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Virtual work not suited to all

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The focus in recent times has firmly been on the move towards ‘telework’.

There’s even a dedicated National Telework Week spruiked by the Federal Government and Department of Communications. It is said that teleworking promotes higher workforce participation, and is particularly important for part-time, casual, older, and disabled workers.

The cause was one pushed by former Prime Minister Julia, who committed to enable 12 per cent of federal pubic servants to work from home by 2020 – it currently sits at 4 per cent.

Research by Deloitte revealed that increasing the number of teleworkers could inject an extra 25,000 full-time jobs into the economy – the equivalent of $3.2 billion a year to Australia’s GDP by 2020-21.

Yet while the economic return and benefits to employees who require flexible work options is clear, there are also considerations to be made around suitability for virtual work.

Keith Ferrazzi, CEO of consulting and training company, Ferrazzi Greenlight, believes the skillsets of employees working remotely need to be taken into account if they are to thrive in a telework environment.

What’s more, just the same as with traditional onsite teams, myriad problems can occur when virtual teams are haphazardly thrown together.

Before switching to a telework mode for yourself or your staff consider:

Self-sufficiency: in a telework environment it’s not quite as easy to turn to a co-worker for assistance or a query. It’s important for workers to be able to tolerate ambiguity and have the initiative to solve problems and progress without necessarily having all of the project details.

Communication skills: with a large degree of communication occurring via email and instant messaging, it is paramount that remote workers have the skills to express themselves clearly and concisely, and reply quickly and consistently. Video conferencing can be an important aid in removing communication ambiguity.

Connection: the most effective virtual teams are highly connected, and consist of individuals who can engage with each other easily, as well as self-direct.

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