Virtual teams have become commonplace following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to revolutionary communication technologies, teambuilding in remote work settings are possible. As work-from-home culture becomes a new normal, understanding how to create and manage an effective virtual team is vital for businesses. Before jumping into the best practices for team building, let’s start by defining what is a virtual team.
Decoding virtual teams
Unlike in-house teams, in which people attend the same office and share a common workspace, virtual teams spread across multiple time zones, languages, ethnicities, and cultures.
These individuals may live across the world from one another and collaborate from different places to achieve a common goal. All of this is possible via remote communication tools.
Virtual teams serve many purposes, depending upon the project objectives and lifespan. Among the most popular ones are product development teams that come together to develop an end-to-end product, process, or system. Other popular types are management teams, service teams, parallel teams, and networked teams.
While online collaborations can boost employee satisfaction, lower costs, and improve employee retention and loyalty, there are some downsides. For example, the lack of face-to-face contact is the biggest challenge to the efficacy of any virtual team.
To create an effective team, managers have to strike the right balance between trust, communication, collaboration, training, and people. The following section explains each element in detail.
1. Build trust
One of the most important ingredients for any successful remote team is trust. Once you provide employees with task ownership and the adequate tools to get the work done, managers must trust their team to deliver, rather than micro-managing them.
Companies can foster a robust foundation for trust by setting clear expectations from the beginning and avoiding micro-management. Investing in employee well-being and providing time for non-work-related connections are also crucial.
To seamlessly reassure the team of the above vital elements and build trust, managers can leverage a professional team charter template during the next remote team meeting. Furthermore, the charter template can help you present data such that all stakeholders understand their accountability, boundaries, responsibilities, and authority while maintaining focus at all times.
2. Ensure seamless communication
What sets successful virtual teams apart from ordinary ones is effective communication. As trust is the staple for any virtual team to work well together, the absence of clear communication deteriorates trust along with the team’s performance.
Company leaders must devise a proactive and robust communication strategy. Managers should put coordination and transparency at the epicenter of the company’s remote communication strategy.
Furthermore, since your people would spread out across different time zones, you must provide the necessary technology and devices to connect. For instance, companies can invest in remote communication platforms, such as Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom. The goal here is to overcome the hurdle of lack of face-to-face communication and host engaging remote meetings to complete projects.
3. Virtual collaboration
It’s fair to say that getting teams to band together is often no easy task. Especially now when you’re dealing with a remote team. Collaborations become challenging for a number of reasons.
Now that you can’t simply drop by in the middle of the day and say hello to your team in person, how do you ensure remote employee collaborations go smoothly? A good starting point is clearly defining team schedules, setting expectations up front, and being crystal clear in all communications.
Another important step is to stay organized and stick to the schedule at all times. Seeing appointments change at the last moment can discourage your teams and cause communication gaps.
Managers must ensure things go as per the plan, whether it’s a one-to-one engagement, regular brainstorming session, or weekly overview meeting. If done right, managers can instill the feeling of the importance of time in the team and secure a higher level of collaboration and more productive sessions.
4. Provide effective training to the virtual team
One of the best ways to establish work standards and improve team-wide performance is through training. Entrepreneurs must note that training is an investment in your business, as well as the employees.
When done right, training can help boost employee morale and provide them with a feeling of supportive workplace contribution. Workers are also more likely to have the much-needed understanding of products, tools, or processes that the company adheres to.
Furthermore, when you train employees as a group, you also foster a sense of community and improve workplace collaboration and communication, all at the same time. Hence, with proper training, companies can brush up on an employee’s technical and social skills, as well as further motivate them to be creative and proactive.
5. Invest in employee well-being
Now that more people are working remotely, employee engagement and well-being are vital for companies of all sizes. Addressing both professional and personal challenges by providing the proper support is key. A good starting point might be team-building exercises and getting to know more about your employees’ lives outside of work.
The goal here is to provide a happy, collaborative, and creative work environment in which employees are cared for well. Managers can try different ways to remotely socialize with team members, such as virtual birthday celebrations, coffee breaks, gaming events, and engaging team-building slides. These examples are only a few of the out-of-the-box ways to interact and engage employees and have a good time while strengthening team spirit.
Final thoughts on building an effective virtual team
When working remotely, your team members are likely to isolate themselves and get lost in their work while losing track of project goals and deliverables. Successful virtual teams thrive on trust, communication, agility, and engagement. If done right, managers can build a highly collaborative and agile workforce that is ready for any challenge and stays on top of business requirements.