The Virtual Office

As home offices become more popular, men and women must try to adapt to a whole new way of communicating. No longer entertained by emphatic discussions at the water cooler, or having the option to pop into a coworker’s office for a second opinion, virtual communication has given way to a whole new culture. While many people may consider this as an exciting and welcomed change, others may find adapting to this new culture a stressful experience.

When you have a home office, you become more dependent on phone, e-mail and instant message conversations – you work in a virtual dimension. Conference rooms are replaced by videoconferences, and lately even the English language is barely recognizable with the expansive use of instant message and e-mail slang. For many, the majority of interaction becomes virtual, which can be great for some, but a huge adjustment for others.

The virtual office isn’t for everybody. Some people benefit from the social aspect of a traditional work environment, and find it isolating to communicate via these new methods. If you are one of these people, then it is important for you (and your productivity) to find a way to get out of the “office”, and interact with colleagues.

Depending on the type of business you’re in, there may be a variety of ways to accomplish this. If you work for a company and have recently moved to a home office in the same area, for example, find out if there are ways to meet on site or through lunch or dinner meetings every once in a while. Talk to your supervisor about the possibility of attending meetings face to face, and come up with a plan for you to stay connected to the business environment.

If you have recently relocated to a home office in a different city or state, but work for a large organization that has branch locations, find out if there are branch offices in your area, that you can meet with once a month or quarter. You can even position the option to your supervisor as a way to broaden your understanding of the business. This understanding can enable you to provide constructive feedback, on how to better connect with various branches and improve communication as a whole.

If you own a business your challenge is unique because, let’s face it, the responsibility of the business is yours. At the end of the day you take home the brunt of the stress. Add to that the inability to interact face to face with an associate. It can make for a very isolating experience.

Chances are you will adjust to working in a virtual office over time, but during the transition it is important to find ways, like discussed above, to make the transition a little easier. Even if these scenarios do not fit your current position, or you do not have the option to interact face to face with colleagues, still there are ways for you to get out and interact with professionals in your industry.

One of my favorite ways to get out and meet people is through conferences, seminars or workshops. Research your industry, and see if there are organizations you can join, then put your name on an e-list to receive information about the upcoming events in your area. Not only is this an opportunity for you to get out of the “office”, it is also a great way to network, learn about new trends, and develop ideas that you can use in your day-to-day activities.

The goal is to enjoy the flexibility of working from home without confining yourself to the company of your computer alone. Virtual communication is here, and its advancement and prominent use in the workplace is continuously growing. This being the case, it is important to find ways to adapt while maintaining personal contact with clients and colleagues.

Virtual communication can be an excellent solution to workplace challenges. It allows us to interact with colleagues and clients fairly inexpensively, and offers the flexibility to work from just about anywhere. Though many may view this as a welcomed change, others may have difficulty adapting. Thankfully there are ways to help with this adjustment. Evaluate your work environment, talk to others in similar situations, attend conferences and seminars, and discuss various options with your supervisor. Chances are you will be able to come up with a solution to help you through the transition. If nothing else, at least you’ll have defined the boundaries of your work environment and brought yourself one step closer to adapting to the new culture of virtual communication.