Virtual offices, telecommuting and telework all mean essentially the same thing: employees work from another location outside of the traditional office. Virtual offices and telecommuting have become immensely popular for some employers, and met with trepidation by others. The concept is a relatively new one, which makes it difficult to construct definitive policies that set clear parameters for working outside the traditional office environment. As with any work arrangement, there are advantages and disadvantages to virtual offices and telecommuting.

One is the jealousy aspect. I’ve been in semi-remote teams wherein only a few people (or even just me) were allowed to work from home. What has worked for me in the past is to clarify responsibilities between my manager and colleagues. Then deliver unfailingly. Once a team learns to appreciate your work, it shouldn’t matter whether you do it beside them or from somewhere else.

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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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The word “assistant” is often considered a synonym to the word “slave”. The truth is, though, that if you’ve landed a job as somebody’s personal assistant, you’ve become one of the most powerful people imaginable. You are now the gatekeeper of the castle that is your employer, and the more they trust you, the more they are willing to pay you. And since it probably took a while to train you and to establish a bond with you, they are not likely to let you go that easily.

Make a list of tasks that will make up the job. Common tasks, such as running errands, data entry and answering telephones should not raise a personal assistant's pay. More challenging tasks, particularly those that are specialized, such as requiring your assistant to speak a second language, complete payroll for other staff members or travel for a long period of time, should be adequately compensated by raising the salary and offering a travel allowance. Also consider the time commitments of the job description. A personal assistant that works a standard business week may not make as much money as one who is on call or required to travel.

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The conversation is twofold: Employees who work from home help companies reduce overhead costs, experience greater satisfaction in their jobs, and they’re more productive, but companies ultimately have the discretion to not offer work from home policies — or revoke them — if company leaders believe that managing a virtual workplace decreases speed or hinders collaboration.

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According to a Gallup poll in 2007, the average commute time is 48.1 minutes round trip. While the commute by itself may not sound like a long time, there are other factors that can increase this. For example, the time to do things to get ready for work (such as taking a shower, getting dressed and having breakfast) can take another 30 minutes to an hour so adding these activities to the commute time can bring up the "non-work time" to 90 to 120 minutes. An employee can get so much more work done in that time if they did not have to travel into an office. According to the Telework Research Network, companies such as JD Edwards, AT&T and Compaq reported that their telecommuting employees are more productive than their office counterparts.2

When we first considered the idea of a distributed team, the biggest question revolved around whether we would be able to get the work done. The answer is yes, we were able to complete the work. The problem is, it's hard to overstate the importance of collaboration and synergy within a team. These elements are the foundation of an employee's enthusiasm, passion and sense of value to the company, and distributed staffs struggle with achieving these. - Dan Pennell, WMtek

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.


I doubt many companies like or prefer that employees work from home. We allow the policy in order to be able to attract employees who would otherwise go elsewhere. We are heavy users of Slack, Confluence and other collaboration tools that make working at home more productive, but they cannot replace the serendipitous interactions that occur while hanging out by the nitro-coffee keg. - Manuel Vellon, Level 11

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