Virtual workplace

A virtual workplace is a workplace that is not located in any one physical space. Rather, several workplaces are technologically connected (via the Internet) without regard to geographic boundaries. Employees are thus able to interact and work with one another in a collaborated environment regardless of where they are in the world. A virtual workplace decreases unnecessary costs by integrating technology processes, people processes, and online processes.

History

With information technology playing a greater role in the daily operations of organizations today, virtual workplaces are beginning to replace the traditional office environment of cubicles and office buildings. International organizations have seen a significant increase in business in the past decade due to the globalization and widespread use of technology. By 2008, it is estimated that 41 million corporate employees worldwide will work at least one day per week virtually. As well, 65% of virtual team members have said they have never been involved in an effective team-building meeting, and 36% of the team members had never met their coworkers face-to-face.

Types of Virtual Workplaces

Individual virtual workplaces vary in how they apply existing technology to facilitate team cooperation. Three popular approaches are:

1. Telecommuting: the availability and use of communications technologies, such as the internet, to work in an offsite location.

2. Hot desk environment: Employees are not given individual desks; rather each day employees are allocated to a desk where they can access the internet, email and computer network files. This is similar to hotelling: recognizing that employees spend more time at the clients' office rather than at the employer's office, employees are not assigned a permanent desk.

3. Virtual team: the collaboration of employees working closely together and in constant contact but are physically located in different parts of the world.

Benefits of Virtual Workplaces

Virtual workplaces are advantageous in an information age where technology is expanding rapidly and a consumer need is to be met across the world. A virtual workplace enables individuals to work from anyplace at anytime in the world. This is convenient to not only for the employee, but the consumer as well. It fits the need of excellent and timely customer service for an international organization.

The most persuasive argument for any organization is that concerning costs. Virtual workplaces streamline systems from multiple facets of work into a single unified unit easily accessible by both the consumer and the employee. Decreasing costs as well as increasing efficiency, due to the single system, is an instantaneous advantage. A virtual workplace is easier for employees because of business traveling, consolidates services, and assists in the communication processes. A few examples of costs saved by IBM clients' virtual workplace implementation are:

* A global technology organization reported savings of $54 million in the first year of integrating the virtual workplace into the organization

* An international financial organization estimated savings of over €270 million within 5 years

Productivity is crucial to any organization. With the implementation of a virtual workplace, productivity is increased immensely. This is because employees’ are more focused with business related projects with only one system to overview. Also, collaborating with team members is made easy with a virtual workplace. The world is literally at your fingertips. With the speed of the internet, projects can be completed with increased speed and effectiveness resulting in saved time. Most importantly, the needs of the consumers are being met with a virtual workplace in that it is more convenient for employees to access organizations.

Virtual workplaces allow a company to reach more of its employees via [http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobatconnect/ meeting workspaces] and virtual training sessions. A company may choose to send only a handful of regional managers to a conference it sponsors annually to receive training in a new product. it may then rely on the managers to pass that knowledge on to its employees. Having a virtual training session saves a company money, not only the cost of travel where only a small handful of its employees receive proper training, but in the long run where all of its employees can receive the proper training and be more productive with a sharper learning curve.

Challenges of Virtual Workplaces

There are many challenges associated with the implementation of virtual workplaces, and if not carefully analyzed, organizations can be threatened by not fully realizing the enormous benefits that can be achieved through virtual workplaces. Some common challenges are:

1. Failure to leverage the technology that supports virtual workplaces resulting in decrease in productivity

2. Lack of human contact could cause decreased team spirit, trust and productivity

3. Increased sensitivity to communication, interpersonal and cultural factors

All of these challenges can be overcome by recognizing the issue and finding the appropriate solution. For example, many of these challenges can be overcome by having good leadership applied in the virtual workplace. Good workplace leadership has been said to increase the probability of success in virtual workplaces and within virtual teams.

Grupo Siro Case Example

Grupo Siro is a Spanish food manufacturer headquartered in central Spain. The organization was in need of condensing their multiple systems into a core unit used by the company. To increase company efficiency Grupo Siro implemented a virtual workplace with the help of IBM. The use of one integrated system facilitated a more efficient and effective system for the organization. The implementation of a virtual workplace enables Grupo Siro to anticipate 100% return on investment in less than 2 years, higher employee productivity and increased responsiveness to customers.

See Also

Telecommuting

References

•Dempster, Mike. "Team - Building key for virtual workplace ["http://www.businessedge.ca/article.cfm/newsID/10076.cfm] Retrieved on June 26, 2006

•Powell, Anne. "Virtual Teams - A review of current literature and directions for future research. ["http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=968464.968467] Retrieved on June 26, 2006

•Yager, Susan. "Everything's coming up virtual. ["http://www.acm.org/crossroads/xrds4-1/organ.html] Retrieved on June 26,2006

•Greenlee, Dana. "Building a community in the virtual workplace. ["http://www.homebusinessjournal.net/a/virtual-workplace.asp] Retrieved on June 26, 2006

•Stephen Haag, Maeve Cummings, Donald McCubbrey, Alain Pinsonneault and Richard Donovan Third Canadian Edition Management Information Systems for the Information Age Mcgraw-Hill Ryerson, Canada, 2006


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