The benefits of a virtual office model are many. Workers who can do their jobs from their homes save time in commuting and tend to spend more time working. Companies can reduce or eliminate the costly office facilities needed to support a full complement of in-house workers. Plus, many employees consider the ability to work from home to be a perk of employment. This is particularly important for companies trying to attract and retain top talent in a competitive employment environment.
What’s less widely discussed are the drawbacks of a virtual office scenario.
What’s the Downside of Telecommuting?
Managers may be concerned that employees aren’t really working from home: that they’re getting distracted by chores, children or even daytime television. This leads to an easy conclusion that virtual office models are of more benefit to employees to employers. But there are some ways in which telecommuting can harm workers.
A Lack of Engagement
Employee engagement to the job is critical for workers to turn in a good performance. No one can excel at a job when they feel disconnected from their coworkers, managers and the office culture. In fact, new research from Randstad US found that 43 percent of younger workers – those of “Generation Z” -- admit they get lonely when working from home, compared to a little more than a quarter (26 percent) of all workers. This is a statistically very significant difference. Few workers can do their jobs properly in extreme isolation from their parent organizations, their managers and their coworkers.
“Working from home can offset some of their transportation and living expenses, but it can also lead to loneliness and increased risk of disengagement,” said Jim Link, chief human resources officer for Randstad North America.
How Managers Can Engage Telecommuting Workers
Link notes that there are ways to maintain the benefits of virtual office working without the downside of disengagement.
“Managers with remote workers can take steps to promote as much collaboration and face time as possible with teammates to combat isolation,” he said.
Many of these techniques involve a good virtual office telework platform, which can provide opportunities for collaboration and teleconferencing. VoIP business solutions providers such as Phone.com offer features such as audio and video conferencing, virtual meetings, messaging and the ability to manage communications on the desktop instead of the phone. Workers can remotely collaborate and work together to ensure that the benefits of teamwork aren’t lost in an effort to save money with telecommuting.
Edited by Maurice Nagle