Virtual work not suited to all

The focus in recent times has firmly been on the move towards ‘telework’.

There’s even a dedicated National Telework Week spruiked by the Federal Government and Department of Communications. It is said that teleworking promotes higher workforce participation, and is particularly important for part-time, casual, older, and disabled workers.

The cause was one pushed by former Prime Minister Julia, who committed to enable 12 per cent of federal pubic servants to work from home by 2020 – it currently sits at 4 per cent.

Research by Deloitte revealed that increasing the number of teleworkers could inject an extra 25,000 full-time jobs into the economy – the equivalent of $3.2 billion a year to Australia’s GDP by 2020-21.

Yet while the economic return and benefits to employees who require flexible work options is clear, there are also considerations to be made around suitability for virtual work.

Keith Ferrazzi, CEO of consulting and training company, Ferrazzi Greenlight, believes the skillsets of employees working remotely need to be taken into account if they are to thrive in a telework environment.

What’s more, just the same as with traditional onsite teams, myriad problems can occur when virtual teams are haphazardly thrown together.

Before switching to a telework mode for yourself or your staff consider:

Self-sufficiency: in a telework environment it’s not quite as easy to turn to a co-worker for assistance or a query. It’s important for workers to be able to tolerate ambiguity and have the initiative to solve problems and progress without necessarily having all of the project details.

Communication skills: with a large degree of communication occurring via email and instant messaging, it is paramount that remote workers have the skills to express themselves clearly and concisely, and reply quickly and consistently. Video conferencing can be an important aid in removing communication ambiguity.

Connection: the most effective virtual teams are highly connected, and consist of individuals who can engage with each other easily, as well as self-direct.

  • To be a really effective teleworker/virtual worker it’s important to have a certain level of experience and confidence in your field behind you in order to make a success of the transition. I don’t see any problems in not having associates or colleagues in your immediate vicinity because long gone are the days when we would walk down the corridor and talk to someone face to face. Other means of communication are now available to us, i.e., Skype, Google Hangouts, texting, email, mobile and landline phones.

    We also have many online platforms available to us where we can share and project manage our tasks and communicate with other team members.

    For those of us who have been virtual workers for quite a while I think the sense of isolation can be very hard to cope with and you need to take measures to deal with this. For example, take the time to catch up with colleagues and clients at cafés and have face to face meetings. Also make time to be with other people by going to the gym, joining networking groups, attending relevant conferences and training courses.
    Then consider all the positives. You’ll save hours a day, not to mention stress, by not having that daily commute or having to get dressed in business attire. You’ll also hopefully save money because you won’t need so many different outfits for work. Just a few dress items for those networking events and business meetings. If you normally travel by car you won’t be adding to the greenhouse effect that pollutes the environment and also help to free up the congestion on the highways. If you have children or elderly parents to look after you can spend more time taking care of their needs.

    Teleworking is not for everyone and some people thrive in an environment where there are lots of people around. You do need to be very disciplined and focused though in order to stay on task and a really good time management system/diary is essential. As per the article excellent communication skills are essential because we no longer have those visual clues that we get when we talk to someone face to face.

    Whatever way you choose to work, if you are presented with the option of teleworking, it’s good to be able to have a choice and to find a work/life balance that we are all seeking that suits our situation.

  • deborah williams

    I find this article quite interesting and informative. Teleworking can provide numerous longterm benefits for both employers and employees. With proper training and knowledge to telework from home the employee can limit office space, save on overtime, vacation, sick leave and injury leave plus other benefits. The employee on the other hand by working from home can better utilize the much needed time, by advancing into a progressive opportunity like doing an extra curricular study or work or even a undertaking a course they had always planned to do and never got the time to pursue same. Family life would certainly improve and stress could be bought down to a minimal level. Then all the stakeholders will quite happy.

  • It’s really tough to manage you own time and to be accountable for your output when working at home. I think maybe one in five people can really do this and not have their work suffer. Thoughts anyone?

  • Millions of people are teleworking successfully, and companies and individuals are benefiting greatly. Not every person and every job is suited for teleworking. For example, if you require a manager to supervise your work step-by-step, teleworking probably isn’t for you. But if you’re self-sufficient, experienced in your field and willing and able to manage your workload and meet deadlines, teleworking can offer significant flexibility and freedom. Consider taking the quiz at to see if teleworking might be right for you.