Virtual Workforces Provide Solutions to Typical Telework Challenges


Even the Government of Canada supports a virtual workforce; of course, they call it teleworking. In a 2007 study, they looked at the benefits and challenges of having employees work remotely. Benefits gathered from a corporate employee study included:

  • Productivity has increased by an estimated 15% among teleworkers, with 94% of them reporting 15% to 20% greater productivity.
  • Teleworkers report that they are 11% more satisfied than the overall employee population.
  • Each teleworker saves the company about US$9,000 annually in real estate costs.

Some of the challenges included:

  • Setup costs
  • Employee health and safety
  • Labour agreements

According to the report, “Telework is supported and encouraged by all levels of government and by many stakeholders in the transportation, environmental, technology and business sectors. It has numerous potential benefits, with those related to the environment and emergency preparedness rapidly growing in importance. Telework offers few challenges that cannot be addressed through appropriate planning and implementation strategies.”

While I’m not taking the position that “if the Government thinks it’s a good idea, then it must be” it does seem that the private sector is beginning to more openly embrace the benefits of having business services provided by off-site workers. Once an affordable solution for small entrepreneurial home-based business owners, the popularity of virtual workers, virtual assistants, virtual office mangers and virtual professionals is expanding to SMB’s as well as some larger companies including Crayon, Accenture, and IBM [http://bit.ly/asf0ni]

What I do get excited about, is how our approach addresses most of the challenges [http://bit.ly/9rPXJw] faced when implementing a telework system. Contracted workers are business owners themselves and do not require benefits, union involvement (no, I’m not anti-union either, it’s just a reality of some employee situations), set up costs or ongoing training and support. Virtual contract workers generally benefit from diversified streams of revenue from multiple clients putting less pressure on companies to retain full time employment during unexpected or seasonal changes in work loads.

In my experience, contract work used to be seen as unreliable and inconsistent, but especially with the current state of the economy, both companies and virtual workers are able to tap into a more flexible, efficient and cost-effective method of work.

While brick and mortar corporate structures are the way it’s been done for decades, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the way it should always be done.

I’ll be expanding on the benefits and challenges in further posts to help inform and educate through my 2010 Virtual Workforce series – next I’ll be discussing the environmental benefits of a virtual workforce.

I welcome all comments and questions.

Have a great week everyone; thanks for checking in!

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Comments
One Response to “Virtual Workforces Provide Solutions to Typical Telework Challenges”
  1. Dana Jarvis says:

    Hi Karen.

    You said, “Telework offers few challenges that cannot be addressed through appropriate planning and implementation strategies.” I agree and would add one more piece. Virtual teams is not “Rocket Science”, it is “People Science”. Based on the research, 50-70% of virtual teams fail (percent varies depending on country, projects, business and culture). There is a great opportunity for virtual teams to improve. The major challenges seems to be the around managing people. The human element is all about the connection team members make working in a virtual environment. Thank-you for stimulating our thought.

    Dana E. Jarvis, MPA, MSW
    Author of 7 Essentials for Managing Virtual Teams

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