Today we will talk about virtual teams, i.e. groups of professionals who work to achieve a goal while not sharing physical workspaces in common.
From personal experience, remote work (which does not mean work from home!) offers countless advantages, especially from a purely technical point of view. In fact, thanks to digital technology, I was able to manage activities and resources located in different areas of Germany and England for a project of some strategic importance for the company I was working for. Projects that involve technological resources not available within one’s range of action, for example, can be managed remotely with some precautions.
Working in virtual teams today often represents a need but also a real opportunity. Unfortunately, not all categories of professionals can take advantage of this mode: just think of construction workers or machine tool operators who for obvious reasons cannot work remotely (at least not yet!). However, the digitization of work has made it possible for many jobs to be done online.
Working in virtual teams is therefore becoming more and more frequent for various reasons:
- Globalization connected professionals worldwide with synergistic skills
- The pandemic and the related lockdowns have forced us to work from home for months
- Structured projects with a strong international propensity require professionals often located in different continents
Raise your hand if you have never had a videoconference meeting, or who have never used digital tools to exchange information within your team.
Working in a remote team offers many advantages, however the level of technical, managerial and personal complexity sometimes increases considerably.
In this post, we’re going to look at some of the benefits and challenges that managing virtual teams entails.
More advantages than disadvantages
Generally speaking, we can undoubtedly say that working in virtual teams has more advantages than disadvantages.
From a personal point of view, working remotely allows us to manage our time and our spaces in a more flexible way, balancing the time to devote to loved ones and work in an appropriate way. However, if this is not handled well, you run the risk of becoming workaholic due to the state of “always connected”. Therefore it becomes essential to know how to properly balance the activities and tasks within the team.
Another extremely important advantage is that we often work in multi-cultural environments, with colleagues from different geographical areas, creating an extremely stimulating (virtual) work environment full of precious resources. Nonetheless, it will sometimes be necessary to encounter obvious cultural barriers, the need to speak a common language (often English) and to adapt to times that are sometimes not appropriate in order to find a compromise for those who find themselves working in inconvenient time zones. The distance, however, can be exploited to our advantage: in fact, some activities can be assigned by the team leader in the late afternoon, when it is night on the other side of the world, and be completed 8-10 hours later, in the morning, when he wakes up. In short, a virtual team is able to actually work 24 hours a day, without the need to exploit its collaborators.
For collaboration and communication to be effective, it will be necessary that all team members have a reliable and fast internet connection, and that they are experts in the use of digital platforms. In fact, digital technologies represent the indispensable condition for working remotely.
Another challenge that should not be underestimated is the lack of sociality that can be established within the working group. While in some contexts and cultures this does not actually represent a big problem, in many countries accustomed to socializing more it can be a real shock. If you suffer from this problem, it will therefore be necessary to set up your workstation in common spaces such as coworking areas, now increasingly widespread in all cities.
Use the right tools
To work effectively in a virtual team, it will be necessary to exploit in the best possible way all the technological solutions that the market makes available to us. For example, it will be necessary to have a digital platform for team management (eg rewards, feedback, evaluations and career advancements), for video conferences, for the exchange of documents, instant messaging, appointment management, and much more.
In short, in a virtual team the use of e-mail alone is no longer sufficient.
Fortunately, many of the solutions of this type are free or extremely accessible even to SMEs. In addition, they are by their nature scalable, or expandable if new resources are integrated into the team, or vice versa the team is reduced.
Technology scouting in this sense can help us. Given the presence of a large number of solutions on the market, it will be necessary that the tools are selected and used appropriately by the company, in order to optimize the budget and not miss the opportunities offered by the platforms. A tip is therefore to devote time to choosing the best solutions before diving headlong into daily activity.
How to start working in Virtual Teams?
Working in virtual teams will represent, if not a real standard, one of the main ways of collaboration in the years to come. Therefore it will be necessary to know how to adapt to the use of digital tools, to manage time and work relationships with professionals from other cultures. Most likely, we will also need to strengthen our language skills and adapt to complex situations that did not exist before.
In this sense, Accialini Training & Consulting is able to provide adequate support in helping you choose the best digital technological solutions to manage your virtual team.
Finally, we organize tailor-made Business English Online courses with the help of native-speaking professionals with years of experience in teaching remotely in international contexts.