Work is built on integrated networks, technology platforms that structure the way we work, connect, and communicate. It is no longer necessary to go to a place to perform basic functions – buy, sell, train, collaborate, or recruit. Today, organizations distribute information through knowledge-sharing networks. Virtuality gives organizations the agility to increase speed, expand expertise, and access strategic opportunities to better meet customer demands—with less expense.

Red Thread, a leader in creating innovative physical office environments, recently launched a beautifully designed virtual environment for its own employees using the Jive Interactive Intranet solution. This new digital workplace has fostered stronger connections between employees, increased strategic alignment, and enhanced project collaboration. This is a company whose mission is to adapt physical work environments. Their leadership recognized that an effective team needs physical and virtual space for collaboration.

The network also brings together the operational processes to connect the organization’s network of teams. I operationally share folders with multiple teams through Dropbox, the company that made team file syncing easy. Aditya Agarwal, Dropbox’s CTO, shared its expanded mission – today they’re in the business of syncing people, not files.

They promise to keep teams literally on the same page. Drew Houston, Dropbox’s co-founder and CEO, describes their SmartSync initiative as a “unique way to unite two realms” of the team’s work day. One realm is the “File world” – the drives and directories where our work products and documents live. The other realm is the “cloud world” – the networked environment where teams communicate and collaborate. In other words, the network is the place for file storage, communication, and together, knowledge-sharing. These two worlds are coming together.

The network is the workplace

Work (And How We Are Compensated for It) Has Changed

The nature of the employment contract also has direct impact on how virtual teams are managed and led, even though it’s talked about less often. Virtual leaders are managing alliances more than controlling work or managing individuals. Organizations with flexwork options attract a more agile workforce from a bigger talent pool. More of us are collaborators with portable skills. Charles Handy defined “portfolio workers” as individuals who reject the notion of a single, permanent job. Millennials especially think of themselves as portfolio workers. Daniel Pink started the Free Agent Nation for the self-employed, publishing an article in Fast Company that grew into a book and a movement.

Essentially, we’re all workers if we are compensated, regardless of title or how we’re paid. We bring our talent to an organization, and we exchange it for money. We work for hire – often virtually.

A Lot of Us Are Virtual Workers

Virtual work is no longer a last resort to keep a good employee; it’s not a compromise when people can’t meet in person. It is not an overlay, a replication, or a poor substitute. It is our way of working.

You are a virtual worker if you are a

  • Nontraditional workday extender who works split shifts, evenings, or weekends
  • Part-time or occasional teleworker who also goes to a company location
  • Job sharer or flex worker
  • Remote employee who works from a satellite office

If you’re a virtual worker, you share the responsibility to bridge virtual distance at work. It’s an additional responsibility that is seldom formally defined in your contract, but it’s a critical contractual expectation, nonetheless. Today’s teams collaborate, and the best ones manage themselves.

And they use the network to do it. Technology has transformed intranets to be more than a place to store our data; we connect there.

The Network Is the New Career Resource, Too

Today’s professional must know how to maintain strong, trusted relationships, digitally and in person. Virtual workers are interdependent with teams and peer professionals. Interdependence means we help and support each other because we need each other to get our work done. Virtual interdependence relies heavily on the team’s commitment and the digital network as the vehicle and platform to connect and accomplish goals together.

Leverage your networks, digitally and in person. Understanding today’s work realities and map a strategy to thrive in today’s mobile work world.

Interested in learning more? Working Virtually: Transforming the Mobile Workplace provides a guidebook that works today. In reading, discover what works for you and your virtual team. Download the Introduction chapter, The Network Is the New Workplace, free… right now.

While downloading, you can pre-order the book at a significant discount and with free shipping to your door in March, when the print edition is released!