An overwhelmingly remote workforce has become part of our everyday reality. As such, many people have come to understand what it truly means to work virtually or remotely. Yet, quite a few envious onlookers waiting for a chance to nab the first beach corner are still not aware of what it really means to work virtually.
Being able to work remotely is an excellent job perk. This type of work environment allows employees to stay home and care for loved ones or travel the world. But the reality is that working from home is certainly not a day at the beach (at least not for the average worker).
Instead working from home requires hard work, dedication, focus, and excellent time-management skills. These traits are not inherent in every worker. This means that everyone won’t be as effective in a virtual work environment regardless of the benefits that can be derived from working in such a setting. Therefore, if you are considering working remotely take a look at some of the pros and cons of virtual work environments below before you commit to such a work environment.
Advantages of Virtual Work Environments
Many virtual working situations come with the added benefit of scheduling flexibility. While workers are still required to maintain a set amount of hours, they sometimes have the ability to work during variable hours of the day. The is an excellent benefit for individuals who have other obligations that they may have to tend to during regular business hours.
Oftentimes working virtually comes with location independence. This means that you aren’t tied to a specific geographical location when it comes to fulfilling your work duties. You can work from home, which can be down the street, across the country, or on the other side of the world. This gives employees the freedom to travel whenever they desire.
Many employees have reported that they are more productive when they work virtually. They don’t have to deal with the constant interruptions or distractions that are inherent in many workplace environments. They can also work the way they want to work, which means that they can plug in their earphones or blast their music in the background.
Virtual employees don’t have to change locations to attend meetings and they can take breaks at times that are convenient for them. They also don’t have to spend hours driving to and from work each day. This means that they can get more work done and often the quality of their work improves because of these factors.
Not having to drive back and forth to work also has other benefits which includes saving money on transportation costs. Virtual workers don’t have to spend as much money on gas, vehicle maintenance, public transportation fare, etc. for work-related purposes. Virtual employees can also save on their wardrobe budget, laundry and dry cleaning, dining out (lunch), etc.
Disadvantages of Virtual Work Environments
Work-Life Balance Challenges
Working virtually also comes with its share of challenges. When you work virtually your office is in your home, which means that there is no true separation from home and work. Even if you have a dedicated office in your home, work is literally only a few feet away from your home life.
This can be daunting for workaholics who find it hard to separate themselves from their work. Or, it can simply be unnerving for individuals who prefer a solid division between their work and home life. It’s very easy to find yourself putting the last touches on that project in the midnight hour or responding to emails three hours after you have officially completed your workday. If you find that you are overworking yourself you can easily experience burnout.
Time Management Difficulties
On the opposite end, individuals with poor time management skills can find that working from home is quite challenging. If you are a procrastinator or have challenges working independently, you may quickly find yourself in the unemployment line when you work virtually. You must have sound time management skills in order to be able to successfully work in a virtual environment, otherwise you may not be an ideal candidate to work in this type of setting.
While technology is great and has many benefits, it is also subject to error. Virtual meetings are the norm in virtual work environments but they can be easily stalled or completely interrupted when technology issues ensue.
Also, miscommunication can easily occur with written communication which is also the norm in the virtual work environment. Most work environments rely on email communication to a heavy degree in today’s workforce. This reliance is doubled or tripled in some cases when it comes to working remotely. As such, email messages can be easily misinterpreted causing conflict or complications among employees.
Another challenge with email communication is that it can get overwhelming. As previously stated, email communication tends to be overused or excessive in virtual work environments. This means that many emails may go unread or half read if they consume too much of an employee’s day.
Lack of Community
The workplace presents a great opportunity to meet and interact with people throughout the day. When you work from home you usually only interact with your colleagues on an ad hoc basis. In which case the majority of your day is spent in isolation unless you have a public-facing job that requires you to interact with internal and/or external customers on a regular basis.
Even then, these tend to be one-off situations that don’t satisfy an individual’s need for lasting, meaningful relationships. Thus, working from home can lead to isolation and loneliness especially for introverted individuals who already find it difficult to make meaningful social connections.
So there you have it. Working virtually, similar to other work settings, has both pros and cons. Some individuals easily thrive in remote work environments while others may not be as successful. Either way is not an indication of who you are as a person. It is simply a matter of your personal preference and aptitude.