This Week's Herman Trend Alert

in Normal 2.0


  The Herman Trend Alert

March 16, 2005

The Rise of the Virtual Company

Over the past decade, technology has emerged making the congregate workplace, physical facilities where people come to work, practically obsolete. As more people have shifted their routines to partial or total telecommuting, there are fewer people actually working in the company’s buildings, eliminating face-to- face communication, team meetings, and storage of immediately accessible information.

As this movement toward people working in remote locations continues to evolve, more companies will become partially or wholly virtual. Already today, there are some companies that do not even maintain headquarters offices. People work from their homes—across the country or around the world, connected by cell phones, voice over internet protocol (VOiP), voice and video conference call systems, fax machines, and live video over the internet. Some people never share the same physical space as their co-workers.

The changes in work relationships will contribute to the development of a whole new set of skills for managers, as well as for non-management employees.

Communications and coordination of work can be considerably different when people never really see each other. Performance measurement will be based increasingly on results, rather that hours worked. The new virtual ways of operating will influence employers that do not shift to a virtual design as well.

Virtual corporations will attract a wide range of people, many of whom will be seeking unusual work relationships, a greater sense of freedom and independence, or an ability to integrate their work lives with family responsibilities. People who are self-starters will find virtual work arrangements very comfortable.

Quite a few workers will be reluctant to work in virtual companies, preferring instead to work in congregate workplaces. A growing group of people will find themselves in situations where they interact with virtual workers, often without realizing it.

Young people will be attracted to virtual employment because of the independence and application of technology. Some will have been prepared by taking on-line courses. While they may be highly productive, these workers may not develop the social skills that are inherent in congregate work environments. This new breed of citizens will relate differently to politics, community life, and family.

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