The pandemic has brought about a complete revolution in the way we do work. Remote work, once a pie-in-the-sky idea that few companies seemed to be fully implementing, is now in full swing. Thus, it seems like the stage is finally set for virtual teams to take the world by storm. But are they really as productive and reliable as regular, in-person teams? And what other benefits, if any, do they have over the way things were? Today, we’ll walk you through why change, when done right, can be a good thing.
In our new section about the gig economy, we’ve taken the time to explore why we’re in the middle of a reinvention of the employee/employer relationship. But, even as these new changes bring heightened flexibility and opportunities for both freelancers and providers, that’s not the end of the story. In fact, it seems that our “new normal” also opens up new avenues for collaboration; distributed work, and virtual teams, once an organizational nightmare, are now commonplace. And, what’s more, these teams—usually a mix between full-time employees and freelancers—work like a dream.
Stick with us, and you’ll find out why it’s worth taking the virtual plunge. Honestly, you might never want to go back after you’re done, so be ready for a major perspective shift!
What Are Virtual Teams?
If you run a business, corporation, or organization, you’re most likely familiar with working as a team. After all, collaborative efforts have been the bread-and-butter of humanity for as long as we’ve been around. It’s been said over and over, but it begs repeating: “alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
It’s no mystery that, traditionally, we’ve huddled together as a group to complete tasks. Whether in office spaces, factories, campuses, and more, humans have always preferred the comfort of proximity. But, times change, things evolve, and we create new tools to overcome challenges.
And what a challenge the COVID-19 pandemic has been. And one of the major challenges that it’s provided is our ability to get together to do work. Yet, something that we’ve always excelled at is making lemonade when life gives us lemons. Cue the rapid shift—which was already happening—towards virtual teams.
In a Nutshell
So, virtual teams are organized groups of people that operate in a distributed, remote manner. In contrast to “normal” teams, they can operate from anywhere in the world, in a variety of time zones, and with people working from any location on Earth, provided they have adequate Wi-Fi.
These virtual teams, also come in the heels of an already ongoing shift to remote work overall. We wouldn’t like to brag but at Bunny Studio we’ve always been big believers in running operations in a mostly remote manner. This not only made the switch during the pandemic a non-issue but also had other added benefits. We wrote:
That means no nine to five commutes to physical offices or headquarters. In replacement of physical interactions, such business models often utilize tools such as Zoom or Slack, where files can be shared and discussions can take place. Distributed teams shift offices to a digital space where everything flows through the invisible web.
Consensus has shown that employees show optimal engagement when working remotely 60% to 80% of the time. Huge conglomerates such as Intuit, Johnson and Johnson, Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon are ahead and operating via distributed teams even prior to Covid-19. The pandemic only acts as a catalyst that further reinforced their faith in the remote working culture.
So, operating with virtual teams is no longer about getting with the times; it’s about catching up to the times. A sobering reminder that clinging to outdated ways could be hurting your business. But, if you’re still not convinced, we’ve got a variety of reasons why going virtual could be the (other) shot in the arm your company needs right now.
What Can You Gain From Virtual Teams?
The Crème De La Crème
Sometimes, working in person exclusively can create headaches that you didn’t see coming. For instance, staying local means that you’re limited to the talent on hand. Or, in some cases, you may have to import talent from other locations in other to create the perfect team. But when geographical location stops being a factor, this limitation goes out the window. Therefore, you can just focus on creating a perfect team of A-listers, and not have to make do with second-best.
Keeping productivity up while cutting costs without lowering salaries? Yes! Virtual teams can help you save up, primarily, on the fixed costs of office spaces. When you employ virtual teams, they are responsible for their workspace, utilities, and equipment. Well, even if you provide partial reimbursement for their equipment costs, it’s still much cheaper than:
- Paying for a yearly rent.
- Internet, electricity, and other utilities.
And costs also mean “time.” Most people dread making lengthy daily commutes that negatively impact their work/life balance. And, to top it off, most of these commutes are also costly. The double benefit is that employees win back both time and money.
Reduced commute times are just one of the factors that put time back into the hands of employees; virtual teams, overall, offer everyone an increased chance to do things on their own terms. Whether it be foregoing stodgy dress codes entirely, napping, playing with their kids and pets, or being flexible with tasks, these are just a few examples.
The main takeaway? Even those who are passionate about their jobs want to enjoy life after clocking out. Not surprisingly, individuals who are a part of virtual teams tend to report a much-improved rate of satisfaction with their work/life balance (over 75%). Additionally, 82% of Millennials, those most prone to want to work remotely, say this balance is essential when choosing to apply for a new job.
It Increases Productivity Per Worked Hour
One common misconception about virtual teams is that they’re less productive. “How can people work from home with so many distractions around?” say detractors. The reality here is that employees prefer to choose when they work, and how to optimize that time. It’s been said countless times, but we’ll say it again: with any luck, 50% of the time employees spend inside an office is productive; the rest are just dead hours that they hopelessly try to fill until the workday is done.
But this doesn’t have to be the fate of employees within virtual teams. Although they normally have to stick to work hours just like everyone else, they have more freedom when it comes to utilizing those hours; this, in turn, increases motivation to work both smarter and quicker.
Globally Distributed Means Global Support
How many times have you had to lose sales because you had no staff available to work with a client in a “difficult” timezone? Or, even worse, incurred the wrath of a paying customer because your support staff was tucked away in bed? With virtual teams, you can have around-the-clock teams working in different time zones. Thus, you can cater to clients globally without having to worry about potential hiccups.
Also, having a diverse, global team can help increase cultural sensitivity and erode borders. When, before, understanding each other across cultures might’ve been an issue, now it’s a zinch.
One of the paradoxes of virtual teams is that they allow for an easy flow of communication. An example? At Bunny Studio we usually operate through Slack, or other similar channels, depending on the project. Of course, management usually uses other channels, and regularly meets over the now ubiquitous Zoom.
Although you don’t have to limit yourself to these communication suites, they still prove a rather important point. Namely, that distance is really no object when it comes to establishing clear lines of communication, channels for every team and part of the hierarchy, and, in turn, achieve quick results.
If your business grows, you’re going to need a larger workforce. But, this obvious nugget also brought with it some other obvious burdens: namely, having to rent or build more facilities according to your growth. But now, you don’t have to migrate to a new site, or expand your existing one; virtual teams can help you grow as much as your company needs without having to think about brick-and-mortar costs.
Some Extra Statistics About Virtual Teams
Finances Online provide some extremely insightful statistics about how COVID-19 has precipitated the adoption of virtual teams.
- 80% of global corporate remote work policies had shifted to virtual and mixed forms of virtual team collaboration during the early part of the coronavirus crisis. (Meluso et al., 2020)
- Zoom is the most used app by virtual teams in the US during the pandemic. (Clutch.io, 2020)
- 64% of organizations say that the shift to virtual team work will likely be a permanent one because of COVID-19. (Meluso et al., 2020)
- 97% of courts everywhere use video meeting platforms to continue the legal process during the pandemic. (Bloomberg Law, 2020)
- 75% of virtual teams worldwide say that remote collaboration allowed them to be more effective in their jobs. (Meluso et al., 2020)
- 62% of employees worldwide say that they might think of resigning from a co-located organization to a company that offers remote work. (GitLab, 2020)
- 91% of courts worldwide use remote desktop apps to conduct their virtual hearings. (Bloomberg Law, 2020)
They also provide this handy chart about the most-used apps for remote work.
This bears out our previous point about clear communication channels. Thankfully, the abundance of apps provides many options to keep teams operating as a unit.
Virtual teams are here to stay, and part of the “new normal” that is:
- Increased flexibility.
- A better work-life balance.
- Saving companies time and money.
- Increasing productivity;
- Helping us reshuffle and rethink our ideas about work.
At Bunny Studio, we’ve always been big believers in conducting business remotely. And we’re proud to say we’ll continue leading the charge with high-quality, distributed teams of global professionals to provide you with the best in creative solutions!