Barriers to Virtual Communication

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Virtual communication is the concept of people working as a team without ever actually meeting each other. This is a common method for completing tasks in large businesses with departments spread across the globe. As an example, a video game company may have offices in the United States as well as Japan, relying heavily on virtual communication to keep the two areas in sync. There are a number of complications in virtual communication.

Time Zones

If you are working with someone halfway across the globe, time zones will be a major consideration. Coordinating with a team that is 13 hours ahead or behind you will require modified schedules and non-real-time communication, such as email. This can slow down the project development process and make it harder to react to sudden problems as they crop up.

Dependence on Technology

In a brick and mortar business where all of your employees are under one roof, you can get work done even if your network fails. People can sit down with one another and brainstorm on projects or finish presentations. When your business depends solely on virtual communication, you rely heavily on your network. Even a slight service outage of a couple of hours can cost your company millions in lost productivity as teams will not be able to communicate.

Accountability

A virtual team is harder to manage in that you cannot step into a room and check on your people each morning. In order to successfully keep track of the members of your team and their tasks, you will need to build some sort of monitoring schedule or feedback loop into your day. Checking in with each person at the end of the day is one way to avoid this problem. With virtual teams, you must often rely on managers at other locations to be your eyes and ears on the ground.

Miscommunication

The written word is a powerful ally for businesses, and email has dramatically improved the speed and effectiveness of virtual communication. However, people communicate with more than words, and tone is often lost when messages are typed onto a screen. This means the potential for miscommunication is higher with virtual teams, who rarely have the ability to read each other’s faces or body language. Keeping virtual communication professional is the easiest method for preventing potential gaffes.

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