The idea that virtual workers are somehow limited to those that work from home or who are far-flung from other team members is an archaic idea. Being in an office does not necessarily translate into human interaction. In fact, many workers whose main work location is an office, are often virtual from one another.
Think about it - if you are sitting in front of a screen all day - no matter your location - who are you talking to? On an abstract level, you are talking to another person who resides in front of a screen somewhere else...but that's all you know! In reality, you are talking to a screen. Taken a step further, you are actually talking to yourself, bouncing ideas around inside your head and then, using your own logic filters to select the messages you want to share - like this one for instance.
We don't actually know how a reader reacts. We can only surmise, take a guess, or use past direct experience as a guide. In any case, Virtual Distance will arise - the psychological distance that begins to grow as we rely heavily on electronic communications.
My favorite story is about a large high-tech company in Silicon Valley that mandated all conference call attendees must call in from their own phone. So picture it - you are sitting in an office, with a conference room right down the hall where you and others COULD meet but don't. Instead, you dial into a conference call from the comforts of your own desk. Why? Because management thought it would be more "fair" to those who were far flung. In other words, if everyone were dialing in then no one would feel left out. Now hows that for an odd reasoning pattern. This is not a good solution to something I call Distribution Asymmetry (see Virtual Distance Model for more info). Creating more Virtual Distance among office-bound workers will not bring anyone closer together. It simply sets up a weird dynamic where "in-house" workers feel even more isolated.
So management and leaders beware - if you are trying to solve "virtual work" problems for only those that are geographically separate from who you perceive to be 'traditional' workers you are making a big mistake. To be strategically advantaged and competitively savvy, you must assume that ALL of your workers are virtual and go from there. Reduce Virtual Distance among all. A new day has dawned both inside and outside the office walls. Don't get trapped in your own comfort zone.
Check out the latest article on virtual distance posted here.