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Helping people and organizations work well in the virtual workplace

Virtual Teams

A reality for more organizations and employees is the increased presence of virtual teams. Growing legions of workers are away from the office more often than not or simply do their work from other locations as an inherent part of their jobs. Others relocate for personal or family reasons and because they've demonstrated enough value to their employer or customers, they take their jobs with them when they move. Multiple terms refer to this expanding group and way of working: virtual, distance, remote, digital, as well as terms such as telecommuter, teleworker, laptop or road warrior. Whatever the terminology, the reality is that work is increasingly done by people who work together from a distance.

In this age of global competition, mergers, acquisitions, mobile workers and distributed business operations, these teams face the critical challenge of achieving results in an effective and timely manner, in spite of time and distance barriers. This involves communicating via technology, while managing work flow and performance metrics without the benefit of face-to-face interaction.

While there are similarities between traditional (co-located) and virtual teams, there also significant differences, which if ignored, can lead to difficulties within the team and compromised performance results. VirtualWorks! offers workshops and team coaching to develop skills for virtual team success.

Successful virtual teams:

  • Identify factors that are critical to the effective functioning of virtual teams. At a minimum, this involves some analysis of what makes virtual teams different. This could also include establishing norms of behavior, communication standards or other factors critical to team success.
  • Apply appropriate communication skills and 'distance dialogue' techniques that are vital to the productivity of team members who telecommute or work remotely. Without thorough attention to communication skills, teams can fail. The virtual world is different, and failure to attend to those differences can lead to misunderstandings and loss of productivity. Simply assuming people will function well virtually because they did so in traditional teams is a recipe for failure.
  • Recognize the best ways to leverage available technology options to achieve effective communication, team development and project completion goals.
  • Build a foundation and establish a plan for working successfully as a member or leader of a geographically dispersed team.

Virtual teams can quickly learn more about keys to virtual team success - order our book, Working From a Distance: Being Your Best When You're Not With the Rest, for a powerful resource that provides virtual teams with tools and tips for working successfully in the virtual workplace. Find additional materials useful to virtual teams on our Resources page and see our Workshops for developing skills for virtual team success.