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The virtual workplace has varying definitions, but principally refers to a working environment that may not have a central, specific location in which all employees come to work each day. Rather than having a physical bricks and mortar location, this type of workplace usually depends on technology like Internet connectivity and other resources such as telephones, conferencing software, and faxing from multiple locations, which are often employee homes. In other words, a network of employees from diverse locations makes up the company and the workplace is not a real, single location.
Some companies have a traditional workplace environment, but also allow some employees to telecommute. All or a portion of the time, work could be completed from a place of the employee’s choosing. Other organizations lean almost fully toward the virtual workplace.
Some websites employ writers and editors all over the world. Each writer works from home or if they have a laptop and WiFi access, they can write at the beach, in a library, on a park bench, or riding a bus, to name just a few options. The virtual workplace is all of these individual places combined, connecting to the company server.
There are reasons why the virtual workplace can be exceptionally attractive to companies and not such a good idea for others. Companies definitely save money by not having to rent or purchase office space, and pay for utilities. These costs become the responsibility of the employee, though some employers compensate a small amount for additional electrical bills, Internet connectivity, or phone charges or workers. Creating a virtual workplace is only feasible in certain industries and can’t work well in businesses where customers need direct and face-to-face support or in many forms of manufacturing where employees are needed for hands-on work.
Some businesses are also concerned about worker productivity in the virtual workplace. There are ways to log employee hours, depending on type of work, but in many cases, managers feel worker production could suffer. Even if people work collaboratively through each workplace, some business owners are concerned about lack of team effort, which might motivate individuals. Early studies on companies that use virtual workplaces suggest worker productivity isn’t negatively impacted.
Workers in a virtual workplace have concerns and benefits. Work can be isolating, and some people miss the social environment of a traditional workplace. People are often told not to take their work home with them, but the dividing line between home and work can be unclear. Some employees have trouble remaining motivated and get easily distracted if they work from home. For other workers, this arrangement is ideal, particularly if they have flexible hours, and they appreciate avoiding commutes or saving money on a work wardrobe.
The trend toward creating the virtual workplace is growing. The potential savings for companies and the convenience for employees both spur growth. These benefits are matched with evolving technology, which is increasingly rendering many bricks and mortar workplaces superfluous.