Where Are You Located?

If there is anything we have learned from this season of confusion called, COVID-19, it is that work schedules and work life can actually function outside of the normal brick and mortar office. With the wonderful developments in technology, teams are still able to meet together, in person, online. A team is defined as a group of people with common resources working towards a common shared goal. The people in the team depend on each other for skills, information, and resources so they can work collectively and collaboratively. When you have a group of diverse people from different geographic locations who have the ability to manage communication through technology, you have a geographically dispersed team. These teams are also known as virtual teams. (Gulati et al., 2017)

 In today’s competitive global economy, organizations that have geographically dispersed teams find they are capable of rapidly responding to changing business environments. One of the biggest advantages of having virtual teams is that the organization can save money. It is a much more affordable way to run a business because you do not have to pay rent for a building or overhead costs for office space or communications. Another huge advantage is your organization is not tied down to a specific location. You are able to tap into the talent and skills of the global economy. When you have a geographically dispersed team, the organization can use standardized processes and documentation. Specific hours worked will not matter as much because when you have team members scattered across different time zones you can expand your hours. Having geographically dispersed teams offer many advantages and opportunities in the global market giving companies the opportunity to be highly profitable. (Gulati et al., 2017; Mars Discovery District, 2019)

Even though it is important to see how technology has evolved and allowed for geographically dispersed teams, there can be disadvantages as well. Surprisingly enough, one of the biggest disadvantages is communication. If your company is not prepared with the right technology and software, it can be hard to communicate. You may save money by not having a physical office space but you do need to budget a large amount of money on efficient communication technologies. As with any project, if you don’t have the right person in the job to lead, your team will not succeed. There are cultural differences and different ways of working which can result in conflict between the team members. Leadership and management are essential to providing a clear vision and setting clear goals and deadlines for the team. Lastly, when there is a lack of social interaction, meaning not enough face-to-face contact, albeit on screen, it can lead to weakened relationships and lack of trust between the team members. It takes a lot of work as a leader to hold this type of team together. (Gulati et al., 2017; Mars Discovery District, 2019)

You may be thinking, how do I, as a leader, minimize the disadvantages? Regardless of how people are organized, managing a team that’s spread out in many locations can present huge challenges, even for the most experienced bosses. But, there are ways to make it work. First, you want to choose the right person for the job. They need to possess key qualities such as being self-motivated and having excellent communication skills. Make sure your team has an effective and open communication channel so they can ask their questions and get timely responses. Managers must give feedback and reward performance. This will help to continuously motivate employees. Feedback is important in any office but even more important on virtual teams. As a manager, you need to stay in contact with everyone and make sure that your feedback is always fair and consistent. Your rewards need to be fair and equal as well. Lastly, promote team bonding. Most people who work in an office environment enjoy occasional lunches or drinks with co-workers. Or the tradition of having cake on birthdays. These are all great team-bonding activities that obviously won’t work with geographically dispersed teams. As a manager, be creative about ways to achieve team bonding if workers are physically separated. If your budget allows for it, maybe create a weekend get-away for the team. Or on their birthday, have a special virtual celebration and send them a box of cupcakes. Make your team members feel special and part of the virtual family.  (Gulati et al., 2017; Mind Tools, n.d.)

Resources

Gulati, R., Mayo, A., & Nohria, N. (2017). MindTap – Cengage Learning. Cengage.Com. https://ng.cengage.com/static/nb/ui/evo/index.html?deploymentId=557615113112872025758405199&eISBN=9781305643673&nbId=2485825&snapshotId=2485825&dockAppUid=16&

Mars Discovery District. (2019, June 28). Benefits & disadvantages of virtual teams. MaRS Startup Toolkit. https://learn.marsdd.com/article/virtual-teams-benefits-and-disadvantages/

Mind Tools. (n.d.). Managing a Geographically Dispersed Team: Achieving Your Goals Together While Apart. Retrieved September 30, 2021, from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMM_40.htm

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