As increasing numbers of employees work remotely, companies need to find effective ways to manage internal communication and social interaction, and also to provide these employees with opportunities to become more visible.
During the last decade, virtual work–professionals working remotely from home, from client locations
or simply from the road–has become increasingly prevalent. Some Fortune 500 companies,
including Procter & Gamble, IBM, Accenture and AT&T, have already partially or fully eliminated traditional
offices. As much as 10% of today’s work force telecommutes from home–more than triple the
level of 2000. This trend will accelerate in the coming decades in response to the ongoing globalization
of work, ever-increasing customer demands and the cost and time of commuting.
However, remote employees as well as managers are becoming increasingly aware of the challenges associated with virtual work as they relate to internal communication, social interaction and employee
satisfaction and commitment.
The article focuses on four critical challenges involving remote work that require management attention:
(1) finding the right work-life balance, (2) overcoming workplace isolation, (3) compensating for
the lack of face-to-face communication and (4) compensating for the lack of visibility. For each issue,
the authors offer a set of management coping strategies drawn from interviews with managers and
remote workers. Successful companies will find ways to adjust to the differences and provide specialized
training, mentoring and broad opportunities for social and business interactions with both traditional
and remote employees.