Remember the first time you caught wind of a friend who got to telecommute? The green eyed monster probably showed up in a rage, but today it's pretty common. Businesses have realized that telecommuting vastly lowers their overhead, and that quite a few people thrive in this environment. There are many changes the Digital Era has ushered in, starting with the idea of a virtual office. There are pros and cons depending on whom you ask (or, if you're asking Marissa Mayer, depending on what day it is). However, for better or worse, telecommuting is here to stay and likely only going to get more popular.
I personally have been a telecommuter for the past 6 years. Even everyone on my invoicing company Due are all telecommuters. We have people from all over the world and it's awesome.
Are you a telecommuter (full-time or part-time), or do you work in a traditional office? There's a good chance that, even in an office, you at least have contact with some of your telecommuting colleagues. Here's how telecommuting is changing the workplace in America, much like it's changing my remote workforce:
1. We know a lot more about technology. From the latest conference call tech to having a strong opinion on which cloud sharing service is best, there are virtually no Luddites in today's offices. This is a good thing, helping employees stay sharp, competitive and knowledgeable on the latest technology. You've probably been invited to more tech-related training seminars than you ever imagined, and likely either love or hate Windows 8.
2. The earth is greener. There's no denying that any means of getting to an office, besides walking or biking, is impacting the environment. Whether you drive yourself, carpool or take public transportation, commutes are tough on Mother Earth. Telecommuting has changed not just the workplace, but the entire world--for the better.
3. Multi-tasking is a necessity. For some reason, people (including managers) think that telecommuting means you have more time on your hands. You're required to multi-task, even though numerous studies have shown people can't actually do this. This can lead to higher stress, particularly for workers who can't say no or are overachievers.
4. You might feel lonelier. Depending on your degree of extroversion, telecommuting can leave you feeling pretty lonely. There's a big difference between having co-workers physically present and simply chatting with them on IM, the phone or video conferencing. Telecommuting isn't for everyone, particularly very social workers, so make sure you match your job to your complete needs.
5. You're never off the clock. A big downside to telecommuting is that some businesses basically require you to be "on" around the clock. They know you got that message at midnight because of the read receipt. They may not think it's a big deal to ask you to "just keep managing the company social media page" while you're on vacation--after all, you'll be posting selfies from the beach anyway, right? This requires strict guidelines and rules because everyone needs and deserves time off.
6. You're part of a global company. Telecommuting has easily allowed for expansion around the world. You might now have co-workers in Japan, India, Britain or on the other side of the country. You'll likely never meet these people and know them just by their signature and maybe Google+ photo. The globalization of the workforce has arrived.
Telecommuting brings a brand new era of the office. For some, it's a great thing that allows for the flexibility necessary in work-life balance. For others, it can be a tough adjustment, especially if you're used to a classic office and liked it that way. It's a learning process for everyone and there will be ups, downs and all kinds of spins before the "new office" is in full working effect.