After I had been working virtually for a few months(some time in the middle of last year), I spent some time writing about the pros and cons of telecommuting. I saved the writing as a draft on this blog but never published it.

Now that I am leading my own virtual team, I thought I’d brush off these thoughts, in case they may benefit my team (or others!)

When I stopped working in 2001 after the birth of my first daughter, I had never heard of virtual work. In fact, in my very traditional 9-5 job, we didn’t even really use email yet for business.

When I re-entered the workforce in early 2009, online tools had transformed the world, and I jumped in feet first, learning social media marketing as I developed a blog, Facebook presence, and Twitter following for a university’s marketing department.

As an employee, and now as a business owner and leader of a virtual team,there are many things I love about working virtually:

  • Flexibility. I love the freedom to set my own hours and being able to take a break in the middle of the day to take my girls swimming or to go to a dentist appointment. I love the flexibility of where I can work:  in my home office, or while I sitting in the lobby of my girls’ school. I love working anywhere that I have access to wi-fi and my phone.
  • Autonomy. Although I have deadlines to meet and projects to complete, for the most part, I get to decide how to structure my work. If I feel particularly inspired or creative, I can spend some time writing an article for our upcoming newsletter or a blog post. If not, I can choose another project to work on instead.
  • Being a part of a team. When I decided to work virtually, I chose to work almost exclusively for one organization, as a part of a team, because I enjoy being closely connected to others, working toward shared goals. When I worked at the university, I called in for team meetings each morning at 8:15. As the only virtual team member, I called in and participated in the morning meetings via speakerphone. Those daily calls helped me stay connected to our progress on projects AND helped me feel relationally connected. Now that I am leading a virtual team, I look for ways to help my team stay connected while we build strong and supportive relationships.
  • Being in two worlds at once. I get to be at work and at home all the time. I can listen to my girls play, knowing they are happy with their favorite sitter. I love being here with my girls, available for a hug when they need one.

Here are some things I don’t love:

  • Being in two worlds at once. This one goes on both lists. I sometimes think it would be easier to stay focused if I worked outside my home. I would certainly have fewer interruptions while on the phone. 
  • I’m not THERE. During one of our morning meetings when I worked at the university, everyone laughed at some visual joke. Several of the team members, apparently, all wore orange shirts on the same day. I still don’t know why it was funny. Times like that reminded me that even though I felt a part of the team, I’m wasn’t WITH them. And, when I worked virtually for a leadership consultant, most of the team lived in the Indianapolis area. (But I didn’t) But when they were together — and I wasn’t there — I felt a strong fear of missing out. Now that I am leading my own team, I am working to combat that. In fact, when Carrie visited me on Thursday, we spent a few minutes on Skype with each of the rest of our team members, camera on. Although we were not all together at once, at least each person got a few minutes to join the fun.

As I have shifted from employee to business owner, I’ve discovered more reasons to love working virtual and a few challenges, as well. One hope I have for the near term is to find a way to get my entire team together in one place. I think we’d have an amazing time together!

Tell me something! Do you work virtually? If so, what do you love about working virtually? What challenges do you face?