The virtual office has many advantages over traditional offices. Employees who work at home save more money because they do not need to drive a car or take public transportation to go to an office building. They have flexible work hours in contrast to workers who have fixed schedules. On the other hand, the virtual office poses challenges to telecommuters who never see their bosses or colleagues in person.
Telecommuters may be able to avoid office politics and idle chatting with colleagues. But they may have to face other distractions such as kids, family members, spouse, pets, neighbors, and friends. They may also suffer from issues they normally don’t deal with in traditional office settings. For instance, some online workers with less discipline are more likely to browse the website for fun when they are supposed to be doing work-related online research.
Lack of Personal Interaction
Telecommuters rarely or never see each other face to face. Extroverts who thrive on social interaction may feel lonely working alone. They are more likely to feel depressed or out of the loop if they are not aware of what’s happening in the work place. Overall, telecommuters miss the chance to build social networks that can boost their career opportunities. This can decrease their chance for promotions within the company.
Communication is vital to maintain good relationships between managers and employees, especially in virtual offices. In traditional offices, keeping everyone updated on the same project is easy. Daily interaction between persons allows for easy sharing of information and documents. To compensate for the lack of face to face interaction, managers must use online tools to facilitate communication. They can ask employees to use group emails, share documents, and use collaborative timelines or wikis. They can also use video conferences to encourage live communication among remote staff members.
Some remote workers may not find it easy to trust anyone they have not met in person. This is because they don’t see the body language of the people they’re communicating with. However, establishing trust in the virtual office is more important than in the traditional office. Managers cannot see what goes on behind telecommuters’ lives, nor can they supervise work input. They must trust that their employees will use their autonomy to do their job well. To increase trust in the virtual workplace, they must increase interpersonal communication by letting remote employees get to know each other better. This can be done through social networking and online chatting.
Facilitating teamwork in a virtual office can be hard. Remote workers do not work beside each other. Rather, they are scattered in different areas. This makes them work as individuals instead of as team members. To increase teamwork in the virtual office, managers must let their workers know that they must still cooperate to achieve common goals.
Working online from home can result in longer work hours than the average employee if telecommuters do not manage their work schedule well. This may be fine for workaholics who prefer putting in more hours. However, some companies expect their telecommuters to work on evenings, weekends and holidays just to meet project deadlines. Taken to the extreme, telecommuters may end up feeling more stressed than normal office workers.