Most Americans would prefer to work virtually, but most also believe the traditional office will last for at least another half century. Those conflicts between desire and reality are among the findings in a new survey about attitudes toward virtual work. 

The online survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of business information solution provider Ricoh Americas Corporation, queried 2512 American adults. While virtual work has its advantages, those respondents who would choose to work in a traditional office with others cite the advantages of superior discipline, connectedness and information security that such an environment can provide.

More Productive

Sixty-six percent of respondents said that they would be more disciplined and productive in a traditional office, 51 percent said they would want to socialize with their co-workers there, and 39 percent felt more secure about accessing, scanning, storing and printing information from a regular office. Sixteen percent said they do not have an ideal situation from which they can work virtually.

Terrie Campbell, Vice President for Strategic Marketing at Ricoh, said in a statement that “virtual office technology has not yet caught up to employees’ fears that they may become irrelevant if they’re not perceived as being fully engaged with the traditional office.”

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Learning Opportunities

Campbell added that, while mobility is “a signature of the new workforce,” most employees know they have to “seamlessly collaborate” with their colleagues in order to maintain their value and that, even with advances in videoconferencing and enterprise collaboration, “there’s no perfect substitute yet for meaningful face time.”

Those Surprising Young

One might expect that the respondents would be divided by age groups. They were, but not as one would expect -- the younger respondents were actually the ones who were least enthusiastic about working virtually. Forty-three percent of those aged 18 to 34 prefer a traditional office, compared to 31 percent for respondents aged 35 to 54 and 36 percent for workers 55 and over.

The survey also found a slight difference by educational level. Sixty-six percent of respondents with less than a college degree prefer a virtual work experience, while fifty-eight percent with a college or higher degree do.