Virtual teams are made up of people from different departments, organizations, geographies and time zones – and they are on the rise, creating challenges for effective project collaboration. According to our recent survey, 38% of participants work with team members across functions and departments; 70% collaborate with people inside and outside their organization; and 28% collaborate with geographically dispersed colleagues. In fact, a 2014 survey of business leaders at the Global Leadership Summit in London found that 34% of business leaders believe that more than half of their workforce will be remote as soon as 2020.
This is becoming the new normal and for employees, being part of a virtual team means greater flexibility to manage their work as well as the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues worldwide. For organizations, the ability to transcend geographic boundaries provides the opportunity to hire the best talent, no matter where people are based. However, the complexities of virtual teams present a host of challenges when it comes to ensuring everyone has access to the information they need to get work done, sharing documents, keeping team members motivated and engaged, and giving them visibility into ongoing activities and progress.
What can you do to ensure your virtual team collaborates effectively?
As the famous saying goes, every virtual team is “like a box of chocolates” and each will have its own unique composition and challenges. One common trait that I’ve seen within companies that have succeeded with the virtual team model is to leverage technology that enables teams to keep things moving in “follow the sun” fashion. With a cloud-based virtual office, teams across time zones and geographies can collaborate, communicate and stay up to date without getting bogged down waiting for input, status updates and approvals.
Team members can login, get an overview of the project, access information, and get updates on deliverables, deadlines, and responsibilities – all in one place, wherever they are. Teams can plot out plans using Gantt charts and Kanban boards, then share files, post comments, manage tasks, and track progress in a centralized place. With all the information about tasks, assignments and status under one roof, this virtual office can also provide immediate insights into team member workloads, ensuring management is constantly aware of how everything is coming along.
I recommend reading our Survival Guide Series for Successful Work Management for more on the benefits of having a virtual office and how to set one up.