We’ve been working on new guidelines for employees and their managers who work remotely, whether full-time or part-time. Like many high-tech firms, we employ growing numbers of professional services staff who travel the country, working mainly from customer locations. We also have a lot of highly-talented people who, for various reasons, would prefer to work from home at certain stages of their lives. Whether it’s because of the effects of long commutes on their lifestyle and the environment, or the need to be close to a child during its formative years, or the need to support an ailing spouse or parent, these employees need our support to create effective work environments away from the office.
We provide great network connectivity for remote workers. They have access to all business functionality, including our corporate IM system, our Documentum eRoom collaboration tools and our social networking platform. They use landlines and cellular phones for voice communication since we can’t yet justify running our own VoIP network, with all of its associated security concerns.
Virtual worlds could enrich the daily work of employees in a variety of ways:
- by making meetings more engaging than is possible through 2-D web conferencing solutions
- by creating a sense of a workplace separate from the employee’s home environment, helping to focus the employee on the tasks at hand
- by creating places for real-time collaboration with other employees
- by creating a workplace that can be seen from afar, reducing the likelihood that the remote employees will be “out of sight, out of mind”
- by creating places for remote workers and their office-bound colleagues to hang out with each other over lunch, after work, or after long meetings
In the following posts I plan to examine what can be done in Second Life and its clones to support real enterprise work now or in the near future. In the meantime, check out Ian Hughes’ thoughtful posting on his model for describing business interaction in the metaverse in the dimensions of instrumentation, communication and expressiveness. I think he’s onto something here, though I feel that his communication and expressiveness dimensions are not independent. I think that what he lumps into the experience of expressiveness is more akin to an anthropocentric delight in dealing with something that isn’t an collection of abstract, object-oriented metaphors for office work.