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What a Virtualized Workforce Means for the American Economy, Part 2

09/18/2012

Virtualized Workforce

Last week I wrote about some of the possible negative effects that a virtualized workforce might have on the American economy. It’s not all going to be wine and roses, and we shouldn’t expect it to be. Revolutions are exhilarating and inspiring to be a part of, but any kind of change – even a transformative one, the kind that practically explodes with innovation – is disruptive.

America, however, has always thrived amid change. Our country was founded in the wake of a revolution, the ripple effects of which also led to the eventual downfall of Old World empires. The New World of Work is another kind of revolution, one that will overturn old paradigms about work and our individual relationships with it.

The benefits are numerous, including:

  • Long the dream of many working women and, now, many men as well, the so-called “work-life balance” can finally be achieved in a world where work is no longer required to be performed within a fixed location and timeframe. Studies have shown that providing workers with greater autonomy increases their job satisfaction as well as their productivity and performance.
  • Virtual workers can focus their talent and creativity on doing work that fulfills them, without having to fill in the yawning gaps in between with pointless, unproductive meetings, office gossip, office politics, or commuting time. Instead, they can pour their creative energies into their work with little or no distractions. The disappearance of the long, unproductive commute alone will save the American economy hundreds of millions of dollars in energy, healthcare and loss of productivity costs that result from traffic accidents.

Companies can now select from literally a global pool of talent to fulfill their needs rather than be restricted to the immediate geographic area around their HQ. That means a highly skilled writer or accountant in Bellingham, Washington, can find steady, well-paying, interesting work that utilize his talent, even if local companies aren’t hiring.

Conclusions

The growing trend in hiring remote workers will have significant effects on the American economy – some good, some not so much. What is clear, however, is that as the American workforce will become more, not less, virtual over time as companies seek to become more efficient and flexible in order to meet the demands of a globalized economy, and as workers themselves demand that the work they do fit into their increasingly complex lives, not the other way around.

What are your thoughts on this timely issue? What trends are you seeing in your own company, or industry, that speak to the virtual workforce phenomenon?

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