All right, enough with the silly puns. Virtual work and telecommuting are basically the same thing--allowing an employee to do his/her work away from the office.
Many workplaces have adopted this kind of work model, but only to an extent. My husband, for example, can work from home once a week. About half of employers allow their employees to telecommute at least once a month. Some employers, like JetBlue, use this business model extensively and don't even give their employees an office at all.
Many employers have embraced the idea of telecommuting, but only partially. And it's hard to change everything if you're used to a traditional business model. If your employees don't come in, how do you know if they're really working? Doesn't some communication get lost when you can't hear the other person's voice or see facial expressions?
These are legitimate concerns. In a Business Week report (summarized in Custom-Fit Workplace by Blades and Fondas), Billie Williamson offers some tips for managing virtual workers:
1. Remember that virtual work still involves real people. For a manager, this means that he/she may have to find non-traditional ways to deal with relationship issues and monitor productivity.
2. Use technology in innovative ways to promote team building. There are the obvious things, like phone and email, but it may also help to set up a community space online where everyone can contribute and communicate.
3. Step up the frequency of communication and check in more often. If your employees go virtual, you'll be sending more emails. Meeting in person and videoconferencing can also help. Pay attention, too, if someone's not contributing or communicating. This may be a signal that something else is going on.
4. Show respect. If your virtual team is global, be aware of time zone differences when setting up meeting. Be sensitive to differences in language and culture.
What has worked in your workplace as you've integrated virtual work as a way of doing business?