News Letter [Home]
April, 2015

Super-charge Virtual Teams with Instant Workplace Communication

There was a time, not too long ago, when the entire concept of workplace collaboration from remote locations merely involved the hiring and firing of low level virtual clerical employees who stayed in touch with you through email and GTalk or Yahoo Messenger, planning your travel schedules and finalizing dinner reservations at restaurants. The Internet was in its infancy and many of the technologies we tend to take for granted today hadn't even emerged on the proverbial horizon.

Ground realities are rather different today. Virtual office environments, from where virtual teams function, use state-of-the-art infrastructure such as video conferencing, dynamic white boards, global call conferencing and chat-based communication using office instant messengers only to name a few, to communicate and to connect. The seamless deployment of these technologies, along with the willingness of organizations, both large and small, to engage virtual teams has gone a long way in reducing costs, enhancing productivity and providing a bewildering array of services to customers around the world 24X7. Before we examine how we may improve the performance of virtual teams through effective instant workplace communication strategies, let us take a moment to first understand some of the communication-related challenges virtual teams are facing today:

Building Interpersonal Trust

Mutual trust is the underlying edifice of productivity and performance not only among virtual teams but all workforce teams regardless of their geographical proximity. Trust is sometimes hard to build and sustain if your colleagues are scattered around the planet on all the populated continents. You don't get to see facial expressions if you don't use video. Moreover, body language, it goes without saying, is impossible to read if your colleague isn't in the same room as you.

Overcoming Multi-cultural Nuances

Much has been said and written about cultural markers within workplace environments. Although the challenge isn't as complex as it used to be thanks to the global cultural exposure the media and the Internet have provided, barriers do exist especially when workplace traditions are deep-rooted within a cultural context. Virtual team members, located in different countries, often experience communication challenges when interacting with each other.

Instant Workplace Communication to the Rescue

Instant workplace communication broadly refers to work-related interactions in real time where text chat is the primary mode of communication. Also referred to as office instant messengers or business messengers, this technology has matured lately in that it is not only stable and reliable but also popular and effective. Think of instant workplace communication as closed live chat much like Google Talk or GTalk, which has now been merged with Google Hangout, or Yahoo Instant Messenger, except that business messengers are used primarily in workplaces. There is nothing to stop you from saying Hello to a colleague or wishing the boss a happy birthday using an office instant messenger. However, typical adoption involves official messages, instructions, meeting reminders and announcements. There are at least three ways in which workplace communication barriers can be overcome using this technology:

Adopt the Technology

Installing an office instant messenger is the first step to addressing workplace communication challenges among virtual teams. Once you have explored the various solutions available in the marketplace, you should install the application that meets your needs. Since the communication takes place instantly and in real time unlike email, members of a virtual team will be able to receive answers to their inquiries and send feedback promptly.

Provide Access and Training

Using instant workplace communication solutions requires little if any training. Your solutions provider will be able to deliver several forms of training content as a part of the overall service package. Since the technology is language independent, virtual teams can even use business messengers to interact in a language other than English if all team members converse in the same language and agree on a standardized communication model.

Promote the Solution

Simple deployment isn't enough. Corporate management policies within your organization should officially encourage your workforce to use the application. Your system administrator should work closely with department heads to show how live chat-based online departmental meetings can be organized in which members of a virtual team interact freely much like group chat.

Final Takeaways

Although there is never an all-encompassing solution to a set of complex problems, instant workplace communication tools involving live chat surely present a few viable options. Since the technology, owing to its very nature, supports instant communication, several challenges are resolved simply because they were tackled in a timely manner.