VIRTUAL WORKING PRESENTS...THREE OPPORTUNITIES & THREE CHALLENGES
- Elimination of physical organisational boundaries
This means knowledge, skills and talent can be brought together without restriction, creating flexible access to knowledge, skills and expertise. Organisations can implement flexible working structures that enable them to be responsive to clients, partners and markets.
- Lower operating costs
Virtual working can achieve a reduction in costs through a number of efficiencies. Collaborating virtually reduces the need for business travel; working from home and/or serviced offices reduces overheads; flexible work locations mean teams can work more efficiently, for example, as there is no need to travel for meetings they can be shorter and more frequent.
- Advances in team performance
Research shows that in some areas virtual teams can out-perform traditional teams, which work face to face. This creates the opportunity for organisations to achieve higher levels of performance than have previously been possible. For example, virtual teams have been found to out-perform traditional teams when brainstorming and making decisions as the virtual context enables greater participation, and diversity of expertise, opinions and ideas.
- Working effectively across virtual dimensions
Working virtually is not a simple process of transferring traditional knowledge, skills and behaviours into a virtual context. Working virtually brings the challenges of communicating via technology, whilst working across geographical locations, organisational functions, time zones and cultures. Communicating via technology is more complex as we lose the richness of face to face interaction which means an absence of the social cues, and non-verbal body language, that we would normally use to help us work together. Interactions are further complicated by time differences and cultural differences - all of this has implications for how effectively teams trust, collaborate, and perform.
- Leveraging technology to enable effective communication
Communicating via technology can be frustrating and slow. Advances in technology enable sophisticated collaboration but using them requires training, organisation, and patience. Initial meetings need to have extra time factored in to enable familiarisation with technology and virtual processes. Attending to the fit between the task and the technology used, developing virtual facilitation skills and creating psychological contracts are all ways in which virtual teams can better leverage technology.
- Building and maintaining effective virtual teams
Research suggests that failure rates for the implementation of virtual teams are as high as 70%. Whilst virtual working creates the opportunity to bring together the best and most appropriate individuals based on their expertise and skills, it is often the inability of these individuals to work together towards a common goal, in a virtual context, that results in failure. The reduced social cues, lost through not working face to face, mean the team dynamics become more complex. In order to perform well, virtual teams must work harder and use distinct methodologies, processes and behaviours to build communication, trust and a sense of team cohesiveness.
Business psychologists Bluestone Talent Management can help your business or team evolve, by providing people development solutions to help you capitalise on the opportunities, and address the challenges, of virtual working.
For information on our virtual/dispersed working programmes, including virtual leadership development and effective team working:-
Rosalie @ Bluestone Talent Management on +44 (0)20 8334 8082 or Mobile: +44 (0)7854 569629