did you know?
Nearly 60 percent of workers believe that telecommuting at least part-time is the ideal work situation.
IBM saves $700 million in real estate costs by allowing 25% of its worldwide employees to work from home.
wise words we heard
Businesses that ignore the possibilities offered by emerging technologies risk becoming dinosaurs.
Virtual workers are defined as people who work from home, from the road, from anywhere that isn't a traditional office. The common denominator for all virtual workers is that they communicate and perform work duties almost entirely through electronic technology. Going virtual makes sense for many workers, not just the people you see plugging in at coffee shops around the globe: Gen Yers just starting out, older workers phasing into retirement, people who need a custom-fit because they have restricted physical abilities or live in remote geographic locations, or two-job families where being close to both jobs is impossible. High- and low-wage employers have found moving to virtual work productive and profitable. Call centers, sales teams, individual consultants - even entire organizations - have all found this new way of working to be virtually perfect.
Virtual work can create a more robust business overall, as it has been shown to cut workplace costs and produce more satisfied, productive employees.
Advice for Employers
Adopt a performance-based management philosophy. Look more at results and less and whose car is in the parking lot.
Use technology in innovative ways to promote team building. Consider going beyond the basics of phone and email in order to help create a close group and help workers connect. Set up a community home space featuring pictures and profiles of team members, a discussion board, a team calendar, or a chat room.
Show respect. This might mean being sensitive to members who speak English as a second language, or paying attention to language and cultural differences, business protocols - even time zones.
Design fair and consistent guidelines for who can take advantage of virtual work.
Meet in person, too. Many companies that adopt virtual work also have regular retreats or in-person check-ins. This promotes team cohesion.
Remember that workers cannot be available 24/7 and will need boundaries to make virtual working successful for both themselves and the business.
Advice for Workers
When making a case for a flexible work arrangement, cite the business benefits of higher productivity, less time lost commuting, worker loyalty, decreased absenteeism, improved health and sometimes reduced real estate costs. (See Studies and Research)
Create an expectation of clear work/life boundaries. Just because you are now connected to work at home or on vacation doesn't mean you should be online 24/7. Clarify what will work well for you and your employer.
Be realistic but open-minded about virtual work's plusses and minuses. While it fits well with some jobs, virtual work isn't a good fit for others.
Consider stepping up the frequency of communication. This can mean checking the team's calendar or sending an email after every phone conference to document and confirm the action plan. Find out what will make this work well for everyone.
Planning a Career Break? Make Sure It’s a Pause, Not a Dent
A decade ago, Lisa Belkin wrote “The Opt Out Revolution,” a New York Times Magazine piece that became instantly famous. It profiled women who had chosen to leave high-profile careers to stay home full-time, arguing that they had opted out because (to quote one) “women’s brains light up differently.” I subsequently wrote a report documenting that the print media in general, and The New York Times in particular, had been writing precisely this story since the 1970s, announcing over and over again that women had finally discovered that they wanted to stay home rather than work.
Some outlets are still recycling this tired tale. That’s what makes it so impressive that The New York Times chose to stop the cycle. Last Sunday’s Magazine returned to the women interviewed by Belkin. What the article’s author, Judith Warner, found was sobering.
When women leave the workforce, one of three things happens. They get divorced and often plummet into relative poverty. They find it nigh-impossible to get back in. Or they find new jobs post-haste and everything is peachy. A bit more on each.
With almost 50 percent of their first marriages ending in divorce at the 20 year mark, many women who opt out for the good of the children end up jeopardizing their children’s futures. For decades scholars have documented that women’s standard of living typically falls if they divorce. Last time I checked, the children of divorce are less likely to reach the educational level or class status of their fathers; child support typically covers about a quarter of what it costs to raise a middle-class child.
Research also indicates that highly educated women who return after a career break end up with radically downsized careers. Warner cites a study that found that only forty percent of highly qualified women who “took a career break” returned to full-time work. Of those who re-entered the workforce, a quarter took jobs with fewer management responsibilities or lower job titles—and the jobs paid, on average, about sixteen percent less than their previous ones.
All this is old news. The new news, from forthcoming research by sociologist Pamela Stone, is that some women, after years at home, find that plum jobs “fall into their laps.” Typically these are women with platinum-edged degrees who have kept up their networks, working (to quote Warner) on major fundraising campaigns, not bake sales.
Three lessons here: one’s for foundations, one’s for the media, one’s for women themselves.
For foundations, the important news is that divorce courts are one of the key engines of maternal and child poverty. Activists last worked on this in the 1980s. Another push is needed.
For the media, The New York Times has broken the cycle of a constant rediscovery that having wives stay home full-time is best for everyone, including the wife. New York Magazine, take note.
For women, two messages emerge. If you take a career break, often it’s not a pause, it’s a permanent dent. Women who take a single year off typically lose 20% of lifetime earnings, and women who take two or three years off typically lose 30%.
The other message for women is that, if you do leave your career, make a conscious decision whether you are retiring or taking a career break. If you are retiring, go in peace. If you are taking a career break, you need to maintain your professional skills and network, which you can do in two ways.
One is to work 10-12 hours a week through one of the many new businesses that offer highly-skilled professionals part-time work; stay tuned for WorkLife Law’s forthcoming report on New Models of Legal Practice, which gathers together organizations that do this for lawyers. But there are many others for different industries, including Forshay, Mom Corps, and Business Talent Group.
If that’s not possible, then do volunteer work. But not the bake sale: do something where you come into contact with people who might hire you when you return to work. What that might be will vary. You can figure it out; Pamela Stone’s forthcoming book will help.