Performance Increase in Homeworkers

Virtual Case Study: The Importance of Awareness in Virtual Teams


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

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

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

The Key to An Engaged Workforce: Show Up Mindfully

When you telecommute to your virtual office each day which may be steps away from your kitchen where your first cup of coffee is waiting for you, you’ve likely already checked emails, fulfilled some personal obligations and thought about work deadlines before you’ve officially started your “work day.”

By the time we’re at our desks or dialing into a conference call, our minds are flooded with tasks we didn’t finish yesterday or what we have to do in the coming days or weeks. This often translates to never being full present or aware with the task in front of us or in conversations with our colleagues and employees.

How many times have you been on a conference call and have been checking your email at the same time or working on another task? For most of us, multitasking is the new norm, but neuroscience research shows that we’re the most productive when we are focused on one task. Multitasking is nothing more than our brains switching from one task to another.

The result – we’re showing up to the workplace more unfocused, less productive and more unaware of the cues of others than ever before.




Prepare yourself to show up, prepare your team

When you’re working virtually, you can’t see someone’s reaction  to you unless you are using webcam or video conferencing technology. Without these tools, we have to listen for the tone of voice, the pauses and even the silence.

This means that the first step to let your team know they have your undivided attention is to listen. By listening – not checking your smartphone or looking at your computer – when you’re not face-to-face with your employees will not only allow you to read the subtle clues, but will also allow you to look at situations in a new way versus running on autopilot.

Before your next meeting or one-on-one conversation, think about how you can prepare yourself to show up:

  • Take 30 seconds to one minute to sit quietly, take some deep breaths and be aware of the present moment before running to the next task.
  • Put away your smartphone so you won’t be tempted to check or respond to messages as they arise.
  • Ask yourself, are you focusing and listening to what your team needs or are you absorbed in the work you need to get done?

The power of awareness

Subconsciously we often show up to work in a non-mindful way. We don’t consciously think about how we show up or the impact our unconscious behavior has on other people or the project we are working on.

Take a few minutes to thinking about the following:

  • How you currently show up?
  • How you want to show up?

If you weren’t sure about either answer, don’t worry. Begin by asking yourself these questions?

Ask yourself the following:

  • When I sit down at my desk do I feel tired and overwhelmed or present and calm?
  • Before responding to an employee who’s hasn’t been performing well, do I call and email him/her right away or do I step away from the situation to assess before responding?
  • When I’m on a phone meeting and not face-to-face with others, do I usually check my phone or have my eye on my computer screen?
  • Do I respond with awareness of a situation or am I simply reacting with my first thought, opinion or judgment?
  • Do I take time each day for myself to do one healthy and stress relieving activity – meditation, yoga, exercise?

After answering the questions to yourself ask a colleague you trust the same set of questions about how they think you show up and what is the impact on your team. 

     Next, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your self-reflection align with your colleague’s perception of you? Is there a gap between your view and your colleague’s view?
  • Does your colleague see areas of improvement? If yes, what will you do with that information?

While mindfulness may be the catch phrase of the moment, it’s impossible to ignore the evidence of how focusing your attention on the now or simply showing up and being present in the virtual workplace will allow leaders to look at situations in a new way, which will trickle down to their employees resulting in a happier and more engaged workplace.

Once you’ve answered the questions and discussed with a colleague you trust, check back for our next article where we’ll discuss the steps you can take to start to change your behavior and begin leading a present and engaged virtual workplace. It all starts with you!


By : Claire Sookman /September 29, 2014 /Performance Increase in Homeworkers /0 Comment Read More

Home workers can experience a 12% increase in performance

Home is where the heart is. However, when you’re a virtual worker, it can also be the source of multiple distractions. From the flat screen TV, to the backyard hammock to the beckoning pile of laundry that’s not going to do itself, a virtual worker can sometimes feel their attention drifting to something other than a looming project deadline. Also, though many take comfort in the privacy a home offers, too much time spent away from the company of others is enough to drive some people up the wall. Working from home can be a tricky business but there many effective ways you can boost your productivity and conquer feelings of loneliness when your house is also your office.

First off, did you know that is possible for workers to be more productive when working from home? It’s true: recently, Brown University conducted an experiment on home working, involving 13 000 employees of a NASDAQ listed Chinese firm. Call centre employees who volunteered to work from home alternatively worked from either their home or the office over the course of 9 months. In the end, the study found that home workers experienced a 12% increase in performance. 8.5% of this increase came from working more minutes per shift and 3.5% of this increase came from higher performance per minute. Sometimes, the home can be a more effective work environment than the traditional office place.

But what about those who are intimidated by the prospect of working from home, in the face of countless distractions and those that struggle with the lack of co-worker interaction? Luckily, I have a whole range of tips to help you become an effective home worker:

1. Delineate a Workspace:

It’s advisable to transform one room of your home into a space that is purely dedicated to work. Working in another room of your home that already has a specific purpose, such as the living room or bedroom, can quickly zap your motivation because you automatically associate these rooms with entertainment or relaxation. Entering a room that has been specifically designed to be a workplace will get you into the right mindset when it comes time to buckle down and tackle those assignments.

2. Impose Time Limits on Tasks:

It’s much easier to become distracted from your work when it is particularly dull or difficult. If you feel yourself losing focus when dealing with this kind of work, tell yourself to work through it for 15 more minutes. Perhaps knowing that you are working toward a deadline will provide you with the extra burst of energy you need to get the job done. If, after the 15 minute mark, you still find yourself unable to focus, take a break or switch to another task to give yourself some mental relief.

3. Set Strict Deadlines:

Have you ever experienced that sudden increase in productivity when you are working on a tight deadline while a simpler task may take a few hours to complete? Many attribute this phenomenon to Parkinson’s Law, which states that a task will expand to fill the time you can give it. Avoid this time sucking law by assigning your own deadlines to specific tasks to ensure they are accomplished in a reasonable amount of time.

4. Conduct a Time Audit:

To get a better sense of your work rhythm and use of time, conduct an audit of your day every so often. Make a detailed record of what you did during the day and how long each task took. These audits can reveal much about your daily workflow and you can make adjustments if you need to. Create Tasks Lists: Create two lists of tasks; one that outlines long term goals, and one that includes a detailed outline of the day’s tasks. Keep these lists as realistic and uncluttered as possible. Nothing can zap your energy faster than glancing at a complicated list full of ambitious tasks that are not likely to easily be completed any time soon.

5. When Feeling Isolated, Reach Out:

If you ever feel lonely, pick up the phone and have a conversation with a colleague. This tactic can accomplish two goals at once: it provides you with a connection to the outside world and you can also ask your colleague for advice about a particularly challenging assignment, boosting your productivity when you get around to tackling the assignment once more.

Working from home comes with a unique set of challenges. The ability to remain motivated and focused on work can easily wane in the comfort of one’s home, where the list of distractions is too long to print. Also, the lack of human interaction is a difficult obstacle to overcome for many home workers, but these strategies can turn anyone into a focused, dedicated virtual employee in no time. Set realistic goals for yourself and make the effort to stick to them. Most importantly, know that your colleagues are always a phone or Skype call away.

Give us you feedback-what your greatest challenge when you work from home?

By : Amir Ahmed /April 23, 2014 /Blog, Performance Increase in Homeworkers /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.