Virtual Teams Relationships

Posted on January 4, 2010 by

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We now have the technology to allow people to communicate, transfer information, and work together all across the world without meeting each other face-to-face. This is making virtual teams increasingly popular. Many people who work on a virtual team also work at an office surrounded by co-workers; other virtual team members who work from home or travel extensively, rarely, if ever, see their fellow co-workers in person. Humans are social creatures who need to have relationships and feel that they belong to a group. Although family and friends outside of work may form the majority of many people’s relationships, relationships with co-workers can also contribute to fulfilling social needs, and the feeling of belonging to a group can help motivate people in their daily work.

A recent CNN article reported that there has been an 800% increase in virtual employees from 2003 to 2008. Some ways that IBM is using to make virtual employees feel connected are IMB clubs, which are places that employees in the same city can get together, informal online networks that resemble cubicle mates, and SocialBlue, a social networking site (http://money.cnn.com/2009/11/19/news/companies/ibm_virtual_manager.fortune/index.htm).

Members of a virtual team who are assembled for a quick project and will never work together again may not need to know each other well. However, for virtual team members who work perhaps years together, relationships among each other become more important. People working together virtually can not help but incidentally learn something about each other. For example, if Eli always has his weekly report emailed to the team by 9:00am Monday, team members know he is reliable. And if Selina’s emails are chock full of misspellings, team members may assume that those kinds of details are unimportant to her. Forming relationships with virtual team members can happen more quickly if there is some intention to do so. For example, having team members share casual photos from their everyday life and listing some of their hobbies. Please share your ideas to promote relationships in virtual teams—we’d enjoy hearing them here at TAP!