Virtual distance is what many of us remote workers deal with every day.  Many people feel that communication has been degraded by technology, but perhaps we just aren’t using it correctly. Keith Ferrazzi, Author of “Never Eat Alone” and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight a Strategic Consulting and Experiential learning Service, explains this in detail.  He says that virtual distance is broken into 3 groups, physical distance, operational distance, and affinity distance.  They can be described as the following.

  • Physical Distance – What it sounds like. The distance between the people on a map.
  • Operational Distance – This is the difference in goals and vision among staff working on a project.  If they are aiming for different objectives, it increases their operational distance.
  • Affinity Distance – This breaks down to familiarity, innovation and trust.  The closer your staff are to each other in an emotional and trusting way, the better they will work.  If they have no familiarity with each other, their affinity distance will be increased.

Although we all have to deal with virtual distance to a degree when we work remotely, there are ways to limit it.  In a recent webcast called “How Virtual Teams Can Outperform Traditional Teams” Keith Ferrazzi labels some tips to help reduce your distance.

  • Do what you can to accelerate intimacy among your staff.  This can include games, outings, or even charitable events.  Online games have shown to be a great way to build connection between coworkers, especially with staff who work far away from each other.
  • Make sure you have employees with high commitment.  It is an absolute must to keep working smoothly.
  • Don’t put too much weight on physical distance.  Most can be solved by technology like Videoconferencing, meeting software, or softphones.
  • Use the time before meetings to talk to your co-workers and show that you are human.  Share personal stories and ask about theirs.  This builds trust, and lessens that affinity distance.

Building trust in a virtual environment can be tough but is essential to being a successful team.  There are lots of ways you can achieve this.

  • Find common ground – Using basic conversational skills, find out what you can about each other, and what qualities and experiences you share.
  • Use Facebook and LinkedIn – These are great ways to see that your coworkers are human like you.  This is a great way to connect with them personally and build a relationship with them.  This can help you gain empathy for them by seeing them through a personal lens.
  • Share and rotate power – Don’t put everything on one person.  Allowing the power to rotate makes everyone feel important and also limits the burden for everyone.
  • Quality in Communication – Focus on the quality of your communication, not the quantity.  Don’t send 10 bad emails, send one good one.

These are just some tips on how you can limit your virtual distance.  If you follow these practices you can improve your virtual teams and make them excel.