Virtual workplaces are a new trend of work that is sweeping the nation. A virtual workplace is having the ability to work anytime, anyplace, in cyberspace or just in the comfort of your own home. This may even just be the concept of having a meeting via online. Though this idea may sound fantastic to some, it causes issues among managers, employers and the employee themselves. Virtual workplaces do have benefits as well, as long as they are not used in the wrong way.
Challenges of Virtual Workplace
Virtual workplaces can be a great accommodation to many individuals in the work field, but they can also lead to general issues. One huge concern of managers is that they don’t know how to manage someone who is physically not in front of them. Once a computer screen is separating the face to face connection, managers feel they cannot completely watch and supervise them. Some managers even feel that their organization is disconnected as a whole. Among the virtual workplace teams they feel are disconnected as well. With less interaction between the individuals, it is more difficult for the teams to grow a bond and cohesion between them. The virtual teams may also face problems of certain workers not completely their fair share of the projects assigned.
Virtual workplaces can also impact social relationships inside and outside of the jobs. The employees feel disconnected from their coworkers and other individuals in their life. The on-going issue with this is how the employees find separation from their work life and their social life. With having the ability to work 24 hours a day at any place, it is hard to turn the work mode off. Some individuals find themselves on a 24 hour feel to their jobs. Some individuals face struggles at home with trying to keep the two separated. It is not healthy for any individual to work endless hours every day. These individuals in virtual workplaces may also lack social skills. By being able to hide behind a computer screen, you adapt the idea that you can say and do whatever you like. This goes hand in hand with social media and how individuals say and put out there anything they want because they are hidden behind a screen.
Virtual workplaces can also affect the way employees feel about their commitment to an organization in such an environment. Employees may feel that they don’t have to try as hard or that it is not a real job. According to Poeppelman and Blacksmith (2015) “Virtual work has been shown to negatively impact the productivity and effectiveness of teams. The non-overlapping work times and physical distance between employees can make it difficult to coordinate work efforts.” This means that when it comes down to not having an actual meeting place or certain times block out for a job, it is harder for employees to come together. Employees may also be faced with too many distractions, whether it be at their own home or even a local coffee shop. Having a computer and the internet be accessible to them, and having no direct supervision over them may cause these employees to slack off or procrastinate. The implications for the IO psychologist are similar to how a manager feels. The IO psychologist will have to develop a new strategy design and overcome the concept that is here to stay.
Solutions and Benefits of Virtual Workplace
Though virtual workplaces do face a few implications they can also be very beneficial to an organization. One huge benefit is that if a small company is just starting up, by having virtual workplaces the company will have low overhead costs. This means that the company doesn’t have to worry about leasing an office space and filling it with furniture and other necessities. As the company grows the owner will also not have to worry about upscaling to a larger office space or added utility costs. The company can simply hire more employees as needed without huge expenses. Another expense benefit a company will not have to worry about are travel expenses. The company simply needs to set up a date and time to Skype or use another online chat website, to connect and discuss the jobs and tasks completed.
Virtual workplaces can also lead to more satisfied employees. With employees desiring more flexible hours this is just the perfect fix for them. For IO psychologist this change will be a good thing. According to Wayne Cascio (1998) “By embracing these emerging changes in the world of work, we in I-O psychology can lead change, not just react to it. This will be the greatest challenge of all.” This means that change is good for everyone every once in a while. It only matters how you take on the situation and overcome it.
A huge solution for helping virtual workplaces succeed is eliminating or limiting distractions as much as possible. Poeppelman and Blacksmith (2015) give a simple solution to help limit distractions, “It’s so easy to pick up your cell phone while on a conference call, so try suggesting video-based meetings so you have more accountability for paying attention. Other technological tools such as SelfControl can block distracting non-work related websites as well.” Having this issue be diminished is highly based on the employee or individuals themselves. This is an easy fix, it just takes practice.
Virtual workplaces are here to stay as technology continues to grow. By studying this job and learning all the hidden aspects of it, an Industrial and Organizational psychologist can easily overcome the obstacle of them. When it comes to the issues with employees themselves, it comes down to them being able to manage a healthy balance between their work life and home life. The employee also needs to find areas that are distraction free or just try and limit the distractions they produce as much as possible, such as the cell phone and social media. For the managers and the business owners, keep in mind that the benefits are quite beneficial for the company, you just need to be willing to grow and overcome these obstacles the virtual workplace can produce.