Letting employees work remotely is a great option for many businesses since it lets them hire the best people for the job regardless of physical location.
Unfortunately, these virtual teams sometimes have trouble working cohesively because of differences in time zones, lack of direct contact and other iss
ues that arise when people aren’t physically working together. This is part of the reason that some major corporations, including IBM and Yahoo!, have started phasing out virtual teams completely.
Just because problems can arise doesn’t mean that they have to, though. If your business makes use of virtual teams, there are a number of ways that you can keep your team sharp and working together like the parts of a well-oiled machine.
Here are just a few suggestions for how to keep your team at the top of their virtual game, regardless of where they’re working from at the time:
Set Clear Expectations
Whenever someone new joins your team, make it clear from the very start exactly what you expect.
Create well-documented workflows for everyone to follow, allowing for necessary variances as dictated by the work being done. Be sure to offer frequent feedback as well, pointing out what’s being done right first and then offering suggestions for changes or improvements. The more that your virtual employees know about what you expect, the easier it will be for everyone to meet or exceed those expectations.
Schedule Video Conferences
If you want your virtual team to work well together, they need to know each other.
Schedule at least one meeting per week as a video conference, letting everyone actually see the different members of the team. This will not only help to build kinship between the various team members, but it will also facilitate good communication by adding visual facial cues to bring more context to things that are being said.
Drive Home Company Values
One big advantage that teams in the same office have is that they all are part of the same business culture.
Your virtual team can be part of your company’s culture as well, though it takes a little more work on your part. Take the time to plan meetings and workflows that stress the company’s values, ensuring that everyone knows what’s important to the company and how best to embody that. Don’t be heavy-handed with this, either; allow the culture of your team to develop naturally through their work and interactions.
When possible, assign collaborative tasks that let different members of your team work together on at least part of the project.
This not only puts additional sets of eyes on the tasks, but it ensures that team members aren’t isolated from each other. Try to make sure that everyone gets to work with everyone else if it makes sense to do so, as this can avoid your team breaking off into little factions that have little or no interaction between them.
If it’s not feasible for everyone to work with everyone else, at least assign tasks that will require different teams to communicate periodically so that there is at least some contact between them.
Communicate For Real
We live in an age where messages can be sent instantly anywhere around the world and documents can be edited online by multiple people in real time. Make use of this. Set rules requiring everyone to check in on a regular basis, and set up a channel in Slack or similar messaging platforms so that you and your employees can easily communicate at any time. The stronger your team’s communication is, the stronger the team itself will be.
Make It Fun
One of the biggest things that many people miss when working remotely is the interpersonal interaction that you experience in on-site work. Encourage your virtual team to talk to each other about things beyond just the task at hand. This is especially relevant when the cameras are on in meetings, since facial expressions can really help with bonding. Let your virtual team have some fun, and you’ll reap the benefits as your people become closer over time.
Just because your team isn’t all under the same roof doesn’t mean that they can’t effectively work together. Keeping your virtual team sharp may require a little bit of extra work on your part, but the end results are more than worth it. Keep trying new things to keep your team interacting and you’ll soon find that they’re just as solid of a team as any that operates out of the same office.