I am frequently asked the question, “Am I a virtual worker?” all the time. Why I am asked is perhaps because for the past 5 years I have worked full time in a virtual work environment, able to be productive and flexible to accommodate business and client needs as they arise. I am more likely asked this question, however, because clearly people, all people, reach a certain time in their life and in their professional careers where they ask themselves the question, “Is there another way to do the very same thing that I have to commute to get to.” The answer, but not for everyone, is clearly a resounding “YES”.
So let’s take a look at the primary areas that working virtually allows someone blessed with this opportunity.
PRODUCTIVITY – Generally, I have found myself and many of my colleagues to be more productive working within a virtual workplace. There are very few distractions, there is no “water cooler” chatter, there is a better control over noise, and you are able to sleep properly, not having to wake at the crack of dawn to join the millions of people who grab their java at the drive-thru, wait readily for the commuter train or worse still begin their day with a traffic jam that begins at the on ramp to get onto the highway. There is one must related to productivity that most do not talk about, however. You must be disciplined to set proper office hours that directly respond to your duties.
FLEXIBIITY – Working in a virtual environment creates a schedule of flexibility as office hours are more akin to an entrepreneur’s lifestyle. So if you have a personal life, which you must have in order to work in a virtual model, then working from homes allows for you to plan your day and responsibilities to fit your whole life. Again, you must be disciplined and have absolute integrity to ensure that the needs of your employer or your client are met as equally as your personal needs.
COST – You are already paying for the space that you live in. Why not use the space you live in to work from. There are tax advantages to this, you cook or prepare your own meals and save a whack of money on fast food purchases and not so recognizably named coffees, and your wardrobe is more one of comfort and utility than brand names and dry-cleaning. Again, exercising discipline helps to ensure that you maximize the cost benefits from the virtual arrangement.
So if working virtually was as easy as I have described above then why are more people not doing this? There are a number of reasons of why this working arrangement does not work for some.
- People are social beings and most people like to socialize and interact with other people. A virtual work environment requires the use of technology, almost exclusively, and human interaction is vocal rather than a physical experience.
- People are socially conditioned, from early adulthood, to “go to work”. We have a definition of what that means that is passed on from our ancestors. “Leaving the house” to go to the factory or the office is a major part of that definition.
- People seek and are accustomed to structure. Throughout their entire education, people have been taught to do math, science, and any other course as a process. They have been indoctrinated through an education system that was born out of the Industrial Revolution, one that set people up for repetitive work. Teaching people to think out of the box is not a part of that model. As a matter of fact, the box that people are told to think outside of is even defined for them.
If you are ready to work in an environment that is more suited to a work-life balance and have reached a stage in your life where you can be disciplined to get the work done and exercise absolute integrity to ensure an ROI to your employer, working in a virtual model is second to none. But if you are not ready and are a wee bit undisciplined, your time will come. Just not right now!