We live at a time where technological integration has become a pervasive feature of work life, and has set in motion impactful changes. These changes are more than automated structures and connected networks; they are a revolution, transforming the ways people work. With technology connecting physical and virtual worlds of work, new work arrangements emerge, changing the perception that organisations take place around specific structures and locations. It is now possible to cross boundaries associated with space and time, allowing collaboration beyond the physical encounter.
Yet, it is remarkable that we seem to overlook the ways in which contemporary worlds of work are bound up with technology. We are well beyond the point of debating the extent to which technology makes up contemporary workplaces; we are now at a point where technology is integral to worlds of work. In fact, given the accelerating pace of technological integration, it is imperative to develop an understanding of technological and social interweaving, before our knowledge on organisational life becomes out-dated at best, and misleading at worst.
Working together in virtual worlds is certainly not a new phenomenon; however, as contemporary workplaces become increasingly connected via IT technologies, the growth and popularity of virtual teams has intensified in the past two decades. Dell and Intel report in their 2016 Future Workforce Study that 51% of global employees work virtually at least a few times on a weekly basis. Now that virtual worlds of work dominate organisations, understanding the nature of virtual teams becomes imperative, and this project sets out to do so.
Virtual teams comprise a dynamic work arrangement characterised by people who work together across a set of boundaries (organisational, functional, geographical, national and temporal) in pursuit of common goals, using technology to communicate and coordinate work flows. By definition, members of virtual teams need to re-interpret many taken-for-granted characteristics of co-located teams. Firstly, they lose the proximity afforded by co-location, as well as the rapport brought about by synchrony in time; both of which are seen as characteristics bringing team members together. Secondly, they need to cross multiple contexts to achieve synergy: time, space, and culture are no longer given denominators of everyday life.
These characteristics illustrate the unique relational dynamics underpinning work in virtual teams, though they are have not been researched as such. While existing studies have emphasised the growing use of virtual teams, it has not been their aim to understand how people experience virtual collaboration. A gap, therefore, presents itself; a gap which is an invitation for this project. The objective is to explore the relational dynamics and the experiences that befall members of virtual teams, creating reflective narratives of work life.
Following a virtual logic, this website has been uniquely designed as a research tool to collect the experiences of virtual teams. Each member of a virtual team is given unique access to own virtual diary, where one is invited to respond to a series of questions relating to own experiences. While all members may participate in the project, each one has a private diary, accessible only to the researcher. In this way, the researcher is able to get insight into the team’s rhythms and practices as a relational whole. At the same time, individual voices give the researcher insight into the variations of relationality. Ultimately through this process, the researcher constructs reflective narratives of work life, telling the experiences of virtual teamwork.
Dr Chrysavgi Sklaveniti is Post-doctoral Research Fellow in the Institute of Organisational Psychology in the University of St Gallen, Switzerland. Her research interests revolve around the relational aspects of team work (virtual and co-located), technological integration, entrepreneurship, creativity and leadership. Her publications pursue these themes in philosophical, conceptual and empirical formats, and can be found here . The project presented here continues these developments.
OPSY-HSG | Institute of Organisational Psychology
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