Virtual Business Offices

If we could step back in time into the business environment of 2000, would the term 'virtual business office' mean anything to most office employees? Probably not. Today we know that working virtually has evolved into a common work arrangement, and few would disagree that virtual business offices changed the working world, thanks to the march of technology. Walk into any office today and you know that things are not as they were a decade ago. If you engage employees in conversation, many of them will tell you that they currently work on projects with colleagues who do not work in the same building, the same city, or even the same country. Ask them if they have met these teammates and you'll probably get a wide range of responses - - some may claim to have met them while attending a corporate offsite, others may have viewed pictures posted on the Internet, and still others may describe introductions made during webcam meetings.

Clearly our business landscape has changed!

The virtual team, VT for short, is a work arrangement in which a group of people share responsibility for goals that must be accomplished in the total, or near total, absence of face-to-face contact. With the powerful forces of technology and globalization, virtual teams are reshaping the way we think and do business.

Organizations have always operated in multiple locations, but now, colleagues are increasingly asked to work together across geographic boundaries, with shared responsibility for outcomes. Global operations have emerged throughout the world of commerce, running 24/7 on different continents and across time zones. Many large conglomerates place teams in different countries with the expectation that schedules will fit the project – and follow the sun—as one team hands off work product to another. As we know, this arrangement is possible because of the many efficiencies technology brings to creating work product and solving complex business issues quickly. With mobile devices, texting, and cloud commuting to name a few options, meaningful interaction is possible anywhere, anytime.

Although many virtual business offices exist today for employees at all levels, the number and diversity of these types of arrangements (whether home offices or office locations) keeps proliferating. Enabled by technology, the virtual team is a natural solution for getting deliverables out the door in our fast-paced, global environment. Increasingly, leaders are charged with quickly putting together teams of individuals with appropriate skills and abilities to fit within a project’s timeline, regardless of where the talent is physically located. Clearly, colleagues use e-mail in place of voicemail, while conference calls usurp conference rooms.

In spite of this quantum shift, the quality of the human connection is still key to achieving the very objectives these teams were created to achieve. High quality communication is even more important when you don't have the natural advantage of meeting with team members face-to-face. With this in mind, the focus of this blog section is to provide you tips for ways to improve virtual business offices through strategies and techniques taken from my book, A Manager's Guide to Virtual Teams.

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