First, breaking news. So pumped to be going to the #EIF2014 Meeting in Dublin, Ireland in two weeks. Can’t wait to learn about the European Insurance scene! I’m also trying to organize a Tweetup in London the day before. #LondonInsTweetup14 (Btw, thankful for understanding how to leverage the concept I teach called Rivers of Information. I’ll tell ya! UBER useful when you have to learn about something fast.)

Also, I greatly appreciated the previous comments last time on the question about a future shift away from internal email and onto Internal Collaborative (i.e. Social) Networks. Great takes. Thank SO much.

WebWisedom-Social-Tech-Boot-Camp "Before" Shot

Empty Meeting Room
Where are all the people? Online.

Virtualization and Social Business. Is there a connection? You bet there is. I’m no expert on virtual meeting tools, but certainly Social Tech tools like Jive Software and Google Hangouts, to name a couple, are making virtual meeting spaces possible. Private and public, ubiquitous Wi-Fi networks, paperless environments, Smartphones, uber effective and reliable laptops, and so many more technologies are known to actually facilitate INCREASES in productivity and job satisfaction when people work virtually. We see it all the time in crisis situations – natural disasters, power-failures, terrorist attacks, deaths in the family, illnesses, sick children, the list goes on and on when we have an epiphery, as Michael Scott said. “Wow, I got a lot done today working from home! Awesome! I gotta do this more often!” 

The more I work from home and speak with others that work from home, the more convinced I am that virtualization is a wave of the future. But what do YOU think? Please share your thoughts on this sometimes hotly-contested subject.

In the future, will more people work from home? Will we see less people clog the highways around cities in a crunch to ‘get to the office’ and then ‘get home’? Will more meetings be held virtually using free video conferencing tools like Google Hangout? Heck, because of Internal Collaborative Networks, as a couple folks mentioned in the last discussion regarding the email deluge many suffer from, will there be LESS meetings in the future?

I know there are plenty of leaders and managers who adamantly believe that unless workers ‘show up for work’ they will take advantage, goof off, and be generally less productive. Note the famous Yahoo CEO story about physical presence at the office. But I also know that there are huge productivity wasters AT the office as well.

Many have also commented that being around people satisfies their need for human contact. Working from home is lonely, boring, depressing, distracting, etc. I think one of the issues there is a ‘creature of habit’ generational issue. Often times, when you FIRST work at home after years of working in an office, the isolation can be a bit daunting and unnerving. This concept reminds me of the scene in “What about Bob” where Bob is walking down the dirt road after leaving Dr. Marvin’s house at Lake Winnipesaukee on his prescribed ‘vacation from my problems’ – “There’s nobody HERE!” But in all seriousness, what I have found is that once you get used to the idea of working from home, once you get into a rhythm and a pattern, like anything else, those early, purely environmental struggles fade away. And, btw, it will never be 100% virtual either, right? There will always be meetings to attend in person, video-based meetings via Google Hangout, Skype, and other such tools, visits with clients, opportunities to work with friends and colleagues at Starbucks, etc.

Starbucks Meetup near Boston c. 2010

Starbucks Meetup near Boston c. 2010

No doubt, “working virtually” and “work-at-home” has an infinite number of definitions, from an actual home office, to working out of coffee shops, to working at business partner locations that have open cubes and desks. Heck! Back in the early 90’s when I had a territory in Phoenix for ADP, I routinely spent part of every day, literally every day, stopping in at bank branches we had relationships with, and using one of their open desks to make calls from for an hour or so. (That was a brilliant sales strategy, by the way, that my old boss trained me on. But that’s another story.)

No doubt, suitability depends on the individual’s capacity for accountability and self-discipline, the relative peace and calm of their environment (or the lack there-of), kids, spouses, neighbors, etc. Those are all factors in the “working virtual” decision. But I will make a case that there are a TON of issues working against productivity IN the office as well. If you work out of an office now, I’ll challenge you to keep track for a day or a week. See just how often you or those around you get interrupted, side-tracked, or hijacked by co-workers. I’d estimate that there’s at least a 10-25% productivity drain from that stuff, depending on how bad it is. Add in the actual commute time – I heard someone recently say THREE HOURS, ONE  WAY in the NY Metro area, seriously. And then add in the fact that, because of all of THAT, people have NO desire to actually do any work from home, if nothing else, on PRINCIPLE. And so because of that, moments of creative brilliance that often happen only OUTSIDE of work are just simply GONE, cut-off, silenced and thus never see the light of day once that employee gets back to ‘the office’. (Thought bubble sitting at your desk: “Oh, what was that idea I had last night? Rats – I lost it. Whatever. It probably would have got shot down anyway…”

But enough of my thoughts. Let’s here from you.

Key Question:

Will we see more or less virtualization of employees in the years ahead? Why? And what should we be doing today to either prepare for or prevent virtualization?

Again, it would be good to craft your thought separately before reading the comments so that you don’t lose your original thoughts.

Thanks in advance. And thanks again for those that commented last time.