Blog - Future of Work

Do You Fear “Slacker Telecommuters?” Rethink Your Virtual Work Strategy


All the conversation around Yahoo’s return to the old-fashioned way of working in an office is enough to make one consider how the telecommuting workforce in your company is performing. After all, out of sight means they can do what they want, when they want.

As we discussed in our previous blog post on Virtualpreneurs™, it’s not where they work but who you hire. But even the most dedicated, professionally mature individual will struggle without the correct virtual infrastructure. Before considering a radical, and potentially costly, move of returning your entire workforce to a cube, evaluate your virtual work strategy.

A corollary to the New World of Work is the new world of management. If you want to take advantage of the fractionalized work and global talent reach afforded by this new world of work, it is time to rethink your internal processes – both technical and managerial.

Step 1 – Set Up the Virtual Management Team

The most effective virtual workforces are combined as a cohesive unit. Rather than have a single individual or even small team that manages technology, think about the type of internal resources the virtual team needs. For example, consider assembling an outsource liaison team consisting of key people who have major impact over the virtual environment, including:

  • Technology management
  • Project management
  • Program management

Step 2 – Outline Appropriate Roles

These people, or teams depending upon the size of the virtual team supported, focus on creating a positive virtual environment that encompasses the technology needed to be productive, project management to stay on task and program management to ensure alignment with company goals. Each role has specific tasks to ensure the virtual environment is friendly, easy to use and effective.

  • Technology Management – Network security – to ensure that corporate data remains safe and still provide appropriate access for virtualpreneurs and freelancers requires a rethinking of the network hierarchy and security. Identify the appropriate levels of access and determine the best means to secure each level. For example, a freelancer performing a small task for a project, say a logo design, would get basic access to the team in order to learn the information required to best perform her job. However, an organization that brings a multiple set of freelancers to perform ongoing tasks for a longer term will receive a higher access level. By creating DMZ networks and specialized extranets, companies can ensure that their data remains secure while still allowing for appropriate access to those working virtually. The technology has matured to the point that even smart devices can be rendered secure with the appropriate software, so maintaining data security is no longer a problem.

Another important role for the technology management team is to design or acquire cloud technology that supports collaboration, communication and effective interaction. Virtual teams can easily work together with the right technology in place.

  • Project Management – making sure deadlines are met, benchmarks are kept and teams are on track are still important roles of the project management team. However, project managers will now ensure that the work happens across multiple vendors, varied time zones and more aggressive time lines. This role will become bigger as managing the project will also encompass creating a friendly virtual environment where contractors and employees can seamlessly collaborate on deliverables.
  • Program Management – to coordinate all projects tied to a specific initiative will still be the role of a program manager. However, now this person must ensure that the virtual environment meets the needs of business objectives, and think more strategically on how to keep all the projects aligned. This person or team will also provide feedback through project managers regarding performance, continuing to build a strong alliance with various contractors and freelancers so that a long-standing team can remain in place throughout various projects.

The reality is that this team will create an environment that is friendly for the new world of work contractors.

Step 3 – Revise Your Thinking

To embrace the new world of work requires a fundamental shift at the top. Contractors are not to be used and thrown out. Now they will be an integral part of a major deliverable and will need to be provided an environment in which they can thrive.

The trick is to create this environment without crossing the lines of contractor versus employee. By creating a specialized team with the primary role of serving the contractor and virtualpreneur community, your organization will create a friendly, effective, productive environment that rewards these high-producers with what they want most – freedom and to be taken seriously.

Developing a solid virtual strategy ensures consistent productivity, less interruptions and high levels of service. It also provides companies who embrace this strategy with a strong competitive advantage. So, to make telecommuters, virtual workers and contractors truly effective, rethink your virtual work strategy. Don’t send them back to the cube.


For more tips on making the most of the new world of work, visit Learn more about our new book, The New World of Work: From Cube to the Cloud.