Virtual Teams and how they can Help your Business

Posted on: 2017-05-26 | Categories:SIP

The world is changing faster than ever before thanks to innovation in technology. The impact of such changes are being felt across many areas from the business world to social interaction. Technology is affecting the way we work, play and interact with others. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the modern workplace has also become unrecognisable from that of a few decades ago.

Employees want – and get – more flexibility in how, where and when they work. Today a worker may collaborate with team members in several countries while sitting at home. A salesperson will complete their paperwork in an airport after a successful client meeting. They don’t have to wait until they get back to their desk. Remote working, telecommuting, work from home etc. have become part of our daily vocabulary.

What are Virtual Teams?

Virtual teams are just like regular teams except for one crucial difference – team members don’t sit in the same office on interact face to face. Quite often employees are scattered across multiple offices. These locations need not all be within the same country either. Many organizations have virtual teams spanning multiple countries across a handful of different time zones.

Virtual teams can be any size, although bigger groups can be unwieldy at times. Virtual teams may be temporary or more long term arrangements. Some companies favor virtual teams for a few projects and not for others. Certain processes and functions also lend themselves more easily than others to the virtual team model. For instance, IT and design departments often feature virtual teams whereas legal or accounting rarely do so.

Virtual Teams – Obstacles and Hurdles

The biggest hurdle for virtual teams is communication. We don’t realize how much we communicate with our body language, behavior, facial expressions and even tone of voice until we don’t have it anymore. Virtual teams don’t have the luxury of face to face meetings. You cannot resolve an issue by walking to a colleague’s desk across the room.

Team members have to rely on email, audio and video calls. Each of these methods has its drawbacks. Email is often slow and cannot convey the message with all the nuances of in person interaction. What takes a few minutes to resolve in an office often takes days over huge email threads. Audio calls and video chats are real time channels but older implementations were often clunky and slow, defeating the purpose.

Fortunately virtual teams can now use VoIP services to interact more naturally. A business that uses hosted VoIP services can benefit from group audio and video calling. Since reputable vendors also support mobile devices, the barriers to effective communication are removed. Team members don’t always have to juggle office hours across time zones since they can attend meetings from home, a coffee shop or even the airport.

Virtual Teams – Benefits

In spite of the hurdles, virtual teams are increasingly common in the business world today. Why? They do provide important benefits. For one thing, it can lead to lower costs for companies. Many virtual teams have members who work from home or from client sites. The business doesn’t need office space for such employees. Smaller offices mean lower utility bills, lesser equipment like furniture or phones and so on.

Another benefit is location independence for workers. Many industries face a talent shortage and companies are finding it hard to recruit the right candidate. What if the perfect person to do the job is sitting in Australia but your offices are in New York? In the past, this left the company with only 2 choices. You had to pay more to help the person relocate or settle for someone who doesn’t have the same qualifications or experience.

With virtual teams, businesses don’t have to compromise on the ideal candidate. Found someone in France for the current project? No problem, they can easily work with the rest of the team in Germany. It works the other way round as well. Suppose an employee has to move somewhere for personal reasons. Instead of losing a good worker, you can use virtual teams to keep them with the company.

The fact that virtual teams work across multiple time zones was seen as a drawback but it can also be an advantage in certain situations. Suppose you have a virtual team with members in the US, India and Germany. If a client has an issue in the middle of the night, employees in India or Germany can take care of it since they’re already in the office. Similarly you can get work done much quicker if virtual teams in different time zones all work on the same problem, one after the next. With improvements in computing and communication technology, virtual teams are now feasible and may actually be the better alternative in certain situations!