Virtual Teams Downside. There are lots of people who champion the idea of working from home or some other location that is not the office. Most of the advocates of working from home are the people who want to work from home. They declare that they are more productive with fewer distractions or interruptions. In the age of the Internet and the knowledge worker if I get my deadline met at noon or 2:00 a.m. what difference does it make as long as the deadline was made? Compelling points all, but each misses an important component that contributes to the success of any work group and that is team work and better interpersonal communications between members.
There is so much more to human interaction and communication than words on a page or spoken over a phone. Critics of those who work from home find that there are more misunderstandings or miscommunications as a result of the absence of non-verbal cues, which is also known as body language. Experts believe that 50% to 70% of human communication is non-verbal. There are also added costs of video conferencing equipment and licenses, added web security and the overall inconvenience of not being able to walk a few feet and speak to a colleague.
Death By Friendly Fire
In the military miscommunications cause death from so called friendly fire. The military factors the deaths from friendly fire into the cost of miscommunication. For military miscommunications, this price can be really high. The people killed by friendly fire pay the highest but there are consequences for the people who initiated the mid-directed weaponry.
For business, the costs are also high but instead of being “KIA” the costs manifest in security breaches and regulatory problems, which are high costs, but not life or death. That said, there is no reason not to take miscommunication very seriously. As stated above, in the military the people who died and those who caused the death both suffer greatly. So think about what happens when both sides in a company miscommunicate?
We tend to blame one side (the one we are not on) when there is a disagreement over meaning and intent. Public relations people and employees in any industry need to remember that all communication is a two way street. One side of the communication needs to be receptive and the other needs to be clear. Stop thinking about and in terms of the blame game and think more about this problem of geographically diverse employees as an issue of process that needs fixing.