Is Virtual Work Dehumanizing?

It used to be that we all went to seminars, held at a given place, day and time. We met new people, chatted during coffee breaks and exchanged business cards. And sometimes we went home asking ourselves was it worth the time and money spent. Sometimes it wasn’t.Today, we’re attending webinars. From home, the workplace, from anywhere. OK, we may miss the coffee and the chats, but we’re saving a bundle in time and expenses. And we’re getting something almost impossible to obtain before: Diversity and Quick Results.

This was demonstrated at a webinar on Human Communication in a Virtual Environment I recently had the opportunity to attend. It was set up by an international organization headquartered in the U.S., which announced it just a few weeks before it was held. This would have taken months for a seminar.

Close to 500 people attended, About 50 came from Europe and about the same number from Asia. A few came from Latin America and the rest from the U.S. Granted, the number of attendees would have been smaller in the case of a flesh-and-bone-meeting. Even then the expenses and the time investment would have been horrendous. In this case, there was none of that and the organization had more attendees and a higher diversity of nationalities.

Of the audience, about one firth each was working up to 20%, 40%, 60%, 80% and 100% virtually. Even though they may not be scientifically accurate, these figures give you a good idea of the state of virtual working. Payoff: quick survey results.

Since the webinar was addressing an international audience, it was held in English. Of those attending, 60% indicated English as their mother tongue.

The webinar was held with a “collaborative tool” where the screen of your computer displayed  pages commented by the presenter. On the right of the screen you saw a chat window where participants could type in questions and comments. Although it worked well and the presenter answered questions. a majority of the participants indicated a preference for a voice-active tool making true verbal two-way communication possible. Payoff: instant feedback.

Virtual Working offers dramatic savings. Is it dehumanizing? No. People are too smart, they will find other ways to cultivate the human element.  Is it just a fad, will we go back to seminars? No. there’s too much of a pressure to increase the efficiency of the workplace. Virtual working opens the door to higher efficiency and greater savings.

As a side note, the presenter of this webinar was Dr Deasún Ó Conchúir, who ran it from his office in Switzerland. For more on the subject of Virtual Working and Communication in a Virtual Environment, contact Scatterwork.

Thank you for your interest in reading this blog. 

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