Virtual Teams and Virtual Organizations

Collocation refers to individuals or groups working in the same locale. Most global organizations have significant portions of their employees working in many different locations, including their own homes; therefore, they are not collocated. What management issues are involved when individuals and teams are not collocated? What leadership issues are involved when individuals and teams are not collocated?

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In the modern world, when remote work has become an integral part of everyday reality, the issue of collocation, team spirit, and bonding among employees has become especially significant. The idea of giving employees working in different locales might seem quite alluring to a novice in the management field, yet an experienced manager will see instantly the evident problems that (s)he is going to face in such a situation.

When one comes to think of the specifics of collocation, communication and interaction must be the first concepts that will pop into one’s head. Indeed, working in a team involves a constant interaction between the employees, and, therefore, trains their communication skills, such as the skills of conflict solving, information transfer, and the ability to coordinate one’s actions with the actions of the rest of the team: “Why is it so important to have the team collocated? Interdependencies and interfaces between pieces of work implies a need for communication between team members performing the work. If those individuals are not collocated, you encounter a communication problem due to physical distance” (Stoehr, 2012, 81). Seeing how the aforementioned skills are to be displayed by the manager of the team for the latter to perform well, it can be assumed that communicational issues come to the fore in the case of remote work.

However, apart from management problems, remote work provides enough foil for growing a considerable amount of leadership problems, the first and the most obvious being the lack of the leader’s influence. In the office, even when the company’s leader is nowhere to be found in the vicinity, the very fact of being supervised by the leader, as well as the fact of his/her presence influences the employees greatly, as the recent researches say (Sundin, n. d.). In addition, in the office, it is especially easy for a leader to execute his/her influence and perform the function of a role model. For the people working outside the office, the leader’s influence is practically unnoticeable, which means that, no matter what leadership style the head of the company is going to choose, the “online” employees will hardly feel the difference. Another essential leadership issue to be mentioned in association with the remote work is that company leaders are unable to speak directly to the employees on a regular basis. As a result, employees may have a very vague idea of the company’s priorities, values, and principles. Being very basic, one has to admit that the key problem with remote employees is the lack of control that the managers and the company leader have over them. As long as employees have enough responsibility towards their job, the given state of affairs is rather tolerable, yet it would be too optimistic to assume that each of the employees is able to be fully responsible and approach his/her job with due diligence.

The given issue, however, can also be viewed from a different perspective. While it is clear that the communication issue is the problem of top priority in case of lack of collocation between teams and individuals, there are other concerns that require proper mentioning. Among the most obvious problems that managers can possibly encounter with employees working in different locations concerns the lack of experience sharing and the inability to train practical skills in the newcomers. Of course, it should be mentioned that each company knows about the given problem and provides a unique solution to the problem. Some companies prefer writing manuals for the new employees to refer to in case of problems; others use the services of coaches or encourage knowledge sharing among the employees (Dalkir, 2007).

Despite the fact that the given problem is also spawned from the lack of communication, which has been mentioned above, it poses a completely different threat to the company’s progress. Compared to the previously described problem, which questioned the efficiency of the tasks completed, the given issue appears to be much more serious, seeing how it questions the company’s ability to evolve and recruit new staff. Indeed, though being another side of the lack of communication, the inability to provide the new remote employees with the opportunity to acquire the necessary skills is truly a serious disadvantage:

In a remote work setting, where employees are working in different locations than their managers, the opportunity for face-to-face contact is limited. This means that the manager has significantly fewer opportunities to view employee behavior than would exist in a conventional work setting. (Mahmood, 2012, 305)

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In some respect, the problem of employees having little to no idea of how to address a specific problem stems not from the lack of communication between the staff and the managers, but also from the inability to watch the experts work and, thus, learn from the experienced staff (Ware & Grantham, n. d.).

The leadership issues concerning the work of the remote staff are not restricted to the aforementioned issue of the leader’s influence, either. The second most crucial leadership issue with remote employment is creating a community of employees. No matter how hard a company leader might try, a remote employee will hardly ever feel a part of the company’s community.

One of the primary problems with employee dislocation is communication. What tools and processes would you suggest to improve communication between dislocated teams?

As it has been stressed above, the key issue that companies face when their employees work remotely is the lack of communication between the latter, as well as between the employees and the company’s managers and leader. Being very basic and, therefore, crucial, the given problem is still quite solvable. By using specific tools and changing certain processes in the organization of the employees’ work, one will be able to overcome the difficulties associated with the lack of cohesion between the actions of the employees working remotely. To improve the score of the teams and employees who have been disconnected for some reasons, it is most appropriate to suggest the following tools to use:

To start with, the tool that helps enhance the communication and cooperation between the employees within a specific team, as well as the employees of different departments, must be introduced. To solve the given problem, a tool that allows staying connected for a considerable time is required. When choosing the best technology for keeping in touch with each other, one must mention Skype as by far the most well-known and truly efficient tool: “Technologies and applications such as Skype, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yammer, smartphones and instant messaging are gaining ground not only within businesses but also increasingly outside of businesses, allowing clients partners and businesses to connect, collaborate and communicate” (Rane & Agrawal, 2011, 26).

Speaking of the control over the employees’ work and the coordination of work of several employees from different departments, which managers often face when dealing with remote work, such tool as collaborative task manager can be suggested. While the very task manager can take different forms, starting from a memo sticker, up to a sophisticated computer program, it is important that it should provide the manager with an opportunity to get the priorities straight and be able to keep in mind the key stages of the working process (Bush & Nash, 2011).

Finally, to keep in touch with the employees and make them feel that they are treated with an individual approach in mind, a manager should use the strategy of in-person visits (Telepresence helps employee-owned company spread corporate culture to new acquisitions, 2012, 1). While turning the given tool into a daily routine seems tedious, practicing in-personal visits on a weekly or even monthly basis seems legitimate enough.

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As for the appropriate processes, which can possibly improve the ways in which the work among the remote employees is coordinated, a couple of words must be said about the process of supervision. As it has been stressed, with the recent updates in computer software and all the technological advances that the computer era has to offer, it is relatively easy to supervise the key organizational processes. By supervising the work of the employees working remotely, one can make sure that the production process is carried out properly.

When choosing the tools that can possibly help managers establish stronger links with remote employees, the former often resort to comparatively recent technologies, such as Skype, TeamViewer, and many other types of software that allows for controlling the work of the employees either secretly, or in a completely explicit way, depending on the company’s values, strategies, and principles of communication between employees and managers (Tampa, 2013). However, oddly enough, very few people think of such traditional means of interpersonal communication as phone calls. Truly, compared to the potential of computer software, conversation by phone might seem a somewhat dated approach towards the communication issues, yet it still remains viable and, more importantly, efficient. Therefore, when thinking of the means to retain the link between the remote employees and the company staff, one has all reasons to consider a cell phone the basic and by far the most efficient tool.

Another important tool that can be possibly used as the means to enhance the communication between remote employees, their colleagues, and company managers is the introduction of the basic principles of the company’s quality standards into the team of employees (Heller, 2010). As it has been stressed above, the key problem with remote employment is that the employees working remotely are unable to have an example of performance to comply with. As a result, the quality of the results returned by remote employees drops. Therefore, it is logical to suggest that remote employees should have an opportunity to check whether they are following the course set by corporate standards. In practice, the required tool can take various forms, the most desirable one being the form of a guide (A desk too far? The case for remote working, 2008), i.e., a manuscript, a file, or an online document that lists the key requirements and provides detailed instructions on various situations that remote writers can possibly face.

What is the biggest challenge for dislocated teams in a global information system? Explain and support your opinion.

Despite the fact that it has already been stressed several times that for dislocated teams, communication issues pose the greatest threat, the challenge related to the distance work does not revolve around communication problems. On the one hand, the problem of remote employees is linked with the lack of communication caused by the distance between them and the company’s manager and leaders; on the other hand, the lack of communication can be treated as an environment in which the real problem is starting to brew. The greatest challenge, however, concerns not the job and not the relationships with the staff and leader, but the necessity to change one’s attitude towards his/her work; therefore, the key challenge concerns the need to reform one’s own way of thinking (Bartram et al., 2012).

Indeed, when considering the given issue closer, one will be able to see that, technically, the change of environment presupposes that people should adapt towards the new conditions (Integrated alternative workplace strategies, 2011); consequently, employees will finally realize that they can avoid the leader’s and managers’ supervision in their home environment. Therefore, for the employees to maintain high-performance rates, it is necessary that they should adopt the same corporate values and corporate ethics when working remotely. The aforementioned effect can be reached once the employees are motivated to follow the company’s code of conduct. The given effect can only be achieved once the employees are provided with a role model to follow, which the leader must provide them with. Therefore, being a role model for the employees is the most difficult challenge for a company leader and/or managers when it comes to working with remote employees.

The issue of dislocated teams is gaining its relevance slowly but steadily. Ten years ago, the idea of working remotely could hardly seem possible, yet in the present-day world, where the virtual world nearly merges with reality, the issue is starting to become increasingly important. However, new opportunities often return even more threats to corporations and big companies (Lederer, 2009). One of this threat is a drop in the efficiency of dislocated teams performance, it is clear that the issue of improving communication between remote writers has become especially topical. However, the greatest threat for dislocated teams is yet to be revealed.

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When analyzing the way in which they work in dislocated teams is organized and how the actions of the members of dislocated teams are coordinated, one must emphasize the significance of competition among the employees. While often considered as a negative factor, when kept at a relatively low rate, the competition allows for keeping high-performance standards and motivating employees for perfecting their skills. Without anyone to compare their skills to, employees are most likely to obliterate their plans concerning professional development and, therefore, regress as experts. With that being said, the greatest challenge for dislocated teams must be retaining the ability to excel in their field and improve their skills despite the lack of models to follow (Measuring the relationship between ICT and the environment, 2009).

It would be wrong to assume that the issue mentioned above is completely unsolvable. By using efficient leadership techniques, one can easily create even a virtual role model for remote employees to follow (Maher, 2013). While the given process is quite time-consuming, it is still worth trying out. In order to help the employees develop their skills and make sure that their skills are up to the company’s standards, a range of courses and tests can be provided for the staff to remain competent and update their knowledge base.

Reference List

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Bartram, M. et al. (2012). Changing directions, changing lives: The mental health strategy for Canada. Web.

Busch, E., Nash, J., & Bell, B. S. (2011). Remote work: An examination of current trends and emerging issues. Ithaca, NY: Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies, Cornell University.

Dalkir, K. (2007). Knowledge management in theory and practice. Burlington, MA: Elsevier Butterworth–Heineman.

Heller, R. (2010). Global teams tend, challenges, and solutions. Web.

Integrated alternative workplace strategies (2011). Web.

Lederer, F. (2009). The legality and practicality of remote witness testimony. Web.

Maher, A. (2013). Remote employment: Advantages and challenges for Egypt’s labor force (after the 25th January Revolution). World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, 78, 1215–1220. Web.

Mahmood, M. A. (2012). Advanced topics in end user computing. Hershey, PA: IGI.

Measuring the relationship between ICT and the environment (2009).. Web.

Rane, A. & Agrawal, T. (2011). The future of workplaces. Web.

Stoehr, T. (2012). Managing e-business projects: 99 key success factors with 12 tables. New York, NY: Springer.

Sundin, K. (n. d.). Virtual teams: Work/life challenges – keeping remote employees engaged. Web.

Tampa, F. (2013). TeamViewer study: remote workers work harder for the environment. Web.

Telepresence helps employee-owned company spread corporate culture to new acquisitions (2012). Web.

Ware, J. & Grantham, C. (n. d.). Managing a remote workforce: Proven practices from successful leaders. Web.

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