As organizations are switching to flexible policies, you would have currently seen a rapid increase in virtual teams which shows no signs of slowing down in 2020. It’s easy to see why – higher productivity, increased employee engagement, reduced operational costs, better work/life balance for employees and the list goes on.
As striking as these points are, the change to virtual types of teams is frequently a very tough prospect for organizations. A Research by Harvard Business Review states that remote employees are more likely to feel isolated or detached when compared to onsite employees. These communication issues become a problem for leaders. If you’re managing a group of employees, you also need to think about whether everyone is working in the same direction and giving the appropriate time.
Rather than going back to the traditional ways of doing business, you can directly address the challenges of handling a virtual team. Thus, you'll be able to overcome the challenges and build a strong, agile team that's collaborative from any part of the globe.
Communication is key in any workplace—especially one where most interaction is occurring via email, chat and calls. You should implement close attention to relationship-building and ensure good communication between the team.
Make structures and guidelines for team communication; such as how often meetings are held, what is the decision-making process and what are the approaches for expressing disagreements. Explain which medium to use for frequent communication (i.e., phone, email, message, intranet, video conference), response time requirements, and norms for prioritising issues. Plan and allocate an agenda before each meeting and follow-up with a quick recap of action points afterwards
If you look at a traditional team, if someone is 5 minutes late for a meeting, it's easy to give that person the benefit of the doubt as you assume they're just completing their work or maybe running a few minutes behind. But now, consider a virtual team. If someone is 5 minutes late for a conference call, the other attendees, who may be scattered all over the world, don't know what's going on and are floating in cyberspace waiting.
Thus, accountability must be one of your team's virtual norms. You must make a culture where both the what of work and the how of working together are established. This can be achieved by norms such as:
Trust is key in any work environment. When your team members trust you, they believe they’re working toward a shared vision, so team engagement and collaboration happen naturally. But it’s tough won in a situation where face-to-face interaction is a rarity. A shared collaborative spirit, mission, and strategic team building can help instil trust in your team members.
Cheer teams to meet often via video conference, as these virtual face-to-face conferences can help build a sense of community and familiarity. As a leader, be sure to communicate your expectations for each team so they know they’re working toward a shared goal.
This task can be a tricky one to accomplish. It’s tough to make an office alike culture for your virtual team. Teammates may go days without “talking” to each other and it’s likely that they’ll never meet in person.
It’s important to create an office culture nonetheless. Having your offices and team’s message groups can help developing an ongoing discussion. Send memes, share weekend stories and enquire your team about their pastimes whenever possible.
Chances for connection should be encouraged to create a great office culture for virtual teams.
If you’re handling a virtual team, you’ll witness that the collaboration and sharing between team members with various backgrounds and cultural differences often lead to perspectives that foster innovation and growth.
An apparent power inequity is one of the most common factors that can lead to conflict. You as a leader should ensure everyone is clear on their individual role within the team. Misunderstanding as to who is supposed to perform what can cause friction as team members compete for control.
Also Read: A Simple Guide To Managers For Teaming
Similarly, it should be made sure that everyone understands the overall team objectives. This keeps everyone aligned and working towards the same aims, encouraging team spirit. Also, you can organize in-between meet-ups for your team members so that they also get to engage with others.