Introduction: Ready, Set, Get Virtual 3 Unavailability feels disloyal as we have become “people on call” for others. Even the sensory experience of having a phone in hand, with haptic-feel responses to pressing on the screen or the vibration against the skin, creates an addictive interdependency. Just as we can toggle on and off notifications and settings on our devices, to work well remotely we also need the power to manage our work tasks and interactions online. As we increasingly move to remote work, we can and should rethink the need for constant coordination.7 Placing a higher pre- mium on asynchronous work and reserving real-time interaction for those elements that require it is one path forward. This may also require breaking work into smaller subunits, much as an online class may break lectures into smaller bites. Working from home often means an interweaving of work and home lives, complete with ever-shorter blocks of time between these dispa- rate roles and tasks—you may be Mom one minute and CFO the next. Some- times the tech itself tries to match our new schedules, as with the apps that allow for only limited segments of text or video at a time. But it’s not just the capabilities of the technology that need to advance to work effectively from afar, nor the abilities of people to master them. It’s also the nature of work itself, of human cognition and attention, and of motivation and inspiration that need our deep understanding. Like it or not, technology has changed the way we work forever. And to be able to do so successfully from a distance, we need to explore everything— both minor and major—anew, as we shift our tasks and interactions online. Virtual Intelligence What makes you a good employee and teammate? Ideally, you want to be a self-manager with strong technical, communication, and intercultural chops, while at the same time being trustworthy and trusting, and of course proactive.8 It would also be great to be persistent, willing to learn, creative, independent, assertive . . . the list goes on and on. But which skills are essen- tial in the virtual setting? The following questions give a sense of what effec- tive virtual employees ask themselves to stay on track:9 What should I be doing? Recognizing what needs to be done and main- taining focus is more complicated than it seems. Especially in virtual work, distractions are plentiful. We don’t have the advantages of face-to-face con- versations, but we do have social media to check (without anyone noticing), not to mention a fully stocked fridge in the next room. Being able to filter out extraneous stimuli is an ongoing challenge. Even when you are paying attention to work, when you’re not there, it’s harder to know exactly what tasks should be done, and when and how, without the informal check-ins that come with office life.
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