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Thursday, 18 October 2012

Dawn Chuma

3 Steps to Support Virtual Teams

Earlier this year posted an article on these 3 simple steps to support a Virtual Team.  If estimates from the Telework Research Network are correct, there’s a good chance that as you read this article, you are sitting in your home office, catching up on some reading on your designated telework day. According to the Network, telecommuting grew by 61 percent between 2005 and 2009, and, based on current trends, the organization estimates the number of telecommuting workers will grow to nearly five million by 2016—a 69 percent increase! (Lister, K. & Harnish, T. (June 2011), The State of Telework in the U.S. Telework Research Network, Carlsbad, CA.)
With the growth of telework comes the inevitable growth of virtual teams, groups of people who are geographically dispersed but who work together via new technology such as teleconferencing and videoconferencing, and old technology such as e-mail and phone. Today, you would be hard pressed to find an organization that doesn’t have one or more virtual workers.
The Rise and Staying Power of Virtual Teams
A variety of factors led to the rise of virtual teams. Increasingly sophisticated technology made it possible, and globalization made it necessary. Once virtual teams began, organizations noticed an unanticipated bonus: increased productivity. According to Chad Thompson, senior consultant with Aon Hewitt, the productivity of effective virtual teams can increase from 10 to 43 percent, depending on the industry and the organization, and in several cases, the increase in productivity was equal to (or more than) the organizations’ savings on real estate costs.
In addition, studies confirm that virtual teams offer employers and employees flexibility, reduce time to market, often result in better work outcomes than conventional work teams, attract better talent, and increase knowledge sharing. Global virtual teams allow organizations to garner talent from all parts of the world, save money on travel, and allow access to lower-wage resources. (Lockwood, N. (2010). Successfully Transitioning to a Virtual Organization: Challenges, Impact, and Technology, SHRM Research Quarterly. Alexandria, VA.)
Virtual Team Challenges
However, there are challenges inherent in the virtual team concept. It is difficult to build trust and to manage conflict when team members lack the ability to interact face to face. Communication often is more challenging, particularly among global virtual teams, which also can make cultural barriers more difficult to overcome. (Ebrahim, A., Shamsuddin, A. & Taha, Z. (2009), Virtual Teams: A Literature Review, Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Science,3(3), 2653-2669.)  read more…..
Editor’s Note:  While working virtually can be challenging at times, it is a lot less of a challenge than you might think.  With the latest technology, video meeting systems, project management software and automation systems, working with virtual teams is getting easier and easier. – Dawn Chuma

Dawn Chuma

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