Working Virtually – Will It Work For You?

By Cheryl Otstott, Knowledge Engineer, Knowledge Management Group

Earlier this year I was “forced” virtual, meaning the little cubicle I called home for years was no longer available to me as Xerox made some changes.  So I packed up and moved my office home.  I must say, overall I enjoy the change.  Since my work consists of writing most of the time it is nice to have the peace and quiet that my home affords me.

According to the research firm Forrester, 34 million Americans work from home at least part time so I am not alone in this adventure.  But let’s look at the pros and cons as more and more people make the switch to working virtual.

Virtual home office
Image Credit: Getty Images®

The Pros: The only traffic jam I encounter is between me and the dogs to see who will get to the office first in the morning.  I get a lower rate on my car insurance now that I do not drive to work.  I also like the flexibility. If I need to be home for a delivery or for some kind of service on my home I am there and do not have to take off work.  On the flip side, if I have to run a quick errand, I always have my smartphone with me to stay connected to work email.

I get to control my climate, no more freezing in the summer and burning up in the winter.  It is also quiet.  I decide if I want any background noise and no one interrupts me except by phone, email or IM, but those are much easier to manage compared to a colleague that just wants to chat.

I also find that I get sick less often. Let’s face it some people in the office are just carriers of germs from the simple cold to a stomach virus. They pick it up from their family and pass it on, unintentionally to you.  Well, that is not a problem working from home.

Now let’s look at the cons: There is a lack of spontaneous collaboration – those impromptu interactions between colleagues can spawn some great ideas and solutions.  We no longer have a place for meetings so most are held via conference call.  Basically, there is a lack of contact with others – this can be a pro and a con, but can be worked around by reaching out to colleagues via other means.  The only other con I have found is that my electric bill went up a little because I am home all day.

An added bonus: We have several people working virtually for Xerox in my area so we try to get together for lunch once a month so that we have contact with other colleagues.  These lunches are fun and refreshing, so if there are several people in your area you might want to try a monthly lunch for virtual workers.

I think the biggest advantage is that I feel as though I am more productive working from my home, I am not sure if it is the comfort, being more relaxed or the lack of interruptions, but I sure get more done.

Everything is a trade off and I feel that for me, my job and my work style, working virtually is great for me.  But, it doesn’t always work for every job or every employee. For those that can, the virtual office may be a great fit.  Will it work for you?


Stay tuned for more mobile-related posts as we explore mobility in the enterprise leading up to mNext – IDC’s MobileNext Forum – on Nov. 30-Dec. 1.

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