There was an excellent article out this week in BusinessWeek on “The [Virtual] Global Office” that touched on many subjects discussed by the various writers on this blog. The article reinforces how a virtual workspace creates an environment for workers to engage with their global peer network using personalization, immersion and collaboration. This is powerful and something business is keen to explore. For example, the Cisco Sales Associate Program (CSAP) at Cisco is using Second Life as a meeting place for their globally dispersed team. The CSAP folks get together in this virtual environment regularly to ensure synergy with their program and to talk about the latest in technology such as WAAS and virtualization. The team is also leveraging the virtual environment for team building activities like global team photo days. This leads to a sense of belonging to something greater than ones self, to a sense of being part of something.Isolation is a killer for the remote worker. It is common for the remote worker to feel out of sync with the office worker. The sense of being left out of desicions because one is not part of the ‘water cooler’ conversations at the office is palpable for the remote worker. Virtual environments allow for the potentially disenfranchised worker to reengage and realize their contribution potential. There are many folks exploring this subject and I would like to quote directly from Peter Quirk’s excellent post about how virtual worlds address this:1) by making meetings more engaging than is possible through 2-D web conferencing solutions 2) by creating a sense of a workplace separate from the employee’s home environment, helping to focus the employee on the tasks at hand 3) by creating places for real-time collaboration with other employees 4) 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” 5) 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 I would like to add one to that list:6) by allowing workers to personalize their appearance in the virtual environment to create a brand for oneself and allow for creative expressionI feel that personal expression and brand is something we all do on a day to day basis, without really thinking about it. Our clothing, hair styles, office accoutrements, etc. say much about who we are, and about our life styles and interests. (Walk past my cube and you can see that I am in to Star Wars, technology and the Muppets. Hmmm, once I apply that idea to my self it makes me wonder whether folks think I am just a big kid?) Participation in a virtual environment can allow remote workers to do much the same thing with their avatar. This enables the remote worker to have a sense of ownership and self when engaging with their peers in a virtual work space.The consensus is in and the conclusion is that virtual and real world will meld in the work place over the next 5-10 years so intrinsically that we will not think of them as separate. The lines of separation will be blurred to the point of making the separation between virtual and real world not relevant. I’ll toast to that!