Virtualization of Work, what does this mean for your organization?
In their article The Third Wave of Virtual Work, Tammy Johns and Lynda Gratton describe the three waves of virtualization that are impacting how and where knowledge workers do their jobs across the world. Each ‘wave’ describes an evolution in the work model, meaning a shift in how and where knowledge work gets done. At the heart of the issue is the relationship between workers and the workplace.
Many of us have heard of terms like ‘co-share workspace’, ‘teleworking’ or ‘telecommuting’, ‘virtual work’, or ‘remote work’, but as a business owner the only question you need an answer to is: does this matter for me, my employees, and my business? Regardless of the size of your company or the sector you are in, the answer is almost certainly yes.
A 2017 survey of business leaders at the Global Leadership Summit found that 34% said more than half of their company’s full-time workforce would be working remotely by 2020. A 2015 Forbes article highlights 125 companies where all or most employees work remotely (the list started with 26 virtual companies in 2014). Remote working is a global phenomenon that is not limited to the tech sector. Real estate, education and training, pharmaceuticals, accounting and finance are all sectors that have seen a jump in the number of remote or flexible jobs being offered.
Understanding where and how your business operations interplay with the virtualization of work is critical for future success and is a practice that requires proactivity over reactivity. As a leader, don’t wait until a key employee asks to work from his or her cabin in a ski town or turn down a potential star candidate because that person doesn’t live near your office. Do the work now: assess human resources policies, review company mission, vision and culture; have all staff and executives speak openly about views on the issue and evaluate where and how remote work can support goals and objectives.
The virtualization of work presents both challenges and opportunities, and will naturally work better in some situations than others. But it is happening, all around the world, and it’s coming to a business near you!