Virtual Teams: What They Are and How They Work
By: Laura Kilgore
What are Virtual Teams?
As all Houstonians are acutely aware, back in September Hurricane Harvey dumped nearly 52 inches of rain on the city, causing severe residential and business flooding (chron.com). Among those affected were many corporate campuses whose employees had no alternative but to work remotely until renovations from flooding are completed.
A virtual team is any group of people who are working toward the same goal but from different geographical locations. What was once known as “telecommuting” or “telework” has been rebranded over the past ten years with new labels like, “distributed work,” “workshifting,” and “smart working.” More and more large corporations are seeing the benefits of having employees work remotely, not only for their employees, but also for business.
GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com published statistics in June of this year that state that 25% of the current workforce works from home with some frequency and up to 90% of the workforce would like the freedom to work remotely. It seems the ideal work arrangement for many employees would be to work from home 2-3 days a week. This would allow for schedule flexibility and the chance for distraction-free work while maintaining the benefits of face-to-face collaboration. That’s where virtual teams come into play.
When a team suddenly switches from ‘in-person’ to ‘remote’, certain things have to change for them to remain on-target. You can’t keep doing what worked before and hope that it keeps working. Many managers and employees who are adept at forming tight-knit and efficient teams when gathered together in one office might be surprised by the shift in relationships when a team goes remote. The traditional office management models don’t work with this radically new team format, and there are several challenges that will likely show up right away if they’re not accounted for from the start.
Up next: Challenges that Virtual Teams Face, followed by Advantages to Virtual Teams