I just finished year one of my Strategic Design and Management Masters in New York. I'm also working at Aasman Brand Communications in Whitehorse. And I'm living in Vancouver.

Say what? That's right—I function in three places at once right now!

The virtual office, remote work, telecommuting—call it what you will—is a growing trend in the private sector. Not surprisingly, it was also a subject I studied last semester.  

I learned that the makers of WordPress websites have over 230 employees working all over the globe. They also have amazing job titles like Happiness Engineers, but that's another story. 

Today I'm going to discuss what I feel are the top three pros and cons of having remote team members:

PROS

1. New influences and ideas
Having team members in far flung places means an organization's capacity for innovation is greater on account of the wider pool of inspiration.

2. A larger talent pool
Whitehorse is a great example of a city that stands to benefit from this exciting trend. I once interviewed a hopeful aasmanite from Toronto who said she loved shopping malls—no matter how talented she was, it wasn't going to be good fit for her to move to Whitehorse, but times are changing.  

3. Time zones can work to your advantage
With more people working more of the time, you can plan for part of the team to get a head start or a later finish—passing a project back and forth and making the most of the day (wherever your day may be).

CONS

1. Communication takes time! 
Clearly written emails go a long way, but explanations aren't as easy without body language and the third dimension. There are great online tools for brainstorming and meetings which help, and video conferencing is a surprising must-have. Taking the time to use those tools frequently can make or break a team dynamic.

2. People can overlook you
Speaking of communication—it's easy to not answer a phone or forget to turn on Skype. Working remotely is a commitment from both sides that requires supporting each other.

3. Time zones can be a nightmare 
Waiting for your team members to wake up is tough. So is hearing the phone ring at midnight. Scheduling meetings is confusing and making sure computer setting understand time differences is really important. 

Most of the cons strike me as growing pains of a growing trend. The list of values that remote team members can bring extends far beyond the three above. If you're interested in hearing more about virtual workplaces, let me know! There's a lot to cover and I'd love to chat about it via Skype, Google+, email, text or on the phone from wherever you are!

 

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