June 11, 2012

The Misunderstood Couch Potato: Disadvantages of Being a Virtual Worker


It’s Monday morning, while everyone is gripping their steering wheel in unavoidable traffic, imagine yourself waking up without the piercing sound of an alarm, strolling around aimlessly in your bunny slippers and setting up your workspace in the comfort of your living room – sounds like heaven right?

We all know that isn’t what working remotely from home is really like. But with advancements in today’s technology, it is increasingly easy to become a virtual worker. Although there are several advantages to working remotely from home, there is one BIG disadvantage: lack of face to face communication and social interaction.

For those who have worked in an office, large or small, know that co-workers often bounce ideas off each other or spark conversation in passing through hallways or breaks in the lobby. Because remote workers work outside the office, they don’t get to participate in daily in-person conversations. Are you really going to ask your elderly next door neighbor or two year old daughter for tips on your PowerPoint presentation? When surrounded by peers and co-workers, a feeling of comradery and motivation are sensed. It’s hard to maintain the feeling of being a part of a team when you aren’t physically present.

Sure, e-mail allows instant communication between co-workers, but often the inability to see facial expressions and recognize vocal cues lead to misunderstandings and tension. For example, a remote worker may interpret criticism or a simple helpful suggestion the wrong way over e-mail. How many times have you re-written an e-mail because you thought you sounded rude, or added 10 exclamation points and smiley faces to make sure your request doesn’t sound like a demand? We are all guilty, I know I am!  =)

Co-workers and upper management, especially, often take the easy way out and confront an employee about a problem through e-mail. Personal discussions are the foundation of communication, and a sense of strong communication leads to success within any business. Confronting an employee or co-worker face to face speeds up decision making and makes both parties feel satisfied.

A lack of social interaction can lead to feelings of isolation and a lack of motivation. It’s like this: If a plate of cookies is sitting on the kitchen counter, you’re going to eat them. If your couch is five feet away, you’re going to take a nap. Personal relationships outside the workplace build rapport and can help advance your career. Remote workers are often left out of social gatherings and miss important opportunities to learn more about their co-workers.

Social interaction and face-to-face communication within an office setting is not only important to an employees’ career, but to their personal happiness and well-being as well. Although it would be nice to work remotely from home and the advantages are quite clear, think twice about the potential harmful effects it may have on you and your future.




Edited by Braden Becker



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