A virtual workplace is a workplace that is not located in any one physical space. It is usually a network of several workplaces technologically connected (via a private network or the Internet) without regard to geographic boundaries. Employees are thus able to interact in a collaborative working environment regardless of where they are located. A virtual workplace integrates hardware, people, and online processes.
As information technology began to play a greater role in the daily operations of organizations, virtual workplaces developed as an augmentation or alternative to traditional work environments of rooms, cubicles and office buildings.
Individual virtual workplaces vary in how they apply existing technology to facilitate team cooperation:
1. Remote work: the availability and use of communications technologies, such as the Internet, to work in an offsite location.
2. Hot desking: employees do not have individual desks but are rather each day allocated to a desk where they can access technology services including the Internet, email and computer network files. This is similar to "hotelling": recognizing that employees spend more time at clients' offices than at the employer's office, they are not assigned a permanent desk.
3. Virtual team: employees collaborate by working closely together and in regular contact, although physically located in different parts of the world.
There are several factors that drive the interest in using virtual workplaces.
Office space has become a major expense for many organisations, and virtual meetings can save money and be a direct substitute of meeting face to face. One response has been to reduce the amount of space each employee occupies. Another is to increase the flexibility of the office's layout and design. It is not easy to make the most of these approaches and keep employees happy—unless flexible work practices are also used.
There are more women in the workforce, more employees of other nationalities, increased participation from indigenous people and the average age of employees is increasing. These trends are forcing employers to rethink how they employ and manage staff and how they respond to employee interests and demands.
The expenses of the energy consumption to physically commute are increasing rapidly. Planners and public policymakers share a strong belief that remote work with a virtual workspace is one of the most sustainable and competitive modes of commuting in terms of travel time and cost, flexibility, and environmental impacts.
Some common challenges are: