virtual teams

In the modern, global workplace, a large percentage of business is conducted virtually. While employing virtual, or diverse and dispersed, teams can increase efficiency and the speed of business, there are many challenges when teams communicate virtually.

Let’s start by defining what a virtual team is. A virtual team is an inter-dependent group of people working across time and distance, communicating primarily using phones and the Internet.

Research shows, however, that not all diverse and dispersed teams are equally “virtual,” as some have greater virtual distances than others. Virtual distance is comprised of many variables, including:

• Physical distances, which involve geographical distance, time zones and organizational boundaries.
• Operational distances, which involve different levels of access to information and communication technology, a lack of common context for working, and distractions.
• Affinity distances, which involve differences in culture, lack of shared vision and low trust.

One way to overcome these variables is to keep the following pointers in mind when leading any kind of virtual collaboration:

• Speak slowly and clearly to make sure any non-native speakers of your language can understand you.
• Include text on slides during any presentations.
• Send out an agenda ahead of meetings so that everyone is on the same page.
• Set out ground rules at the beginning of meetings, and specify if and when participants can contribute or ask questions.
• Add extra time to meetings and presentations in case there are any tech glitches.

By keeping the abovementioned variables in mind, and following the pointers, team leaders and team members can make virtual collaboration much smoother.

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