On your mark! Get set! Go! Give me a team of:
- 10 people (Team X) who are not working in the same traditional office every day (i.e. who are virtual / telecommuting) and
- 10 people (Team Y) with the same skills, but who are co-located in the same traditional office.
With the right management, X will outperform Y in their ability to achieve the same goal.
Keith Ferrazzi, CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, posted on the HBR Blog that Virtual Teams Can Outperform Traditional Teams. In my experience working with virtual teams, I couldn’t agree more. This isn’t to say building a sense of community and teamwork through co-location isn’t useful & important. However, when you consider the sheer productivity of a team and the workers on the team, the work, the focus it takes to complete tasks, let’s face it, distractions can take the team off target. And burning the candle at both ends WHILE including commute time can take its toll too.
In my experience in IBM, I’ve known about virtual teams for years. Most IBMers wouldn’t hesitate to simply sit down at a desk, connect their workstation to the network, pick up the phone, and start hammering away at their work without a moment’s notice. Nearly every meeting has a teleconference bridge. Getting work done during the meeting is the norm, instead of solely talking about the work and then doing the work later.
In addition to Keith Ferrazzi’s points, consider these:
- Each hour of work over 40 hours per week will result in decreased productivity.
- Working in a virtual location without coworkers nearby will minimize distraction and maximize the work-based attention applied to each hour within the 40-hr zone.
- Commuting to the traditional office often requires 2 additional hours each day. Those hours feel like work, adding to the personal impact of a work week (say, changing 40 hours into 50 hours simply with an hour commute).
- “Work Shifting” – Baseline Mag references a report by Citrix Systems, in which a combination of Telecommuting and Flextime is bundled into this new term.