21 – the virtues of virtualization

Working in a virtual environment has its pros and cons, as does face-to-face.  It’s been so long I can’t remember the face-to-face ones, but here are the virtual pros and cons:

Pros of a virtual environment:

  • Flexible hours–because most of my team was East Coast, and my natural inclination is to be up at 4:30 anyway, I basically worked on Eastern time for most of the last three years, first in Texas and then in Oregon.
  • No commute expenses—from bed to coffeepot to your office/workspace is only about a thirty-second trip, or a minute if you doctor your coffee a lot.
  • Meeting continuity is awesome.  Someone who gets up from a tense face-to-face meeting to take a bio-break can be seen as rude. When you’re virtual, you can mute yourself and still listen in on the meeting. Please note this IS when you’ll be called on to contribute, so use it wisely. And noiselessly, if at all possible.
  • Work-Life balance can be so much better, especially for parents who have tons more time to spend with their families because the commute is taken off the board.
  • No clothing expense, unless you’re on video. I had one decent shirt, and that was the one I wore at all telepresence meetings. 🙂

Cons of a virtual environment:

  • Dedication, discipline and drive are needed to work from home on an ongoing basis–and believe me, people know if you’re not available at all times.
  • Connectivity issues—if you lose cellphone signal a lot, or your Internet provider is up and down a lot, it’s a real productivity-killer.
  • Separating work from home life is tough—being able to say “I’m done with work” is hard when you live where you work.
  • The need to get away from the house can become a real problem, leading to issues like retail therapy, among others.
  • Without body language to rely on, people who don’t express emotions and intent well through their voices can be seen as harsh and even hateful.
  • A crying child or a barking dog has an outsize impact on whether you are seen by others as professional.
  • Your self-image gets a little schlumpy when you’re wearing pajamas or sweats to work in every day.
  • Making those working connections that are so necessary in our networked world is much, much harder in the virtual world.

That’s all that come to mind at the moment…


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