By Deborah Rothberg  |  Posted 2006-05-05 Print this article Print

Meanwhile, some of the most difficult parts of working full-time outside a company office are social disconnection, managing remote employees, and the difficulty maintaining the line between work and leisure time, said the managers. "The hardest part is the lack of human interaction," said Watson. "While its easier to get things done during the day—like errands, or doctors appointments—from the home rather than a corporate office, I probably do more evening work than I otherwise would."
"As humans, we like to see each other. Its very easy to get annoyed at someone remotely. If theyre next to you, you can yell at them and get over it. On the phone, it takes longer," said Turner.
"You lose a little in the face-to-face oversight of people. Its common to have misinterpreted conversations because you are not in the same room. You miss the sensitivity you have in face-to-face interactions." Bosses at virtual companies face their own set of challenges, too. "Its hard to gauge how happy someone is. Someone might tell you theyre leaving for another company without you having noticed the signs they were unhappy," said Gaebler. In addition, employees need to have sets of skills not required in corporate offices. "You also hire people who you think might be productive in that environment and it turns out its not for them. Some have much higher social needs than others." Working from a home environment, especially a home shared with children and pets entails no shortage of potential distractions, something each company addresses differently. Click here to read more about a gadget that merges telecommuting and tunes. Many expect their employees to address these distractions on their own, only concerned if the employee is not getting their work done on time. "There are distractions from dogs to chores to kids, but you get used to it over time, and learn to adjust," Zbar said. "We let them figure this stuff out on their own," said Gaebler of his more hands-off approach. "We expect people to work an eight-hour day, but we give them flexibility as to how they put that time in." Yet other companies are fairly strict about employees use of their work hours. At PerkettPR, employees with children are expected to have full-time day care or a nanny. They are also expected to have set work hours, choosing between an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. schedule. They also offer plenty of advice to their employees. "We suggest a door to your office, a mute button on your phone, and a comfortable chair." But despite the difficulties of virtual work, virtual employees all agreed that they feel they have a freedom in being able to work in a way that fits their lifestyle. Mosley speaks about finding remote employees, some of the best in the field that may not have local opportunities. "Weve got really talented, smart people who are the best at what they do from the Boston area to New Hampshire to San Francisco. There arent a lot of great PR opportunities in New Hampshire, so working virtually is an excellent opportunity for them." "There are more fluffy perks, too, such as not having to dress up for a client meeting or day in the office. In addition, it satisfies your inner workaholic because you get back those hours youd spend commuting." Mosley added, "I work with better people now than I did when I worked at an organization with more than 100 people." Gaebler calls his virtual office "a superior way to do business." "Its easier to set up a new employee, we have lower overhead, and it allows us to tap into talent in other geographies," he said. "The best part is the freedom to make your own schedule. Nobody tells you how to structure your day. While you have to be really disciplined in the work you do, its easier because you also love your job more," said Samantha Morris, an affiliate program director at Partner Centric, who left her job at the Gap to work virtually. Turner is probably the most idealistic about running his own company. "Whenever we get someone who can work from home, I feel like were changing the world. Were giving them some of their time back to them, and to their families." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on IT management from CIOInsight.com.


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