Would 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.