Building a Virtual Team

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 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.

Virtual Team 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.”

Virtual Team Building 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 Building 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

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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.