Building a Virtual Team

Three Hidden Problems With Working From Home


Credit Getty Images

Credit Getty Images

I love to read about – surprise! – virtual teams, though sometimes an otherwise insightful article comes to the wrong conclusion.

In this article from Daniel Kline at, he outlines some problems with working from home, chalking them up to “it’s just not for everyone” reasoning. Let’s take a look at some of what they’re getting it, and see how strategies from Virtual Team Builders can help.


Virtual Workers are Lonely


As Kline says:

Though I often work from coffee shops or a shared work space, I don’t have co-workers in those locations. That can be very lonely, especially when you have something you really want to talk about.

This is a common refrain among virtual teams without a structure in place that foster inclusion and interaction, but it’s easy to introduce some strategies that bring people closer together. Make a point of ‘doing lunch’ with colleagues, using virtual meeting rooms to chat while eating, or play an icebreaker game to start off virtual meetings. Both a great ways to add ‘water-cooler’ spontaneity to your day and build productive working relationships.


Virtual Workers are Forgotten


Per Kline:

It may not be fair, but it’s a simple reality. The people in the office have causal interactions and impromptu meetings that a remote worker won’t get to be part of.

Great virtual managers often institute regular open-door office hours, opening a virtual meeting room for drop-in conversations with remote colleagues. Before virtual meetings, it can also be helpful to distribute a map showing where each participant is joining from – this helps keep everyone top of mind during the meeting, and encourages team members to call on one another for input and feedback.


People Assume You’re Always Free


As Kline astutely points out:

Your family and friends can also create problems that make your supposedly dream setup not as perfect as you hoped.

Just as your roles and responsibilities are (ideally) clearly defined in your work life, virtual workers need to make clear to those in their personal life that working from home is no different from working at the office. Set the same boundaries you would if you were heading into the office every day, and you set yourself up for success.


The Virtual Takeaway


The hidden problems of virtual teams are far from insurmountable – in fact, with a few simple strategies in place, virtual team managers and leads can set their colleagues up for tremendous and sustainable success. Learn about mentoring for virtual managers is a great way to add virtual-specific strategies to your toolbox.

~ Claire Sookman, founder and president, Virtual Team Builders


By : Michal Spiar /April 30, 2018 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team, Motivating Your Virtual Team, Virtual Managers, Virtual Meetings /0 Comment Read More

The New Reality: Your Team is Probably Virtual

The New Reality: Your Team is Probably VirtualWould it shock you to know that you have a virtual team? This may seem like a ridiculous question, but after learning a bit about the evolving nature of today’s workplace, more and more managers are answering, “Yes!”


What is a virtual team?


It helps to understand just what makes a team virtual in the first place, starting with some of the following characteristics:

  • Do colleagues work more than 90 feet away from one another?
  • Does your team rely on communication technologies to accomplish specific goals?
  • Do you have frequent web or tele-conferences?
  • Does one or more colleague work remotely, with limited or even zero face time with the rest of the team?


If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then there is no doubt about it:
you have a virtual team. This is important, because a virtual team is not the same as a face-to-face team.


Our image of a virtual team usually involves a small group of people dispersed across hundreds and hundreds of miles. While this is definitely one form of virtual team, it’s not the only model. What distinguishes a virtual team from a face-to-face one is how they communicate, which is usually a function of distance – 50 feet or more. That distance (or even located in the same office but on distance floor) acts as a psychological barrier for many people, causing them to avoid walking to a team member’s desk and rely on technology instead.


Thanks to a study by Tom Allen, we have an exact number for when that shift happens. Allen studied a team of engineers and found that if they worked in the next office over, they had a 25% chance of communicating once a week. If they were 30 feet apart or more, they had a 10% chance of communicating at least once a week. But, if they were more than 50 feet apart, the frequency of their communication dropped. Past 90 feet, it didn’t matter whether they were in the next building, or in China, they began to act like a virtual team.


Virtual teams are much more common than we think, existing in offices across the country and presenting a new set of problems that can’t be solved with face-to-face solutions. It is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole: a waste of time, money and resources.


Virtual Team Builders offers a variety of solutions to support your virtual team in achieving its goals, from comprehensive team assessments and training to one-on-one mentoring for managers. Contact us today to learn more.

By : Michal Spiar /September 12, 2017 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team, Managing Stress in a Virtual Environment, your Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More

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.


Key elements of virtual team building


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.


Keys to managing virtual teams


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 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.