Response to Allan 2.2
As many have noted, the pandemic did not start this trend but it was a catalyst that forced many industries to mainstream virtual teams. Now weighing the positives and negatives many are not going back to pure face to face. At the least, they are moving to hybrid teams dynamic for the foreseeable future. Motivations are many and range from cost savings on travel and commercial office space to cut commute time, environmental impact, and spending time with family.
Key dynamics often overlooked in virtual teams is building relationships. In those interpersonal communications, both in the team and individually, show appreciation (Roberts, 2012). As team members are challenged and struggle, a virtual team leader who has relationships with their staff can show empathy, which bonds virtual teams together. The process of building relationships is more difficult virtually, but there are a series of techniques for doing this. Some take several days in the team forming stage to focus on team-building activities. Software virtual team leads during CVD would do their daily stand-ups, then schedule virtual coffee breaks during the day. Another creative team leader had her team cook a meal together or do another activity. Another team leader made a point of being highly aware, empathetic, and supportive during the pandemic. She knew that results would come from her highly competent staff if they could stay focused. Another dynamic is to have virtual teams focus on process (Roberts, 2012). As virtual teams work with less immediate oversight an increased attention to process benchmarks can keep them satisfied as they are geographically independent.
In my field, education and leadership coaching, virtual teams are nothing new in the corporate learning and development arena. Training is often most effective face to face in groups with follow up coaching of implementation and turning knowledge into skills. People tend to be more engaged face to face as the distractions of multi-tasking are reduced. Perhaps the biggest emerging trends in education are taking place in intermediate and secondary education. The pandemic has accelerated rapid innovation in Microsoft Teams for education, expanded Google classrooms, and thousands more apps and sites for content. Thousands of teachers are now making instructional videos for virtual teaching online, making virtual classrooms more interactive. For example, using MS Note with Teams, teachers are now able to review students writing as they are doing it and provide live oral input over Teams.
Engagement online of virtual teams is hard. Some companies have alienated employees by reducing salaries for people working remotely. This triggers people to seek new employment immediately. As stated above, rallying people around a shared purpose for task motivation and bonding them via relationships for interpersonal engagement is valuable. For building our virtual team at the beginning of last year, we met for two weeks face to face, then weekly as a team, and one on one with various tasks constantly across the year. This worked pretty well, but each of us made the extra effort to be relational and take an interest in each other’s personal concerns which were rampant across the CVD year, and look for ways to support each other.
Molinsky, A. (2020). Virtual Meetings Don’t Have to Be a Bore. www.hbr.org.
Stewart, L. (2012, Mar 30,). Building Virtual Teams: Strategies For High Performance. Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/03/30/building-virtual-teams-strategies-for-high-performance/