The virtual office promises benefits to both employers and employees. Companies gain increased productivity and save millions of dollars through the reduction of real estate costs. For employees, virtual offices ease commuting hassles and provide greater flexibility than a traditional office job.
Nevertheless, discouraging words are sometimes heard about virtual workplace arrangements—by both virtual workers and their managers.
Virtual office workers report struggles with feelings of isolation. They also express fears that, because they're "out of sight" they are equally "out of mind" when it comes to advancement opportunities.
Managers, meanwhile, say they grapple with issues of accountability and quantifying the productivity of a virtual office team. Plus, in-office workers may gripe about the alleged sweet deals their virtual colleagues enjoy.
So, what can be done to truly capture the gains promised by virtual offices? Here are "Seven Shortcuts to Success"—everything (almost) managers and workers need to know about working in a virtual workplace.
These tips are culled from "The Virtual Workplace," a 64-page handbook that describes the proven tools, techniques, and strategies for making working "virtually" as productive, satisfying and empowering as those in any traditional work setting—if not more so.
The handbook covers these topics in more detail, but the following master list of tips summarize what it takes to be successful in a virtual work environment. These seven tips apply equally to staff and managers, though Tips 4 and 5 are more directly relevant to staff.
- Good (electronic) communication MUST replace informal contacts and "eyeball management" when your team is dispersed.
- Planning and scheduling MUST replace relying on chance encounters in the office.
- Individual accountability is the key—your results count, so keep doing what you do well and get better at all the rest.
- For sales reps, more selling happens in front of the customer than anywhere else; spend your time accordingly and keep getting better in customer contacts.
- Work FROM home, not AT home—and get organized and disciplined to do so effectively.
- Staff and managers have to develop and improve their work relationship and support each other.
- The work team needs to invest some time and effort to build the team as a team—including having the opportunity to relax and socialize together occasionally.
© Work/Family Directions, Inc. and Gil Gordon Associates.