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Today’s Virtual Workforce: The Power of Collaboration

Work at Home,

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Once upon a time; people woke up, got dressed, and hurried off to a place called work where they punched in and punched out. Fast-forward to the future…

Today; people wake up, laze about for a bit, eat, forget to brush their teeth or take a bath, and sit to work in a place called home, on a thing called a personal computer. Nice story isn’t it? Although the no brushing or bathing part stinks a bit, but altogether a dream job right?

Well, not really; all in all, it is still work. Back when computers first made their entrance, only IT savvy people used them for more than sending and receiving emails, so they were the first to identify the World Wide Web’s unique use for “business”. Thanks to them, Nigeria acquired an international reputation that the slogan “Good People, Great Nation” has not quite erased.

Thankfully, as time went by, people other than “Yahoo boys” found uses for the internet and now the words “I work online” won’t get you that nasty look. People may be mystified, but they would understand that you are probably doing something legitimate. As more businesses find uses for the web and other technology, it becomes easier to outsource jobs. Employees can now work virtually and it is possible for two people to live next door to each other and work at the same small company and yet never have met in person.

Dreamy as the job sounds, it is not all rosy. For Nigeria, the reliance on internet service that is often erratic makes efficiency difficult. I recall sitting in the office of an internet service provider, waiting for them to fix the problem with my modem, and in the hour I spent there, there was a steady stream of customers coming in to complain about how their work was suffering and how they were losing time, money and patience. Of course, the tirade ended with us all discussing the best network to migrate to. And I do believe many of us made good on that statement. I for one left the network fast; the internet is pertinent to my business success.

Internet woes aside, companies do have rules and regulations that ensure you are not just slacking off, twiddling your thumbs at home. You might have daily targets, or an icon that glows at the head office when you are online, or you may be required to check in hourly, or keep your webcam on. You would definitely be connected to other staff via phone calls, emails, or instant messaging (yahoo messenger, blackberry messenger, Google talk, or some other dedicated IM for the office). It all depends on the job you do and the requirements of your office.

Virtual workers make it easier for business owners to maintain small offices and still do big business. Employers’ benefits include low overhead costs, low costs for long term fixed assets, and near zero depreciation on equipment used by virtual workers.

With flexible hours for employees and reduced costs for employers; virtual employment is a clear advantage for businesses that do not need the physical presence of the staff. There is a large market of well educated, tech savvy, unemployed people desirous of working from home; all they need is the opportunity to prove their mettle. This is what America realised when they started outsourcing a lot of their work to India.

Why not conduct an analysis of your business and find out if it would benefit from employing some virtual staff?

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Chojare Pamela Agboga is a Legal Practitioner, Writer, Editor, Chartered Secretary and Administrator. She is currently working on her first novel 'Weekends are for Loving' as well as a devotional for women.

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