Group chat is the future for virtual teams

What do you think when you hear the word chat? Do you see yourself chatting with your colleagues?

Whether your initial reaction is positive or negative, fact is, that chats are becoming the single most important means of communication for many virtual teams.

A distributed team certainly needs different functionalities for their collaboration – depending on the goals and the nature of their work – document sharing, a web conferencing tool etc. But team building happens only through the constant and seamless flow of conversation, something that only chat can provide.

A chat has mainly two functions in the team development process. There is the informal information flow and dialogue that creates a sense of nearness and belonging. This includes sharing of private information which is a basic need also in a business context. The second function of the chat is providing context information. It helps the other team members understand why a person is thinking in a specific way or why she is acting the way she does.

This digest is presenting a collection of posts that argue why chat is important, how it is becoming the key element of the virtual infrastructure of remote teams and what tools could be used to fill this function.

Start off, by reading our post (Chatting in virtual teams is more than talking about football) to learn more about why you should consider introducing a chat in your team in the first place.

Contextual conversation: Work chat will dominate collaboration

by Stowe Boyd

Stowe Boyd points out this shift from less-conversational communication tools like file sharing software to chat-influenced conversational tools and the integration of the chat function in traditional tools. The increase of mobile devices supports this trend towards “contextual conversation”. You can download the full report after registration from the Gigaom Research Website.

Read the article: Contextual conversation: Work chat will dominate collaboration by Stowe Boyd

Building Community in the Virtual Workplace

by Jennifer L. Carpenter

Already in 1998, Jennifer L. Carpenter wrote in this Harvard Research Paper that the fear of isolation and distance was the biggest obstacle for remote (“Telecommuting”) work, and the biggest challenge to organizing social collaboration. She also emphasizes the fact that simply providing a collaboration tool does not provoke the kind of communication essential for team building.

Several measures need to be taken to connect with and integrate distant co-workers. A virtual water cooler, a “fixed space that provides social opportunities” is certainly one of them and “ teaching managers to effectively supervise employees online” is another. Only with these measures taken is there a good chance that a feeling of belonging can be created and remote work can be successfully organized.

Read the article: Building Community in the Virtual Workplace by Jennifer L. Carpenter

Best team chat app

by Matthew Guay

This posts compares 6 popular chat tools. An internal tool for team chats is something your organization should consider, if you discover (and you undoubtedly will) that your staff is already using WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook and other (external) platforms to chat about team and other internal issues. Because the urge that people “like to talk” is universal. One of the important side effects of using a chat tool is that it cuts down on the number of emails between team members. Modern chat tools provide additional functions like video calls, file uploads etc. so they support other needs for your team collaboration process as well.

Read the article: Best team chat app by Matthew Guay

8 Ways to Create a Virtual Water Cooler to Increase Engagement

by Doug Brockway

A slightly different look at chat spaces takes Doug Brockway in his brief comparison of tools to foster private and personal communication amongst peers. Tools like Pinterest and Instagram mostly specialize on certain topics of interest where exchange of ideas or simply chatting-about-what’s-on-my-mind-right-now can result in the “social glue that brings teams closer”. These tools connect people with a high affinity to the same media e.g. music, videos, pictures and therefore gives you the chance -depending on the selection of people in your team- to quickly create closeness and a mutual understanding that can be transferred to all other aspects of work.

Read the article: 8 Ways to Create a Virtual Water Cooler to Increase Engagementby Doug Brockway

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