Cost savings - The biggest advantage of virtual team enjoyed by an organization is the associated cost savings. The organization can do away with huge expenses on real estate, office spaces, utilities bills such as gas, electricity, water etc. and executives’ travel. Many organizations outsource their operations to the low-cost regions. Thus production cost also decreases with the reduced raw material cost, operational costs and lower wages of the employees in these geographic locations.
If you train your personal assistant well, you can develop a trusting relationship that can blossom into a long-term partnership. A good personal assistant eventually will learn the nuances of your business, as well as your dreams, aspirations and mental processes. He'll be able to anticipate your needs and those of the business. A trustworthy assistant can become a sounding board for your ideas and offer you insights you had not considered. The perspective can be refreshing and spark ideas or approaches that were invisible to you. A close, personal assistant can give honest, frank feedback that others might be reluctant to give.
A time zone converter. Teams that include members from different time zones often struggle with finding the best times to collaborate. A time zone converter can assist virtual workers in planning the best times for meetings, and it can remind employees to remain conscientious of the time in their teammates’ zones. Every Time Zone is a web-based, aesthetically pleasing app that converts time zone differences in a simple, easy-to-comprehend format.
"Managing Virtual Teams (MVT) provided workable solutions that could be implemented right away for long term success. I went into the course hoping to grab a few tips and tricks but instead experienced a hands-on workshop that was tailored to my organization's needs." Megan West, Digital Communications Manager. Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI)
Provide and nurture an online meeting place. Automattic, the team behind WordPress, developed an internal blog called P2 where everyone can publish posts based on their achievements and how their week went. At Hubstaff, we have a Slack channel for random discussions where we discuss 30-day running challenges (which I supported with good thoughts) and share interesting articles we find around the web.
For employees, having the ability to telecommute thanks to having a virtual work place provides them with savings on commuting costs such as fuel. A paper from The Mobility Choice Coalition found that if 10 million employees who have the option to telecommute do so just twice a month, 21 million barrels of oil would be saved a year. With gas prices close to $4.00 a gallon, this would amount to $1.7 billion of fuel cost savings a year.1
A greater part of the day can be devoted to job duties, projects and other work-related responsibilities because commuting time is eliminated. In some densely populated areas, commuters spend upwards of 10 hours each week just going to and from work. Telecommuters could put to use the saved time by dedicating more of their time to office work, or to achieving a work life balance by spending time with family.
Conflicts, Lack of Trust & Collaboration - The cultural differences between the members of virtual teams gives rise to number of conflicts. For example, while an American would write a straightforward email describing a bad situation, this would be perceived as impolite by a South Asian (say Japanese) member of the team. This would lead to conflicts, mistrust and difficulties in fruitful collaboration which is so vital for the success of virtual team functioning. These challenges are also precipitated by the absence of non-verbal cues so intrinsic to face-to-face interactions.
Communication on a distributed team is a whole other ballgame. I never realized how much I took co-located colleagues for granted until there was no one beside me I could ask a quick question. Every question, every answer, every approval will be documented on a remote team. This makes for great records, but bulky loads of information to sort through.
Movies and TV shows from the likes of Devil Wears Prada to Rules of Engagement make us laugh and feel sorry for the personal assistants. Their lives are consumed by ego-maniacal tyrants paying them no more than a couple of funny pennies per hour. Luckily, apart from the odd unfortunate exception, the reality is much different. Yes, sometimes personal assistants are asked to do menial tasks ranging from the humiliating to the humdrum, and they are often asked to be on duty round the clock, but it usually pays off in more ways than one.
Having a flexible schedule increases the morale of employees and gives them a sense of freedom and agency in their lives that going into a physical office often does not permit. The sense of boosted morale also increases productivity in virtual employees. Responsibility for the work that must be accomplished changes hands from the supervisors who watch over the office to make sure employees are doing their job and arriving on time to the employees, who must meet goals and expectations on their own.
The answer is you hire someone. You trade with someone. You trade them for two hours. That’s what I did in the beginning. Because I remember… I was just really young in my career, very in the early days, and I was running to get to the dry cleaners so I could get my only two suits because if I didn't get them, you know, then the place closes and I can’t get on the plane.
Increase cross-cultural awareness. People involved in global teams should know and understand the challenges that come with communicating across cultures. For example, an American multinational oil and gas corporation wanted to ensure their non-Iraqi employees were equipped with the cultural knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the Iraqi context. Aperian Global worked with corporation leaders and local Iraqis to design a workshop for multinational employees assigned to Iraq, and it was offered in the US and the Middle East. A pre-departure workshop was also created for employees traveling to Iraq. It addressed issues such as safety, security, and health, as well as business and cultural topics. The workshops gave leaders and employees the information, skills and confidence needed to successfully collaborate and conduct business across cultural boundaries.
If you are developing a business that is online, you should check out http://www.odesk.com. You can hire talented assistants for most types of tasks. I hired world-class designers and programmers to build my iTunes app business at low cost. oDesk takes care of the tax forms and payments to your assistants. Pretty nifty and you only pay for work that gets done. You could likely set up a local virtual assistant through their system if you need help at your office.
Employers can also realize saving by allowing virtual workplaces. Among these are real estate or office costs. By allowing more workers to telecommute, companies can reduce the amount of works space they need and it also reduces the resources needed to support these employees in the office (such as office supplies and electricity). According to the Telework Research network, the average real estate savings realized from a full-time teleworker is $10,000 a year. Companies that have implemented several virtual workplaces have seen large cost savings in real-estate cost. For example, IBM has reduced its real estate costs by $50 million and Sun Microsystems saves $68 million per year. 2
I can use my own experience as an example for this. When I worked with a marketing agency in America, I was encouraged to voice my opinions, even if they went against our founder. When I consulted with businesses in the Philippines, a common complaint was about employees always saying “yes” to whatever their managers want (even if they couldn’t deliver).
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