How Do Virtual Teams Differ From Face-To-Face Teams?

If you’re changing up your work environment so that some people are going to be moving out of the office and into remote work? 

Then, you need to be aware of the differences between virtual teams and face-to-face teams and how to ensure that the virtual teams succeed in the new order of things. 

The good news is that this isn’t as complicated as you might think. Listen up!


The Main Differences


You Need To Develop Work From Home/Remote Working Skills

Most people are hired for the “job skills” that they bring to the party and that means if you’ve been working in a face-to-face environment, those job skills are aligned with working face-to-face. 

Working from home is different to working from an office (check these 10 work from home fails if you don’t believe us) and that means developing new skills. 

To do that, you’ll need to support a team moving to work from home with training, coaching and mentoring and it might take a bit longer than you expect to transition fully. 


Virtual Teams Thrive With Flatter Hierarchies 

Long chains of command aren’t great in an office environment but they are tolerable because a meeting room can quickly be occupied by the whole group and then a decision is made.

This just isn’t practical when working remotely at all. You want a group that is as level as possible with a single point of leadership that can cooperate and make decisions itself so that the work keeps flowing. 

This can be hugely intimidating not just to the workers but also to leaders and managers. 


Change Driven Transformational Leaders Are Best For Virtual Teams

Transformational leaders tend to be democratic in their general approach to work rather than autocratic.

They look to get buy-in from their people before pushing through a change, rather than doing it and then saying “sorry later”. 

How Do Virtual Teams Differ From Face-To-Face Teams

A good transformational leader will be looking not just to delegate tasks but also authority where necessary so that the job gets done with the minimum amount of friction.

This might be one of the reasons that many managers hate remote working.


Communication Is Everything 

It really is. In fact, we put communication down as the number one challenge that remote workers face. 

Virtual teams need to focus on making their communication more efficient and more effective. 

You’re looking to minimize “gaps” between people in the team so that everyone is acting on the best knowledge available to everyone.

You cannot afford information silos when working remotely, knowledge is only the power to foul things up and slow them down in those situations. 

One vital thing to do is to help recreate the informal nature of the watercooler in a face to face environment within the virtual one. 


Training On Remote Working Tools Is Essential

There are loads of super useful tools that can really enhance the productivity of virtual teams and the easiest way to turn an investment into such tools into ash is to fail to train people on them.

Remote Working Tools

Yes, some people can pick up tools through a process of self-study, YouTube, osmosis, etc. but most can’t and there is no point in investing in a productivity tool that nobody knows how to use. 

This may involve bringing people together in real life (if so, use our free virtual team building tools to get things rolling) or it may involve remote training options too. 


Relationships Still Matter But Are Built Differently

There is no doubt that we naturally build relationships and trust in face-to-face environments and that it’s easy to do so.

In a virtual team, you need to put more effort into this. 

You need to invest in remote team building and encourage people to take an interest in each other and build those relationships and yes, even allocate work time for that specific purpose. 


A Clear Shared Vision Leads To Productivity

If you want people to work well by themselves, they have to be able to make decisions for themselves.

To do that successfully, they need to be able to understand the objectives of the team, to be able to articulate them and to be able to “sense check” what they are doing against those objectives.

A clear, distinct and shared vision makes virtual team work much, much easier and while this is useful in face-to-face environments too, it’s not quite so vital as people can always just ask when things aren’t clear. 


Final Thoughts On Virtual Teams Vs Face-To-Face Teams

As you can see the issues faced by virtual teams can be overcome and they don’t, in most cases, need huge amounts of effort to get right, they just need you to think laterally. 

We’re all used to working face-to-face and we can all get used to working virtually, but in business you can’t afford to wait for this to happen naturally – you need to prepare and support the change. 

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Morgan Graff
Articles: 103

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