Reliance on Technology in a Virtual Team

A few days ago, I was scheduled to present at a conference in San Diego. I was working in the lobby of a 5-star hotel, where the conference was being held. I was just finishing up some work when I got up, stretched, and had a one-minute conversation with a colleague just a few meters away from where I was sitting. When I returned to my seat, my laptop was gone.

Imagine if your office vanished one day: all your files, all your correspondences, all your projects and reports and presentations. Gone. No idea where it went, no idea who took it, no idea what could happen to all of the contents.

This—pretty much—happened to me.

There was a bellman to my right, and my colleagues to the left of where I was sitting. And, straight across from me was a man on his iPhone. He was so engrossed in his work that he didn’t even notice the theft.

My pulse was steadily beating harder and harder in my chest. I struggled to remain calm, and called security. They took me to look at the camera feeds for the lobby, and reran the footage from a few minutes ago.

On that screen, I saw a man with a thick beard, beaten clothes, and distinctive running shoes enter the lobby—he looked homeless. He had a blanket wrapped around his shoulders like a cape, obscuring his face. The security officers remarked that the homeless tended to congregate in this area.

The feed continued. The man picked up my laptop, and ran out the door. Him, his blanket, and his running shoes disappeared off the screen.

I needed to get my laptop back.

The security guards said they’d look for the guy. Meanwhile, I had my own ideas. I ran out the door myself, determined to find the man who stole my laptop.

San Diego is home to over 1.3 million people. And, among those millions, there are over 10 000 homeless people. I stopped at every corner, asking any homeless people if they’d seen a man with a blanket wrapped around him. They said they knew who I was talking about, but that they hadn’t seen him today.

My life was on that computer. It was my connection to my work, and to my family. My presentations, invoices, and courses were all on that laptop. My family photos, emails, and social media were all on that laptop. You know the drill.

Three hours later, the hotel security called my room. They found the man sitting on the ground about four blocks away, still holding my computer. He gave the computer back to them, and was taken into custody. My life returned to normal.

In virtual work, we’re reliant on our machines. The technology we use to work is more than just a tool: it’s our gateway to our professional lives. I’ve shared this story today to give us all a reminder of the importance technology places in our lives today, and to encourage us all to be safer with how we treat these devices.

By : Amir Ahmed /March 24, 2015 /Blog, Resiliency in a Virtual Environment /0 Comment Read More

Four Solutions That Will Help You Overcome Your Fears of Building a Virtual Team

Globalization increases the need for companies to rely on resources and talents from different parts of the world to maintain their position in a competitive environment, like the one we live in today. Technology has advanced to the point where it can connect people from different continents. Financial issues have encouraged companies to capitalize with fewer expenses and labour costs, while providing customers with quality products and/or services.  Trying to keep up with all these new trends and demands can be quite challenging without the right work force. Often, physical boundaries can create challenges and barriers deterring your company from performing to the best of its ability. Talent should not be bounded geographically especially if it is beneficial for your company. Fortunately, conventional teams are no longer the only option we have today.

Virtual teams present you with talent and opportunities that are not offered to collocated teams. So why haven’t you built your dream virtual team yet? Here are the four most common fears most likely hindering you and solutions to help you get over them.

Problem 1: Access to technology

When building a virtual team, you need the right technology to help you access resources and connect with your virtual employees to meet objectives. Lacking the access to said technology can deter you from accomplishing tasks. Even when your whole team has access to technology, you still face the problem of teaching and training them to properly use it.

Solution: Teach and train

Teach your employees how to properly use their technology. Take the time to train them how to properly position a mic and how to talk into it. Advise them to speak slowly and to maintain proper distance to avoid mumbling or sounding muffled. Speaking clearly and enunciating can help prevent miscommunications.

Problem 2: Building Trust

When your team trusts each other, they can work cohesively and efficiently generating positive results for your company. Trust is easier to build when your employees are physically together in a room, engaging in face-to-face interaction. Working on a team where we have to guess faces and voices can be real challenging. With virtual teams, however, your employees can only build relationships through sending e-mails back and forth and hearing each other’s voices bi-weekly or monthly. And we all know when a team lacks trust; we should just expect a spiral downturn in their efficiency and productivity.

Solution: Build an online community

Have an accessible online database where your employees can display their profile including their skills, what they do in your company, their interests and hobbies. By doing this, your employees can gain a sense of who they’re interacting with. When a new team member joins, make sure you introduce them to your team allowing them to right away feel comfortable and welcomed. Engage and encourage audio conferencing and video conferencing during meetings and between employees in order to enhance your communication experience.

Problem 3: Cultural barriers

Hiring employees from various continents exposes you to different cultures. You may end up non-deliberately insulting their culture or stereotyping.

Solution: Become culturally aware

Understand that ethics and norms vary within different cultures. Know where your employees are coming from and educate yourself with their culture to avoid stereotyping or non-deliberately insulting their culture. Encourage your team members to be more culturally sensitive as well to upkeep high-morale within your team.

Problem 4: Time zone differences

Living in different time zones can pose a challenge when setting up meetings or deadlines. What might be lunch for you can be sleeping time for somebody else.

Solution: Be more considerate and understanding

Keep in mind that time zones may vary and what might be convenient for you might be inconvenient for your team members. Ensure that meetings are convenient for the majority, if not all, of your team members to have a more productive and efficient meeting. If one person cannot make it to the meeting due to time differences, show that you understand and arrange a meeting that is convenient for both of you to make sure he/she does not fall behind. As for deadlines, make sure it is within a reasonable time frame and set different deadlines as necessary for people in different time zones.

So what are you waiting for? You no longer have excuses to postpone creating your virtual team! Build your team now and explore the different opportunities that await you!

By : Amir Ahmed /April 23, 2014 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More

Virtual Teams: Technology Steps When Budgets Are Cut

The economy is changing and successful companies are responding by investing in programs that will position them to maximize their human resources potiential. By understanding how to manage people virtually, you can lower expenses and improve your return on investment.

Yet, with some foresight and careful planning, the worst storm can be weathered. Virtual teams offer a compelling way to offset potential risks. A virtual team is a collection of individuals who are geographically dispersed and who collaborate via communication and information technologies in order to accomplish a specific goal.

According to a recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, 77% of respondents said that offering virtual leadership development is important yet more than a 25% of these organizations do not currently offer training or development opportunities to improve virtual leadership skills.

Many argue that virtual teams are not as effective or efficient as collocated teams, which prioritizes face-to-face contact. What many fail to realize is that the benefits typically associated with face-to-face teams can be achieved more conveniently, and at a fraction of the cost, by using virtual teams. The delivery may differ, but the results are the same.

To be successful, virtual teams need to grasp the importance of frequent, open communication. Trying to duplicate the workings of a collocated team in a virtual environment proved to be both frustrating and unproductive for many companies trying to make the leap.

The truth is that traditional teams and virtual teams face many of the same challenges. However, small problems that would pose a mere inconvenience to traditional teams can prove to be major hurdles for virtual teams, including: cost reduction, improved work-life balance, future access to meetings due to ease of recording, and conference attendance regardless of geographic location.

Understanding the “new dynamic” of the virtual world takes more than a bit of getting used to.

But there are also potential pitfalls if you don’t take the necessary precautions.

For example, technology can be an obstacle when conducting virtual meetings. Some tips around this obstacle include:

  1. At some point, the technology will fail. Always have a back-up plan.
  2. Have a tech person on call so meeting planners can focus on conducting the meeting and not on technical glitches that may occur.
  3. Have an alternative conference call-in number available when conducting video or audio conference calls.
  4. Ensure meeting participants understand how to use the technology, including laptops, projectors, conference lines, etc.
  5. Confirm that the technology being used is appropriate to the type of meeting you are holding.

Another obstacle is engaging the participation of people that are not face-to-face. Some tips around this obstacle include:

  1. Minimize the feeling of isolation from remote participants by having everyone attend remotely. If this is not a possibility, make sure those who are not in the room feel valued and involved, by soliciting their input or acknowledging their responses.
  2. Establish some rules of engagement for meeting behaviors and attach it to the meeting agenda.
  3. Look for opportunities to verify that the person on the other end of the phone is engaged and understands what is being discussed. A simple way to do this is to check in with people every three presentation slides or every 10 minutes.
  4. Have multiple presenters. The change of voice and pitch can help keep people engaged.

Circulate information about the myths of multi-tasking. This is to limit the number of tasks meeting participants will perform while attending/participating in a virtual meeting.

By : Amir Ahmed /April 23, 2014 /Blog /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.