Not too long ago, the original telecommuters were tied to their home offices, craving a little more interaction than their daily chat with the mailman. Now, thanks to new technology, the virtual office has hit its stride. In fact, a recent Careerbuilder.com survey indicated that 27 percent of employees telecommute at some point throughout the year. And that number is only expected to increase.
Today’s virtual office can be any place you make it – whether it’s in a cozy café or your home. It may be equipped with audio, video and Web conferencing tools for rich, real-time meetings; a laptop and high speed Internet; and communication innovations from instant messenger programs to Web-enabled cell phones.
New technology has made it easier for companies to institute virtual office policies because it makes it easier for employees to stay connected and productive. But as with all technology, people adopt at different rates:
Virtual Beginners — Those just starting out have the basic computer set up and a high speed connection. They enjoy conference calls, e-mails and occasional instant messaging to keep in touch, but are still reluctant to use that handy built-in Web cam for virtual meetings.
Intermediates — With the basic skills mastered, these virtual employees don’t mind getting on the Web cam for online meetings and might even have photos of their last vacation strategically placed so their co-workers can see them in the background. Although they understand how to “share” documents in a Web meeting, they still aren’t as fluid moving as the pros.
Advanced — They are the epitome of unified communications. They know the ins and outs and miniscule details of integrating communications tools including e-mail, voicemail, fax; audio, web and video conferencing; scheduling and calendaring tools; shared online workspaces; secure instant messaging; and presence awareness management. No tool is too much for these tech whizzes.
Regardless of experience level, these game players share the same vision: convenience in connecting to anyone, anywhere, at anytime, thus creating paramount flexibility. It’s not a trend, but a transformation in the work environment.