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Working in diverse teams
Working in diverse teams

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2 Case study: virtual team-working

You may have some experience of working in a virtual team. Alternatively you may know someone who works in this way and have heard them talk about some of the benefits and also some of the issues that can arise.

Take a look now at the case study of Lauren and consider why she has made the decision to work at home and why some of her colleagues decided against this.

Case study 1: Lauren

Lauren works for a global publishing company. Four years ago she was office-based but when her local office (in Reading, England) was closed to make financial savings, Lauren was one of a group of workers who did not want to relocate to the main office located some 150 miles away. As she had worked for the company for 15 years, they were not keen to lose her experience and knowledge. Along with Lauren, a number of experienced employees were offered home-working as an alternative to relocation.

While some of the Reading team did not feel this would suit them and decided to look for other work in the area or accepted relocation, a handful of Lauren’s colleagues decided to try working from home. Since then the company has closed three more offices and even more employees have taken up the home-working option.

An image of a virtual team having a meeting that spans four locations.
Figure 3 A virtual team having a meeting that spans four locations

Activity 1 Your thoughts on virtual team working

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

While you may not have had a similar experience to Lauren, you can probably imagine what thoughts you would have if this happened to you. Take a moment now to consider:

  • What benefits did the option of home-working offer the company?
  • Why do you think some of the workers felt that they did not want to take the option of home-working?
  • How would you have felt in this situation?
  • What choice would you have made if you were Lauren and why?
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There are no right or wrong answers here. How you would feel in a situation like this is largely a guess. Unless it actually happens, you will never know for sure. In the next section, we will explore in more detail some of the issues with working from home and you may already have thought of some yourself. Oft-quoted reasons for not choosing to work from home include lack of office space, the need to keep home life and work life separate, and concerns about your ability to motivate yourself without the team environment. You may have come up with others.

Alternatively you may have thought that if you were given that option, you would have liked to try working from home.

Frequently-cited advantages of virtual team-working and working from home for the employee include:

  • flexibility
  • increased job satisfaction
  • reduction of travel time and associated costs.

Concerning the benefits from the employer’s perspective, virtual working offers:

  • flexibility
  • reduction of office space and associated costs
  • ability to retain experienced staff
  • increased diversity and global reach (Figure 3)
  • ability to cover different time zones
  • ability to recruit the ‘right’ employee even if they don’t want to move to the area the company is located in.

There may be others that you could add to these lists. You may notice that there are items common to both lists for example, cost reduction.

Despite the numerous advantages of virtual team-working there are also disadvantages. You will consider these next.