Ian Lamont’s “In 30 Minutes” series demystifies and simplifies topics that leave non-techies scratching their heads for insight, if not plain old comprehension. Over the past couple of years, he’s published short guides to Dropbox, LinkedIn, Google Drive, Twitter, and Excel, among others, and a few non-techie delights like “Easy Chinese Recipes” and “C. Diff,” (look it up; you don’t want to get it), both generated by his larger network that includes experts on these two topics.
Comes now Melanie Pinola’s contribution to Lamont’s series with “The Successful Virtual Office.” A technology writer with a lot of data to offer, Pinola begins with many footnoted facts, including the Forrester stat claiming that 40% of US workers will work in virtual offices by next year. Only 40%? I’m going out on a very short limb here, feeling quite secure: 100% of American (and global) information workers already are working in virtual offices. Ever since mobile took over the desktop, every knowledge worker with a smart phone has been working virtually—which is why all the big apps for virtual work have migrated to that little device that your spouse/partner/child/parent wishes you would put down long enough to finish your sentence.
Stats aside, this is a thoroughly useful compendium of tips and tools for working virtually with many clever suggestions for how to work more effectively at a distance.
I have but three small nits with this otherwise well-researched potpourri of best practices (Pinola herself has been working virtually for the past two decades and her competence really comes through).
First, Pinola bounces back and forth between sounding as if she’s writing for independent professionals and those who work for companies. The former have great latitude in the software and services they can use for their work; the latter are typically highly constrained as to what their companies’ IT policies permit.
Second, she occasionally misses a key current reality: most large companies’ global workers are precisely that: global. The advice to always maintain some “real-time” communication is laudable but impractical for teams that span the globe; likewise the recommendation to keep everyone’s schedules within a four-hour window so that they overlap work hours is a nonstarter if your team is in the Philippines, California, Europe, and the Middle East. Many are.
And, third, she makes an assertion that, to the best of my knowledge, is not supported by any data: “Virtual workers depend more on email, chat applications, and text-based collaboration software than their counterparts in the office.” Everyone—as in everry single person whether virtual or not—depends on these tools now. What is supportable from a great deal of research is that purely virtual teams are more effective than their face-to-face counterparts.
Once one virtual team member is remote, all members are. Very little work gets done today without virtual teaming, which means there’s a huge market for this helpful book. I picked up a number of pointers in regard to beneficial apps I’d never heard of and you will too.