A little over a decade ago, the remote workforce was dominated by people in outside sales roles. They came into the office on occasion for meetings or, if they were local, to load up on marketing brochures and office supplies. But for the most part, they were out of sight.
They certainly weren’t out of mind.
I can still distinctly remember the comments around the office: Are they really working? He probably spends half the day watching TV and running errands. She’s never there when I call—who knows what she does all day.
Of course, today’s virtual workforce is no longer limited to sales roles. According to the latest research from GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, 3.7 million employees now work from home at least half the time, and since 2005, the regular work-at-home population (not including the self-employed) has grown 103%.
But just because more employees and teams are working virtually, it doesn’t mean we’ve solved those age-old trust issues. In fact, with the rise of virtual teams, we’ve seen new challenges, from miscommunications and conflict to questions about accountability to a feeling of disconnect and detachment from each other and the team’s common purpose.
The news isn’t all bad. When the conditions are right, virtual teams can be more productive and more engaged than those who work together in the same office every day. The key is to make sure you have those right conditions in place.