Remote work vs. Virtual Work

Ryan Frederick
4 min readApr 10, 2022

Those referring to remote work as virtual work are referencing them incorrectly, and there isn’t anything about remote work that is virtual.

Remote work is location-based. Being physically apart from your colleagues, leadership, and company office space is remote work. Virtual work is communicating, collaborating, and interacting in a virtual space. Remote work is disconnecting and disengaging. Remote work is transactional as a result. We attempt to get in and out of remote meetings as fast as possible. Remote work is two-dimensional. Yes, you can see someone, and in the setting, they are sans a digital background, but the experience is two-dimensional. The experience through a remote screen is two-dimensional, just as a regular movie is to a 3D movie.

The haze of remote meetings and work is worse than that of in-person meetings. Irrespective of the company’s remote meeting and work platform, remote meeting fatigue is rampant. The remote work fatigue is causing many of our professional relationships to suffer, causing our work and engagement with our teams, leaders, and companies to suffer.

A Stanford study defines four ways remote platforms cause fatigue.

  1. Too much close-up, direct eye contact. Remote meetings are more awkward than in-person encounters because there is more uncomfortable and prolonged eye contact.
  2. Inability to move around. Most people have fixed cameras which means they have to be in view of the camera at all times limited movement.
  3. The mirror effect. Being in remote meetings and seeing ourselves in a small box continuously makes us uncomfortable because it is like seeing ourselves in a mirror throughout a session.
  4. Lack of non-verbal communication cues. We can’t get a sense of someone’s body language and other non-verbal communication and in-person limiting our ability to comprehend what someone is expressing.

Zoom recently announced the addition of avatars to mimic expressions to relieve some fatigue. The avatars will mimic what a person is saying and represent the person without the person having to see themselves, helping to reduce the mirror effect.

Remote work isn’t inherently or all bad. Remote work allows for location independence and freedom…