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Jun 20, 201912:33 PMOpen Mic

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Transforming the workplace of the future

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More individuals are working virtually, at least part of the time, than ever before. In the U.S., nearly 4 million employees worked from home at least half time in 2015, an increase of 115 percent since 2005.1 The business environment is becoming more global. Today, no one knows for sure just how many people globally are working remotely at least part time, but what we do know is that the number is growing, and it will shape new ways in which organizations attract, retain, and employ a workforce of top talent.

A forecast of employment trends by the World Economic Forum called flexible work, including virtual teams, “one of the biggest drivers of transformation” in the workplace. This transformed workforce will include a greater diversity of members who come from different national cultures, backgrounds, work functions, ages, gender identifications, and who speak different first languages — even if all the members live in the same country. Some team members will be employees, others will be contracted on a temporary basis; still others may be service providers, vendors, or advisors. These changing demographics are transforming how organizations attract, retain, and develop their talent.

The good news

Well-managed organizations that leverage a virtual workforce are able to:

  • Match and frequently exceed performance effectiveness and efficiency of on-site individuals and teams;
  • Tap into the talents and perspectives of their employees, suppliers, contractors, clients, and donors that reflect the diversity of their customers;
  • Provide greater workforce flexibility and broaden the talent pool — nationally and internationally — to include people with disabilities and others who, perhaps, don’t have access to transportation or where commutes are often a greater distance (such as rural areas); and
  • Reach higher levels of employee engagement and increase innovation and creativity.

The not-so-good news

While telecommuting and virtual teams are on the rise, many leaders and team members are not well equipped to navigate the differences between on-site, co-located work, and the unique differences of working remotely. The challenges are even higher for global virtual teams.

Multiple research studies on virtual teams agree the biggest challenges these teams face are:

  • Colleagues who do not participate (79 percent)
  • Time required to make decisions (75 percent)
  • Different role expectations held by team members (74 percent)

In addition, lack of face-to-face contact has the greatest impact on productivity including understanding the full context of what people communicate (51 percent), managing conflict (48 percent), and establishing trust and building relationships (45 percent).2 The consequence of these challenges is a loss of engagement, missed opportunities from a more diverse talent pool, and lower organizational productivity and profitability.


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