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How We Lost Our Bodies and Entered the Virtual Office

Posted by Thomas Riggs in technology virtual offices on March 26, 2009

At Thomas Riggs & Company we operate in a virtual office on the Internet. But years ago in Chicago, where I worked for Encyclopaedia Britannica, I used to take the El to the office. I read or gazed at buildings, watching people through their windows as they ate breakfast or put on a shirt. At work I saw actual people. A colleague and I would enjoy threatening each other with our typewriters, and we mused about a special Elvis edition of the encyclopaedia.

But that would be the beginning and end of my career as a physical worker. In 1992 I moved west and became a freelancer. One of my first clients was Oxford University Press. Someone there told me about a new service, AOL, where you could send electronic messages. I was curious, but for work I still mailed floppy disks and talked with people on the phone, their voice suggesting a face, a hair color, whether they wore glasses or had a nose ring.

A few years later, after I started a business of workers dispersed across the country, I still liked talking on the phone, but e-mail soon became simpler. I attached files to messages. I stopped hearing voices much or seeing handwriting. In my e-mails I found myself using exclamation points more, hoping to send a simple signal: I know you’re a human being, and I appreciate you.

But what was I really doing? Working alone in my home, receiving and sending electronic messages, finding it increasingly difficult to create imaginary faces for my correspondents. I had gained freedom but fractured something work had long provided humanity: the regularity of human contact, the joy of shared experiences, and the useless chatter that in the end made us happier and more efficient.

Not that I wanted to work in a physical office again. What I wished instead was a way to increase human contact in our work, in our business, with the hope of improving our lives and our efficiency as well. So I looked around and found that technology, which had created systems of isolated workers, had recently invented the virtual office. I learned we could share a workspace on the Internet. With webcams we could see and talk with each other. We could work on the same text as if we were sitting next to each other. Though still not sharing a physical space, we could begin to take the first steps toward restoring something important for me, and for many others, in work: sharing life with other people.


Categories: technology, virtual offices | 1 Comment »

One Response to “How We Lost Our Bodies and Entered the Virtual Office”

  1. harmonsmith Says:
    April 15th, 2009 at 5:40 am

    A virtual office is an excellent alternative which can save up to 78% of the cost of traditional office services. I am also running a small business using this facility by valleyhq I am very satisfied and feel like I am able to increase my business now.