Home office, video calls, digital collaboration tools: The Covid-19 pandemic is driving forward the digitalization of the world of work. However, it isn't just workplaces and digital tools which decide the success of virtual teams, the culture of leadership and effective self-organization also play a considerable role here.
Virtual onboarding of new employees, staff meetings via Microsoft Teams, online conventions instead of physical trade fairs: within a very short time, in Germany alone, the coronavirus has sent almost half of the workforce to work from home, as a study by the digital association Bitkom shows. Web meetings, video conferences, and working with digital collaboration tools have become part of everyday life for some time now. Even many initially rather skeptical companies found it easy to adjust to across-the-board, decentralized virtual working. The result: going back to a way of working together which requires physical presence is hard to imagine. In fact, according to a study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering, 43 percent of companies in Germany want to expand their capacity for home working. Almost as many company are thinking about it. The adjustment to a new flexible world of work appears to be a done deal.
In virtual teams, employees often have several roles and functions at the same time. These roles and functions should be set out in writing and should be visible across teams. Otherwise it can quickly happen that the working day for some individuals consists primarily of ad hoc reactions to instant messaging or video calls, because colleagues, customers, and service providers need information or make project inquiries. For one thing, this increases the probability of overburdening the employees. For another, it also increases their error rate. So, in addition to role and function plans, it is also advisable to establish disruption-free periods, during which meetings and calls may not be held. Briefings and feedback are also becoming increasingly important in virtual collaboration: All members of a virtual team must clearly communicate goals and expectations, structure and express their wishes for improvement in an appreciative manner, and, what's more, successes achieved both individually and together should be celebrated together.