Perhaps you want to avoid your daily commute, organize your own time or concentrate on a particular project: at PostFinance, you can work from home as one of a range of options for arranging your own working time, and we will support this wherever possible depending on your job. “As an employer, we want to give employees the opportunity to work where it makes the most sense for them,” explains Sara Ferroni, Head of Employee and Organizational Development at PostFinance. Some people prefer coming to the office to clearly separate their work and private lives or because they work with infrastructure that is not available to them at home. Others like to get out of the office regularly for a certain period of time and log in remotely because they need a change of scenery or because they are on the road a lot anyway.
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Working together in virtual teams: six obstacles – six solutions
Don’t want to work in the office every day? As an employer, PostFinance tries to promote flexible working wherever possible. Many of the company’s employees have experienced this, not least due to the increased need to work remotely since the crisis of spring 2020. We have the following tips.
What do you see as the advantages of working in virtual teams?
Obstacles to remote cooperation
This raises the question of how purely virtual or mixed teams can work together efficiently and smoothly at a distance. What obstacles are faced and how can conflict be avoided? Sara Ferroni summarizes the key factors:
Obstacle 1: Reliability
No “Here comes another phone call” or “I just need to write another e-mail”: keeping teams together remotely requires reliability. Everybody needs to know how and when everybody else can be contacted. There also needs to be an institutionalized and regular exchange of information (e.g. as part of a daily meeting or always on the same day of the week). Reliability also means setting goals, as well as keeping to and implementing agreements. This starts with the exchange of information: not just for planning purposes, but also for collaboration – with clearly defined tasks and recording of results.
Obstacle 2: Informal information exchange
When you take a break at work, it's good to relax but also to chat and swap information. This is just as important for virtual teams. A virtual coffee break in front of the screen can be very useful. You can also use it to chat about things other than work, helping you to return to your daily tasks with renewed energy and a fresh perspective.
Obstacle 3: Lack of clarity
Questions, questions, questions: in virtual teams, everybody must proactively ask questions and follow up if anything is unclear. Due to the lack of non-verbal communication, misunderstandings are inevitable. This can be compensated for by asking questions, insisting on clarifications, and practising active listening (e.g. by regularly repeating or summarising the speaker’s idea with different words).
Obstacle 4: Tools
It isn’t so easy to quickly draw something on the flip-chart when you’re chatting online. But there are countless tools that facilitate collaboration across electronic devices. For example, you can use a digital whiteboard like the one from The link will open in a new window Microsoft to sketch out your ideas. It is important to agree on the working tools used within the team (which tools match which tasks and how tasks in the virtual world may have to be adapted) and to practise using them.
Obstacle 5: Transparency
Who is working on what and what progress is being made? Transparency and an open flow of information are essential in virtual teams. These can be created with daily check-ins, weekly status meetings and shared bulletin boards that make project progress visible. Likewise, it is possible to get help from colleagues quickly and easily using chat functions or spontaneous Skype calls, for example. The “open door” policy should also apply online.
Obstacle 6: Trust
Last but not least, working remotely requires a great deal of trust – in employees and fellow team members. Criticism and distrust resulting in micromanagement and constant over-supervision are pure poison. On the other hand, open and clear feedback is beneficial for motivation – especially when it is positive. It’s better to communicate a bit too much than too little. But never argue via chat!
About Sara Ferroni
Sara Ferroni is the Head of Employee and Organizational Development at PostFinance. Her team has developed internal tools for remote cooperation.