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Telecommuting Rises 115% in Past Decade

Telecommuting Rises 115% in Last Decade

If it seems that telecommuting, or virtual work, is more popular than ever, it’s not hard to see why: a new report from Global Workplace Analytics (GWA) and FlexJobs shows that it has grown by 115% in the past decade.

And it shows no signs of slowing. In fact, GWA also reports that 50% of the US workforce holds a job compatible with at least partial teleworking, and that 80 to 90% of the workforce would like to work remotely at least part-time.

Part of the reason stems from the fact that 80% of married millennials have a dual-income household that leaves little time for recreation – so any time gained by working from home is attractive. In fact, as millennials make up more of the workforce, employers are using flex work to attract top talent that might balk at the idea of having to go to an office every day of the week.

As more companies embrace virtual work, however, they discover that many of the benefits outlined by GWA fail to materialize, and that their teams exhibit a number of negative characteristics outlined in a Forbes report:

GWA Benefits of Virtual Teams

  • Employers can save $11,000 per half-time telecommuter per year
  • Half-time telecommuters gain 11 days back per year – time they would have spent commuting
  • Absenteeism decrease of 31% with half-time telecommuting
  • Increase in productivity and morale
  • Increase in loyalty to employer
  • Organizational agility
  • Improved work-life balance

Forbes Challenges of Virtual Teams

  • Feelings of isolation
  • Lack of social interaction
  • Low levels of trust
  • Miscommunication and cultural clashes
  • Loss of team spirit

As GWA notes, it is only “well-executed programs” that can help employers achieve the desired benefits.

The question for today’s employers is this: Are you ready to transition from a face-to-face model to a virtual one? To help answer that question, consider the following:

  1. Working virtually means more than taking a laptop home – it requires a culture change that embraces digital workflow and communications tools that maximize productivity and teamwork across distances.
  2. Well-executed virtual teams take the time to learn communications strategies and techniques that build trust and camaraderie without ever being in the same room.
  3. Effective virtual teams have well-defined processes, accountabilities and methodologies that streamline and simplify workflow.

In short, simply offering flex work may get the employees you want in the door, but without investing in the skills and processes that make virtual teams perform, those same employees may not deliver the results you expect or stick around for long.

A great way to set your virtual teams up for success start is with an assessment from Virtual Team Builders. Your business can thrive in a virtual, telecommuting world – and we can help.

By : Michal Spiar /July 10, 2017 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team, CEO concerns, Hiring Virtual Employees, Motivating Your Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More

Press Release: New Webinar Series to Enhance Performance of Virtual Teams

(Toronto – June 7, 2017) Virtual Team Builders is pleased to announce its new Lightning Pro webinars. Each Lightning Pro webinar specifically targets a specific obstacle to productivity experienced by teams where one or more members work remotely.

The Gartner Group has shown that 50% of virtual teams fail because they do not understand the challenges of working virtually. Virtual teams experience unique challenges that co-located teams do not, resulting in poor collaboration, difficulty achieving and maintaining trust, and role ambiguity – all counter-productive to business goals and success. In fact, teams begin to experience these obstacles when separated by as little as 90 feet.

Virtual Team Builders’ Lightning Pro webinars provide easily accessible, instantly applicable skills and knowledge that your team can use immediately to drive sustainable team performance and productivity. There are currently four Lightning Pro webinars:

  • Tips, Tricks & Troubleshooting for Skype for Business
    • Skype is more than a chat tool – in this session, learn how to use the most common features of Skype to promote interactivity and collaboration in your team’s Skype sessions
  • Advanced Skype for Business
    • Learn the advanced functionality of Skype to take your team’s productivity to the next level
  • SharePoint for Virtual Teams
    • Realize the full potential of SharePoint in your virtual team to slash email volume, streamline team discussions, increase collaboration, maintain file security, and organize projects from end to end
  • Jumpstart Your Online Training
    • Change the way you train – virtual training presents very different challenges than traditional classrooms, and this course will teach you high-impact online exercises that will help build engagement and sustainable learning outcomes

“These Lightning Pro webinars address a critical need for modern businesses:  providing their dispersed workforce with the skills and knowledge that virtual teams need to succeed,” says Claire Sookman, Founder and President of Virtual Team Builders. “These webinars set virtual teams up for success, driving sustainable team performance and productivity, and we look forward to supporting virtual teams in achieving their goals.”

Lighting Pro webinars are 45 minutes in duration, and cost $79.99 USD per attendee. For details visit: http://virtualteambuilders.com/lightning_pro_webinars

About Virtual Team Builders

Virtual Team Builders is a training and consulting company that caters to corporations and teams who depend on effective virtual collaboration to succeed. Our training is targeted towards the unique challenges faced by teams operating in a virtual environment; challenges that are present whether members work 90 feet apart or 3000 miles apart.

For further information, contact Claire Sookman, Founder & President

csookman@virtualteambuilders.com | 1.866.497.7749

By : Michal Spiar /June 07, 2017 /Blog, your Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More

Virtual Case Study: The Importance of Awareness in Virtual Teams

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vitualteampicMany companies start working virtually almost by accident. They grow larger, and employees begin to work farther apart – even as little as 50 feet between colleagues can change the way they communicate, and the skills they need to do so effectively. This skill gap is even more pronounced when colleagues are separated by entire floors,  cities, or continents.

In this case study, we will look at one multinational company’s  journey from inefficiency and frustration to productivity and success and it all starts with one word: awareness.

Client Background: Professional Learning Strategist

While developing an online educational platform for a multinational corporation, this Virtual Team Builders client (a professional learning strategist with extensive experience in the development of corporate training programs) recognized a pattern: colleagues who worked virtually had a consistent, pervading sense that they simply weren’t working effectively.

“They had started working virtually, but never really articulated the skills required to do so effectively. They just sort of assumed that people would start doing it, but all they had done was adopt inefficient technologies and implement them in inefficient ways. And nobody really knew.”

The Challenge: Lack of Virtual Awareness

Virtual meetings,  held via Teleconference or Web Conference platforms such as WebEx and Skype For Business were particular struggles, featuring characteristics such as:

  • miscommunication
  • inefficiency
  • poor engagement
  • lack of participation

The strategist found that the most effective way to demonstrate the necessity of developing virtual teamwork and communication skills was simply to expose her client to them.

“We brought in Virtual Team Builders to assist on this project and you could see the ‘aha’ moment. It’s when people experienced a really good, really effective virtual meeting and improved communication between meetings. For the first time, they began to realize just how effective their team could be with the right skills in place.”

The Solution: Virtual Teamwork, Not Virtual Training

What this client recognized was that training in the virtual environment is quite different from working in it – and yet there are far more resources on the former than the latter. Communication tools that we take for granted in co-located teams such as face time and body language simply aren’t there in the virtual space, and few people know how to use the resources available to them to drive engagement.

“I’ve seen people who use WebEx but actively disable all but the bare minimum features. You can’t even use your webcam, the white board, annotation tools or use VoIP. All of these wonderful tools to provide face time and encourage participation and engagement, and people are too overwhelmed to explore them.”

Key Virtual Team Takeaway

By taking the time to develop their virtual team skills and knowledge, the learning strategist’s client experienced:

  • a significant increase in morale
  • productivity boost
  • less attrition
  • increased collaboration

To drive these results, the learning hub developed by the strategist included resources on working virtually, and an opportunity for people to talk about their specific challenges. Virtual Team Builders offered four one-hour sessions to align with the topics in the hub. These courses are now available to the public, and are accredited for Leadership Professional Development Units (PDUs).

Do you have a virtual team? Register for our upcoming courses (accredited for Leadership PDUs) to learn valuable virtual skills, or contact us to inquire about a virtual assessment of your team and it’s unique needs.

By : Michal Spiar /March 11, 2017 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team, Motivating Your Virtual Team, Performance Increase in Homeworkers /0 Comment Read More

5 Icebreaker Tips Every Virtual Team Needs

5 Icebreaker Tips Every Virtual Team Needs

5 Icebreaker Tips Every Virtual Team NeedsDid you know that if your team members are separated by as little as 90 feet, you have a virtual team? Physical separation between team members can lead to challenges that teams working in closer proximity simply don’t face.

Before we share some our favorite icebreakers, I am going to get on my soapbox and tell you that icebreakers are only the tip of the iceberg. Icebreakers alone do not build long-term, sustainable relationships. Building relationships is an ongoing process that requires time, attention, authenticity and trust.

That said, icebreakers do play a role in building relationships, but different ones serve different purposes for different teams. Ask yourself, “Exactly what kind of ice needs to be broken?” Here are the top five icebreaker tips you need to know for your virtual team:

1. Sharing is bonding

We’ve all been in a web conference with a group of faceless voices. Who exactly is everyone speaking to? What do they know about each other? If you are bringing people together who are working on a common goal the ice that you are melting may result in creating a bond.

Icebreaker Idea

It’s In The Mail is an activity for groups of up to 25. Before the meeting, team members should email a unique and unknown fact about themselves to the meeting facilitator. At the start of the session or during a lull in the meeting, the facilitator will pick an email to read and have the other attendees guess who the email belongs to.

2. Make time for face time

Even if you are bringing together like-minded people, the “ice” may simply reflect the fact that people have not yet met – and where teams are dispersed across different offices or continents, they may never do so in person.

Icebreaker Idea

Match Box is for groups up to 10 people. Prior to the meeting, create a slide with everyone’s pictures and post the slide onto the whiteboard. Ensure that each picture is numbered.

Then match people’s voices to their faces. Choose one picture at a time and ask the team to guess who they think it is. You can use the raised hand feature, chat or by giving verbal responses.

3. Anticipate culture shock

If you are bringing together people of different backgrounds, cultures and outlooks within your virtual team then the “ice” may come from people’s perceptions of each other.

Icebreaker Idea

Metaphor Magic is for groups up to 10 people. Have your team members come up with a list of words or phrases that have different interpretations or meanings. Ask your team members to define what they think that word or phrase means.

4. Know your team

Teams have different needs and preferences. Some teams may gravitate towards “fun” activities while others may be more inclined to link the activity to a purpose such as brainstorming or problem solving. Remember to personalize the activity for the needs of your virtual team.

5. Use the tools available to you

Web conferencing platforms enable your team members to express themselves and collaborate in new and creative ways, but many teams never use anything but the basic conference call functionality. Leverage interactive tools such as white boards, paired chat, the raised hand feature and polling to give everyone a variety of ways to engage with one another.

Interested in learning more about icebreakers for your virtual team? Register for our free webinar Building Relationships at a Distance for detailed advice and best practices, and get the most out of your virtual team. For a deeper dive, purchase the informative book Across the Hall, Around the World: Teambuilding Tips for Distributed Business from the Virtual Team Builders marketplace.

 

By : Michal Spiar /January 27, 2017 /Blog, CEO concerns, Motivating Your Virtual Team, virtual introductions /0 Comment Read More

Welcome 2017 by Thinking and Re-thinking

As another year comes to the fore, we are once again in that funny place that is both encouraging yet daunting, as we strive to understand how to best handle this vast, untouched span of 365 days that lay before us.
This New Year can bring greatness if you allow it; no matter the past, we now have the renewed chance of starting afresh, of clearing our mindsets that limit us, and of gaining greater clarity for the upcoming year. This process of starting afresh begins with learning about ourselves and how we work so that we may implement our positive learning experiences in meaningful ways in the New Year.
To ease into 2017, we suggest a short exercise that will hopefully challenge you to a bit of productive and honest introspection. Through Thinking and Re-Thinking, we prompt you to reflect on your past year, to positively acknowledge important insights you have gained thus far and to ultimately contemplate how the things you have learned will meaningfully impact and inform how you approach 2017.
Get a pen and notepad or open up your computer-let’s start!
Think About How You Did This Past Year
 
Before you move onto planning how you will handle 2017, assess this past year. Our past offers a gold mine of experience and expertise that can structure how we may go about and approach our future decisions. Ask yourself:
1)     Did I achieve my goals for 2016?
2)     What was one major challenge I and/or my virtual team handled well in 2016?
3)     What was one major team challenge that could have been handled in a better way if I were to     face it  again in the future?
4)     How did I measure the effectiveness of my virtual team in 2016?
5)     What did I do to build sustaining relationships with my virtual team to boost productivity?
Now think about what you will do differently this year.

Now Re-think About How Your Team Did This Past Year

Closely associated to Thinking is Rethinkingthat is, recognizing and doing away with our blind spots. We all possess some form of a blind spot. Similar to driving a car, where our rear-view-mirrors, headrests or even backseat passengers may obscure our vision, the clarity to properly navigate a virtual team may also become obscured when our blind spot clouds our judgement. 
 
Sometimes, these blind spots come in the form of assumptions. Our assumptions are blind spots because they lie beyond what we can identify and correct. These assumptions may be pre-conceived notions about how our virtual team is functioning. 
So, before you move onto planning how you will move towards greater success in 2017,  begin the
New Year by sitting down with your team and ask them these questions:

    
  1. What went well for you in 2016?
  2. What do you need more of in 2017?
  3. What do you need less of in 2017?
  4. What can I do to support your growth and development?
So as you move into 2017, spend some time to reflecting on your blind spots and checking in with your virtual team about what they need to succeed. 
    
By : Claire Sookman /January 01, 2017 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team, CEO concerns, Motivating Your Virtual Team, Resiliency in a Virtual Environment, your Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More

Living in the Moment: Mindfulness in Virtual Teams

“With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

How often have you had lunch at your desk and could not remember what you ate, or if you even did eat? It is easy to become very focused upon your task at hand. This focus is often referred to as “being in the zone” or “in the flow.” When there is an imminent deadline for a team project and you are the one finalizing it, you’ll sometimes find yourself in that state.   Thus, these phrases have some positive value attached to them: productive, hard-working, energized.

 

Mindfulness and the CIO

However, when reality strikes, and the client calls, or emergencies arise, team members cannot be oblivious to the obvious: it is time to change tasks. As “being in the zone” might imply, hyperfocus can be good, but not always. The only place you have any impact is in the here and now. That cannot be achieved with your head down in the computer screen and your mind multi-tasking like crazy. Being present here and now in every interaction you have is a prerequisite for individual and Virtual Team success.

The buzzword often used is “mindfulness.” Rarely heard in management until recently, it is based upon Buddhist practices. Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. “The outlook for CIOs, as they demonstrate mindful leadership, is excellent.” (J. Esser, Technology Forecast, 2013) Mindful leaders inspire mindful teams. Help your virtual team become more mindful right now.

 

Three Tips for Being More Mindful

Focus on teaching your virtual team members, and yourself, these three simple tips to help them be in the moment, not in the zone (or zoned out during an online meeting, not that you’ve ever done that…):

  • In the zone? Take a moment to notice what you’re doing and when and why you are doing it. Is this a stretch for you? Set a reminder in Outlook if you have to, but stop what you’re doing for even just a moment and come back to reality every hour. If you lose all track of time, you are probably hyperfocused. Take some time to simply be. Lunch time, for example.
  • Zoned out? This can happen, also. When you notice your mind wandering as the client (or your boss) drones on in that virtual meeting, do not become frustrated or judge yourself harshly, simply bring yourself back to the current task and move forward. Your thoughts are simply thoughts; you do not need to react to them, especially the negative ones.
  • Become aware. Notice where you tend to “zone in” or “zone out” too much. What are the activities? Practice bringing more awareness into them to achieve a balance. Do not take things so seriously that you cannot act on them without judging them. While emotions, good or bad, can be motivators for bursts of productivity, long term they do not serve you well.

Remember that these are just simple starter exercises in awareness. They are not immediate deep life changes, but in time they can be.. The more awareness and mindfulness you bring into your daily life, the more you can authentically connect. You can tell when the person you’re Skyping with isn’t paying attention, as you hear their keyboard keys click. Don’t be that person. You do not need to drag out a yoga mat and sit in the lotus position to start your day, although many successful executives do. To be mindful means simply to be more aware, however you can, of the present moment.

 

Three Benefits of Being Mindful in the Moment

There are three things you, and any virtual team member, can think about: the past, reliving things you messed up; the future, worrying about things you need to do later; and the present, what is happening right now. Barring using a time machine, the only place you can have an impact is in the here and now. Richard Carlson, Ph.D. said in his classic book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, “Now is the only time we have, and the only time we have any control over.”

While there are many benefits to being in the moment, for individuals and for virtual teams, here are three notable ones:

  • Increased enjoyment. Work, and any task, can be more pleasant when the mind is not elsewhere. It is easier to appreciate and enjoy things more when your conscious mind is an active participant, and not parked on the sidelines while your autonomous mind is in hyperdrive.
  • Reduced stress. Worrying about the past and future gives you stress. But being present is almost like meditation. There are fewer worries. There is simply more experiencing. Virtual team members can experience a different kind of stress from traditional workers: isolation. The mind can sometimes wander, and worry, more, in this environment.
  • Better relationships. When you really are mindful and commit yourself to being a better listener, team member, coworker, manager, you have better relationships. You have better conversations. You bond. Forming such bonds is one of the most successful things any team manager or CIO can accomplish “for superior performance in virtual teams.” (Harvard Business Review, 06/2013)

 

 

Virtual Teamwork

Mindfulness is awareness about moment to moment thoughts of the person and the team. It allows for better relationships, appropriate focus, and better presence among virtual teams Michele McDonald notes that “when we are actually connected with our current experience with single-pointed attention, we are free to form greater connections with others, to become more of a team.” (Dharma lecture, 04/2005) What CIO or team leader couldn’t use that?

Tell us how you create mindfulness within your team. We want to know.

info@virtualteambuilders.com

By : Claire Sookman /March 31, 2016 /Uncategorized /0 Comment Read More

Taking On The Future: The Growing Role Of Virtual Teamwork, Challenges Facing CEOs In 2015

Do you wonder how technology and the web will impact the future of the workplace? CEOs certainly do, and below is an overview of some of the key issues they report dealing with in the changing business landscape of 2015. Naturally, changes that are important for CEOs are important for managers of Virtual Teams as well. Some of the main issues relating to working in Virtual Teams which CEOs have to address are keeping their business focused on core strengths, effectively reaching online customers, finding new talent, adapting to mobile technology, solving employee commuting and scheduling problems, minimizing distractions, being an effective voice for their companies, and taking on more millenials, with their particular challenges, into the workforce. We will be addressing each of these topics in more detail in future weeks.

Virtual Teamwork Is A Way For The Future, Complete With Pitfalls

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For a lot of workers, coming to the office every day may soon become a thing of the past. As business moves to the web, work becomes less reliant on physical presence in the office. But this is a double-edged sword: for every instance in which it facilitates communication with the office and clients, there is a flipside of technology and social media as productivity black holes. (Who has not lost valuable time contemplating images of pets playing piano or other similar Internet offerings?) So managers of Virtual Teams need to ensure that team members stay focused on work. Any efficient framework for virtual teamwork must support proper work habits from its very design.

All employees, both those working in the office and those working remotely, will have to stay in constant communication with the main office. But staying in the loop at the office rarely boils down to just reading the relevant emails. A good Virtual Team environment has to facilitate the dissemination of relevant information to all workers and to ensure that Virtual Team members receive the information they need to do their job at the same time as employees working in the office.

As communication technology makes work in Virtual Teams increasingly practical, the workforce itself shifts towards millennials. These individuals require a democratic, flexible work environment to stay loyal and committed, and they need more information about why they are asked to do to what they are doing. A Virtual Team manager has to answer such questions and take these factors into account to create a functional work environment.

Team leaders are also aware that working in virtual teams will play a key role in the discovery and retention of talented employees as more job opportunities become available in the current period of economic growth, making employee retention more difficult, and in response to chronic overcrowding and mounting commuting issues in large urban/financial centers. A company’s business model impacts the overall time employees have to commit to their job. Virtual teams are a way for companies to accommodate workers’ needs for a flexible work schedule, and most companies are already working virtually to some extent, Additionally, since not all desirable employees will be physically present in the geographic vicinity of a company’s headquarters, Virtual Teams allow employers to increase their area of search for talent.

Opportunity Always Entails Risk

Taking the workforce out of the office environment goes hand in hand with expanding business on a global scale and with diversifying a company’s activity. But diversification always carries the risk of dilution of core strengths (see item #1 of the article above). The recent increased availability of capital and the current economic boom could tempt American CEOs to try to expand their companies dangerously beyond their core business, even as companies’ increased reliance on the web as a marketplace and their diminishing physical presence makes identity a more pressing issue than ever.

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While technology supplies the means for efficient communication, its potential productivity and identity drawbacks require that comprehensive strategies be established to ensure that the gains do not outweigh the costs. Virtual Team leaders need to pay close attention to the implementation of these changes, as their business depends on it. Over the next weeks, we will be looking in more detail at specific issues which have shown up on CEOs’ radars in 2015.

By : Amir Ahmed /October 05, 2015 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team, CEO concerns, Performance Increase in Homeworkers /0 Comment Read More
  • ABOUT US

    Virtual Team Builders is a training and consulting company that caters to corporations and teams who depend on effective virtual collaboration to succeed. Our training is targeted towards the unique challenges faced by teams operating in a virtual environment; challenges that are present whether members work 90 feet apart or 3000 miles apart.