced by your ability to act with autonomy. Identity with the collective whole will be more difficult if the expected behaviors, role relationships and interactions are based on dependency and not collaboration. Your ability to act with autonomy is wrapped up with your belief in your ability to reach goals and produce results to meet the expectations of your employer and yourself. Autonomy allows you to have a strong sense of self but also a sense of assimilation with your company, organization and co-workers.

New, better and integrated technologies are supporting the virtual worker, yet technologies alone are not enough. Acting with autonomy means thinking and behaving in ways that support you in achieving your own agenda. New communications tools are helping support new types of community integration with others. Acting with autonomy aligns facts, explanations, goals, actions and reasoning with your own personal objectives. It produces results that make you happy, your boss happy and your friends and family happy, too. #WFH, #RemoteWorkplace, #RemoteWorker, #WorkFromHome, #BobbeGB, #BobbeBaggio, #ThePajamaEffect, #Touchpoints, #Virtual Workplace, #Virtual Worker #PJEffect

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