Is Virtual Work Here to Stay?


NEW YORK—The decision for your company, lab or practice to move toward more virtual work is not as clear and compelling as one might find with high technology or “new” technology companies. While there is reason to believe that such a shift in business and operational practice should be an easy one since there is clear, compelling and scientific evidence about the benefits of what used to be called telecommuting, there are countervailing views, like those most recently adopted by Yahoo!, that give pause to business executives and owners.

Stepping back for a moment from the public debate on telecommuting, when organizations look to the future, the most innovative and suc¬cessful leaders realize the potential that remote work forces will continue to change the face of business in virtually all industries. Increasingly, leadership and organizations are viewing work as something you do, as opposed to where you do it. And remote employees are becoming vital to the success of many businesses.

Currently, 82 percent of Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” have virtual work policies. That number is expected to rise as time and technology advance.

In addition, fully 81 percent of remote employees express they were more productive at home than in a traditional workplace environment. As well, a recent Gallup workplace study found that virtual workers put in four more hours per work week than on-site employees, while also having higher engagement (32 percent versus 28 percent).

Other valuable benefits of work-from-home/telecommuting policies, for both employers and employees include:

• Cost savings through lowering the need for, and cost of, real estate and other related overhead.

• Higher customer satisfaction due to better coverage across different time zones.

• Eliminates geographic restrictions, thus widening your pool of potential talent.

• Lower absenteeism.

• Eliminates stressful commuting (stress is one of the primary reasons for employee turnover).

• Cost savings for employees (gas, train/bus fare, parking, etc.).

• Better work-life balance and workplace flexibility, both of which are highly prized by millennials, who will eclipse baby boomers in the workforce by 2015.

The trend toward virtual work is gaining a more profound grip in the workplace that colleges and universi-ties are beginning to introduce programs dedicated solely to best practices for virtual work and virtual learning in lieu of on campus studies.

Here are some thoughtful tips for those companies, labs and ECPs in the optical industry that may wish to take a step forward in considering some employees working virtually:

• Determine what job positions are prime candidates for allowing one or more employees to work remotely.

• Begin slowly to ensure consistency in terms of the share of work performed remotely versus at the office.

• Establish a formal virtual work or working from home policy, inviting input from employees on the policy, and communicate it clearly, using examples and stating exceptions, if any.

• Ensure hiring the “best fit” candidates to be in these remote positions. Look for these five traits while interviewing:

1. Are the people self-starters?
2. Have they worked remotely in the past and where is the evidence that they succeeded?
3. Are they self-motivated?
4. Are they self-disciplined?
5. Are they skilled and highly adaptive communicators?

• Track and quantify as many outcomes and results as possible to prove your organization is the recipient of the many benefits and favorable financial outcomes that come from virtual work.

Hedley Lawson, Contributing Editor
Managing Partner
Aligned Growth Partners, LLC
(707) 217-0979