With the development of connective and cloud based technologies, working in collaboration can now be done from almost anywhere in the world. Virtual teams are an integral part of many businesses and organisations and the skill of virtual collaboration is one that we’re going to need far more of in years to come, according to the Institute for The Future (IFTF).
Motivating and engaging a group of people who are separated by physical distance requires a different approach than traditional management and motivation techniques. Problems like social isolation can easily arise when you are leading a virtual team as many of your employees may spend most of the day by themselves.
More and more organisations are experimenting with ways to overcome this problem, from letting their employees work in physical co-working spaces to virtual offices where employees can go and interact with each other in a role play game style environment. Social media is another way to keep virtual employees connected, by setting up Facebook groups or using other platforms where virtual staff members can chat and interact with each other about work or social issues.
According to our own 4IR.org Skills Coach in Virtual Collaboration Paivi Lohikoski, virtual collaboration has a number of benefits for individuals and the organisations they work for. These benefits include:
The removal of time, location and organisational boundaries.
Reduced costs due to fewer office expenses, lower travel costs and less time spent commuting.
Higher productivity levels through sharing tasks and also the ability for multiple teams to work on a single project in parallel.
The virtual environment masks cultural differences and makes them less significant than they might be in a physical team. The same goes for personal conflicts and differences.
Access to the best talent anywhere in the world.
Added flexibility for employees and the ability to balance work with family life and other commitments.
Virtual collaboration is already gaining momentum and popularity and now is the time to start thinking about how you can facilitate virtual collaboration in your organisation. Paivi believes that virtual collaboration can improve business performance in a whole range of different ways, from reducing costs to increasing employee productivity.
Thanks to the transdisciplinary nature of the Millennial workforce coupled with the increase in collaborative technology, virtual collaboration is likely to become even more commonplace in the future.