Building a Virtual Team

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

Virtual Case Study: The Importance of Awareness in Virtual Teams

vitualteampic

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

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

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

new blue badge#2

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.

new blue badge#3

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

How can looking at your “Blind Spot” contribute to your virtual team’s success?

Whenever you’ve tried to pursue something – a fruitful job interview, a presentation well done, or a healthy relationship with your virtual team – you may have heard the age-old advice: “just be yourself”. Even we have said it. To be yourself, you have to recognize and acknowledge everything about yourself – even the bad stuff. You must know yourself wholly.

What does it mean to know your whole self?

Q_Your_blind_spotA person who is whole recognizes every piece of himself or herself. This may sound easy until you realize how much you repress just to get through a day.

We have talked about the shadow self before and how engaging with our shadow selves helps us gain greater self-awareness and heightens our empathy for others.

Imagine yourself driving a car; the space behind the passenger seat just outside your door that isn’t visible to your side mirror is your blind spot. Your blind spot is similar to the shadow self: it is not visible until you make the conscious effort to turn your head and see what is or isn’t there. Failing to see or acknowledge your blind spot is dangerous and can cause accidents.

Not acknowledging a car in your blind spot and risking a car crash is similar to not acknowledging the qualities in yourself you may not like and risking another sort of crash – a breakdown of a relationship with a virtual team member, for example.

How can your blind spot affect your virtual team so much?

In a face-to-face environment, body language is present along with verbal correspondence to communicate with your team. You get immediate reactions from others and you can respond instantaneously.

In a virtual team, it can be more challenging to know your virtual team mates’ reactions to you. Behind a computer screen or on the other end of a telephone line, it can be easier for a slighted team member to hide or disguise his or her disengagement, annoyance, or anger.

In a virtual workplace, without the aid of indicators like a half-smile or crossed arms, your knowledge of yourself can help you navigate through your virtual team and help strengthen your relationships rather than hurt them.

How does not knowing yourself impact your relationship with others?

Q_ImprovementcanstartIgnoring problems don’t make them go away; in many instances, dismissing real problems makes them worse. Improvement can start only if you recognize what needs improvement.

If you have a quality that causes strain in your relationships, you must identify this problematic quality and take ownership of it. Taking ownership means that you can take control of it; you can work through it, you can change it, you can stop it.

Seeing what is in your blind spot is empowering! It lets you know if and when you can change lanes to get to where you want to be.

What conscious efforts do you make to ensure you have a good handle on your blind spots?

By : Claire Sookman /August 31, 2015 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team, Performance Increase in Homeworkers /0 Comment Read More

How can self-awareness grow more effective leaders?

In our last blog post, we talked about authenticity: far from being a feel-good fad, authenticity has been found to be incredibly important to leaders, and especially to leaders of virtual teams.

Suffice it to say that authenticity breeds trust, and trust is the driving force for engagement, productivity, and results in virtual teams. Authenticity is also surprisingly hard to achieve. To be authentic is a process of learning to be self-aware.

We believe that authenticity is a major facet of the human side of virtual teams. Authenticity refers to being true to who we are.

  • How often in our daily lives do we exhibit our genuine selves by being honest with ourselves and others about what we feel and desire?
  • How often do we pursue the things in life that truly make us happy?

Authenticity breeds trust, and trust is the driving force for employee engagement, productivity, and results in virtual teams.Our authentic selves must be expressed through our actions; in other words, we must live genuinely. Living genuinely allows us to be fully present in our jobs, families, and every activity in which we are engaged in, including our virtual teams.

We can’t be fully aware of our authentic selves without being fully present. So let’s take a moment to reflect on our level of self awareness.

Evaluating your level of self-awareness

We have a series of things to consider to guide you through this process.

  • Do you respond with awareness in my virtual meetings? At your next virtual meeting, become the observer and notice how you respond to your colleagues or team members.
  • When someone offers a dissenting opinion, do you take a moment to reflect and respond in a way that values others’ viewpoints?
  • Do you listen for the intent of what is being said, not just the words that our colleagues use? Do you multitask during your meetings?
  • Do you listen for the tone of voice, the pace of their words, and notice whether your colleagues or team members are stressed?
  • Do you judge what someone is saying or do you seek to understand?

What else do you notice about yourself in and out of virtual meetings?

What do you notice about your team members?

  • Do you notice that they’re present or multi-tasking on mute?
  • Do you notice your team members respond quickly to opinions or questions without reflecting?

How to use self-awareness as a leader

One way of encouraging your virtual team to be present is to open up the dialogue to them about what it means to be authentic and present.If you are the leader, consider how you can influence your team in a positive way. One way of encouraging your virtual team to be present, be more aware, and be more authentic is to open the dialogue to them about what presence looks like in your team.

At the beginning of a meeting, have a conversation with your virtual team about what being present looks like; engage your entire team in the conversation.

Self-awareness leads to presence

The more you are aware of your behaviour, the more authentic and present you can be, and the stronger of a leader you can grow.

In our next blog we’ll continue developing our self-evaluation from an outside source: we’re going to ask how your team members perceive you.

By : Claire Sookman /July 16, 2015 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team, Motivating Your Virtual Team, 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.