Virtual Teams: Here, There, Everywhere

In an average workday, Sarah strategizes with her teammates, consults with vendors, and advises clients in several time zones. And most workdays, she's still in her pajamas.

That's one of the perks of working for a virtual team–a group whose members collaborate across time, geographic, or organizational boundaries.a Once favored mostly by creative agencies, call centers, and multinational businesses, a growing number of organizations trade the security of managing employees in house for managing them in virtual space. The hope is for increased performance, improved employee satisfaction, and ultimately, a wider selection of potential collaborators.

But when teamwork goes virtual, the potential risks as well as gains are real. Any deficiencies in employee performance or management oversight will be magnified through the lens of team-member separation. Given the extra effort needed for every communication, virtual team members may experience loneliness or perceive social isolation. And teams may suffer if all members don't have a high degree of trust and regard for each other.b

Companies wouldn't accept the risks of virtual teams if the potential payoff wasn't worth it. When teams straddle time zones, companies benefit from longer work hours, more uptime, and greater access by both fellow employees and customers. As for virtual employees, who wouldn't be happy with a flexible work schedule and a 0-minute commute?c

“My deadlines now no longer ...

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