Work expectations/behaviors of the ideal virtual employee

  • Image from the Morguefile
  • Are you a self-starter, a life-long learner?
  • Do you find yourself researching and looking up answers to questions on your own?
  • Can you effectively connect and communicate via e-mail, chat and phone?
  • Do you have exceptional written communication skills?
  • Can you work with out tons of positive reinforcement or those ‘pats on the back?’
  • Can you set your own reasonable timetables for getting your work done and then meet them consistently?

If you’ve answered yes to all or most of these questions, you’d probably make an ideal virtual employee.

When I tell people I work from home 100%, I usually get one of two responses.

“That’s great! You get to work in your pajamas!”

or…

“Work must be a cakewalk for you.”

Of course, I try to explain to them that it’s not that simple. It still astounds me that people have those preconceptions that working from home means 1.) You get to do what you want and 2.)You don’t have to do much work. In my own experience, neither of these two notions is true of working from home.

To be honest, after the first six months of working from home I seriously questioned whether or not I was the right person for this job. There were things I horribly missed: making connections with workmates when you work in an office. Informal coffee break talks, lunches, impromptu meetings at the whiteboard to explain or get some validation on a concept.

Working from home and working alone, I found myself having regular conversations with my dogs. At least they were happy because they now had a human being in the house with them twenty-four-seven.  In the end, I found that I needed to join extracurricular social groups outside of work or make sure I pencilled in lunches with former coworkers and current friends into my schedule.

More, I don’t really get to “do only what I want” when I work from home.  I realized early on, that I had to set my own project schedule and milestone deadlines and meet them. With virtual employment, gone are the days when the boss sits in an elevated place where they can see what all their employees are doing. The virtual boss needs to trust his or her employees to get the job done. Reciprocally, the virtual employee needs to constantly deliver the products and services that make his group and company successful.

Setting these self goals for success is not the only challenge I face as a virtual employee. As my work now takes place in my home environment, I have to discipline myself to separate both of these worlds. I set boundaries. Work takes place in the room that is my ‘office.’ I stop work at exactly 5:00. I must set up  rituals and practices that enforce the law of separation of work and home life… otherwise I face the danger of work enveloping it all.

Working from home 100% of the time is not the simple cake walk some people make it to be. And oh, I haven’t noted the challenge that those of us face who work from home with other family members including children at home.

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3 Responses to “Work expectations/behaviors of the ideal virtual employee”


  1. 1 jltitus November 28, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Great post! I think another challenge working at home is figuring out how to stay “connected” with your colleagues. When you work in an office it’s much easier to have water cooler talk. It’s very hard to have similar discussions and connections when you work from home.

    Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

  2. 2 hemiwaerea January 8, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    i so hear you on this one. i too work at home and my whanau and friends think thats an open invitation for them to come and sit and drink numerous cups of teas, eat and watch movies because im not working or i would be at the ‘office’. they just dont get the notion that my laptop is my office and home is my office space 90% of the time….lols.

  3. 3 nkilkenny January 8, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    I like how my family thinks they can just come over and I’ll be free to have lunch or run an errand with them. My Dad doesn’t get it. He keeps asking… “So how do they know that you’re working.” I reply, “Because I get my work done.” I think they’re part of that generation that still thinks that the boss-man has to sit on a desk on a platform to make sure that he sees everyone working… typing, busy-busy.


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