There are pros and cons of working from home. Every organization is unique — what may work for one may not work for another — but society is advancing in a way that’s leading to more virtual teams and opportunities to work remotely. Once a company decides to implement work from home policies, it’s wise to consider the possible roadblocks to success.
Use time zones to your advantage. Timezones are a great and terrible thing. On one hand, I know what it’s like to wake up at 6 a.m. for a meeting. Or sleep at 3 a.m. waiting for an update from the team. I’ve also seen the benefits of having a person online at all times for our customers. This is especially powerful in customer support. It allows for 24/7 support with just a few strategically placed (literally) people. Time.is is a great way to compare what time it is (and will be) in other places and can help you keep track of the time where your other team members are. And don’t fret, because you’ll get the hang of it. I often forget what time it is where I am. But after working on a remote team for 3 years, I’ve learned how to do timezone calculations almost subconsciously. Just be sure to set an alarm for Daylight Savings.
For employees, having the ability to telecommute thanks to having a virtual work place provides them with savings on commuting costs such as fuel. A paper from The Mobility Choice Coalition found that if 10 million employees who have the option to telecommute do so just twice a month, 21 million barrels of oil would be saved a year. With gas prices close to $4.00 a gallon, this would amount to $1.7 billion of fuel cost savings a year.1
Increased productivity comes naturally when your employees do not have to travel to work each day. Working from home will allow them to log on and off at a designated time and work from the comfort of their homely atmosphere. Apart from flexibility in working hours, there will be no distractions that are usually associated with working in an office environment, with the help of virtual team tools.
Increase cross-cultural awareness. People involved in global teams should know and understand the challenges that come with communicating across cultures. For example, an American multinational oil and gas corporation wanted to ensure their non-Iraqi employees were equipped with the cultural knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the Iraqi context. Aperian Global worked with corporation leaders and local Iraqis to design a workshop for multinational employees assigned to Iraq, and it was offered in the US and the Middle East. A pre-departure workshop was also created for employees traveling to Iraq. It addressed issues such as safety, security, and health, as well as business and cultural topics. The workshops gave leaders and employees the information, skills and confidence needed to successfully collaborate and conduct business across cultural boundaries.
Personal life and work life imbalance: As it involves work being done in the same physical space as where most people typically go about their personal lives, it is inevitable that work will be invasive in your personal life or vice versa. This means that maintaining harmony between work life and personal life is crucial to the success of virtual work.
Return on investment is the very close cousin of cost-benefit, but in this case, I will apply it in a strictly financial sense, and use my real-life work as an example. My personal assistant, whose name is Eric, does a lot of research, logistics, and planning for me as a journalist. Because he expands my efficiency, I’m free to take on more assignments and make more money. I would estimate that for the $50 investment I make for each week I hire him out, I make twice as much money minimum because of his help. So if I pocket $100 I wouldn’t otherwise make, and pay him $50, the return on investment is $50. Makes sense? (By the way, that’s during a slow week. Sometimes the return on investment is two or three times as much.)
Employees who have virtual offices or telecommute work more hours than their office counterparts. People who work in a virtual office can often blur the difference between home life and work life. Unlike employees who can leave work at the office, employees with virtual offices tend to continue to work outside of "normal" work hours. According to a report from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 50% to 67% of telecommuting hours push the employee’s over 40 hours a week.4 Some reasons for these additional hours could be the employees’ desire to justify their telecommuting by being more productive and continuing to work beyond business hours or a result of companies maximizing their salaried employees by providing them with virtual offices to be able to continue work outside the office.
Your business is growing, and you are busier now more than ever. You could use an extra set of hands, so someone suggested that you should use a virtual assistant. However, you have no idea what a virtual assistant is or for that matter, how they can help you. If that is the case, small business owner, it is time for you step into 2014 and become virtual. You will add your business to the growing trend of those utilizing virtual assistants.
Over the past decade, a rising number of young professionals, primarily from the United States and Europe, have leveraged the use of technology to work remotely and live a nomadic lifestyle. A forecast of employment trends by the World Economic Forum called flexible work, including virtual teams, “one of the biggest drivers of transformation” in the workplace, while a Gallup poll found that 37% of respondents have already worked virtually.
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Movies and TV shows from the likes of Devil Wears Prada to Rules of Engagement make us laugh and feel sorry for the personal assistants. Their lives are consumed by ego-maniacal tyrants paying them no more than a couple of funny pennies per hour. Luckily, apart from the odd unfortunate exception, the reality is much different. Yes, sometimes personal assistants are asked to do menial tasks ranging from the humiliating to the humdrum, and they are often asked to be on duty round the clock, but it usually pays off in more ways than one.
GlobeSmart ProfileSM Debrief: Aperian Global offers GlobeSmart, the industry’s leading online cultural intelligence resource for improved cross-cultural understanding. This program will help business professionals leverage the GlobeSmart online learning tool and use cultural intelligence to work globally. Learning objectives include gaining knowledge into common behaviors influenced by culture, learning to overcome cultural gaps, and more. The GlobeSmart Profile is an online cultural inventory that allows users to learn about their own unique working styles, while also providing them with advice about working successfully with colleagues and people from other cultures. The profile is available in 13 languages.
One of the biggest threats to the efficiency of in-person training is learner engagement, the ability to reach every person in a classroom setting. However, virtual training programs offer a bevy of tools targeted at a variety of learning styles. The learner can utilize the tools, such as video lectures or online quizzes, to help him/her remain attentive and engaged throughout a training session.
Isolation. When you work from home, it’s likely that you’ll experience less contact with other professionals in your field — especially for, but not limited to, individual contributor roles. You won’t have a daily commute, so you won’t encounter other people on your way to and from the office. You won’t bump into other workers at the water cooler for a casual conversation, or have lunch with your coworkers a few days a week. With fewer encounters with other people — and other professionals in your field — it’s easy to feel isolated, which can lead to a slump in progress or even depression.