Mastering Virtual Teams
Virtual teams have long been a reality in many companies. People work together across different locations, areas, time zones or even countries and are dependent on the appropriate communication technology. Large international companies have long since taken advantage of this form of collaboration in order to pool know-how from around the world or to be available to their customers 24/7. Due to the recent global pandemic, virtual teams now exist in many companies that did not previously have them, but often without the necessary foundations in place. Even though virtual teams have numerous advantages, such as the transfer of know-how, higher speed and flexible working methods, there are also numerous challenges. Here are a few tips on how to overcome those challenges and master virtual teams:
1) Navigating technological differences
Companies often do not have the same technological equipment at different locations, and employees working from home do not always have access to the same equipment as they do in the office. If employees work on their own devices, there can be compatibility issues with the company software. Employees also have different levels of knowledge and competence regarding IT and technological tools. However, since virtual teams, by definition, depend on technology to communicate, these differences may have a serious impact on productivity. For example, differences in speed can cause major delays in project work because members of the project team are “left behind”. Different time zones further intensify this problem.
Tip: Make sure to use web-based tools and applications so that all members of the virtual team have the same tools regardless of where they work. These tools should be easy to use and implement. After all, a cumbersome set-up and long training times mean additional effort and valuable time spent on something other than productivity.
2) Learning to communicate virtually
Virtual teams exchange information using communication technology. Since personal contact is lacking, information can easily be misinterpreted or can be lost in the multitude of communication channels. Inconsistencies and misunderstandings are particularly likely to arise when, for example, teams work in parallel on documents that have different statuses.
Tip: Make sure to organize one-on-one meetings from time to time or, if that is not possible, to include more personal components in virtual meetings. Introduce conventions and rules, for example regarding reaction times or where to store data. This applies especially to the manually complex document creation process. Modern, web-based voice technology solutions can be especially useful in this process, as responsibilities are clearly defined at any point in the process, the status of each task is visible and workflows can even be automated. This also helps to avoid unnecessary errors.
3) Maintaining productivity
There are many reasons why the productivity of virtual teams can be under pressure. For example, coordination and alignment naturally require more effort when done virtually. Virtual teams are often used for specific projects, which means that the project members have additional responsibilities on top of their daily responsibilities. This situation may hinder productivity when employees are constantly torn between different topics and their workflow is interrupted.
Tip: Voice technology is as much a part of the digital toolbox for virtual teams as video conferencing or messaging solutions. As the documentation effort increases in all companies, it is necessary to optimize the processes for these often-manual activities. This leaves more time for concentrated, productive activities and less time has to be spent on documentation.
For more information on how you or your business can master virtual teams, please visit https://www.dictation.philips.com/homeoffice/ or leave a comment, we are happy to help!
German Version: 3 Tipps virtuelle Teams zu meistern