Remote working has its highs and its lows – here’s how to get the best out of your virtual team.
By Billy Bones (Marketing Director, Bookingagentinfo.com)
Working with a virtual team certainly has its perks. You aren’t limited to hiring within a certain zip code and your team members will appreciate the flexibility that comes built-in with their job description.
Yet though your team will enjoy the perks of being able to work from home or a café, working virtually has its difficulties. When you’re in an office you have the ability to speak to your colleagues face-to-face.
But with a virtual team, there’s a lot of room for miscommunication that can halt productivity.
1. Be Thorough in Your Hiring and Training Procedures
During the hiring process we set clear goals and expectations so the new hire, as well as us, know how to measure work productivity and understand daily responsibilities of each team member. Virtual employees must be self-motivated and great communicators, because without this they could easily slack off and ignore their tasks until they get around to deciding it’s time to “work.”
Hire people who are confident, self-motivated and have good communication skills during your initial interviewing process. They need to be comfortable with talking through video conferencing like Skype, so if a potential employee seems weary of this or holds back through voice and video chats, it is a red flag that they are not going to be comfortable in the virtual setting.
If someone takes a long time to respond to emails or misses calls frequently it might be a sign that he or she isn’t experienced in the procedures of being on a virtual team and aren’t the best fit.
For my own team, we create clear guides for each position within our organization that can be accessed through Basecamp. The guide breaks jobs into steps, and we provide feedback at each step so that employees know that they are on the right path; this helps to gain confidence and become a part of the team. This is our way of providing encouragement and being constructive.
We also like to, in our own way, “bring the office to the person” by introducing them to everybody on the team through a video chat or conference call, letting the employee see first hand whom they will be collaborating with.
2. Recognize that Communication is Essential to Productivity
In a traditional office setting, there’s constant interaction; when working remotely the only opportunity for interaction comes from being logged in to the systems provided by the corporation and digitally communicating with your team. This has been known to cause a lot of problems for a lot of businesses; without providing ample opportunities for team members to collaborate, work will not get done.
For my company to ensure a smooth workflow we have systems and tools set into place that engage employees in communicating with one another throughout their workday.
We rely on Skype to “punch the clock” and start the day. It’s our constant means of communication throughout and all of our employees are signed on at the same time. This is a great way to create a group chat so that all members of the team can discuss their work and ideas.
We use Google Drive to file share and collaborate on shared documents as well as provide feedback on ongoing work. Basecamp is used for managing projects and allow us to communicate with each other, track progress on projects, and set-up to-dos for team members.
3. Include the Virtual Team in Your Company’s Office Culture
Invite remote workers to be a part of the company’s culture by allowing them to feel pride and ownership toward their contributions. One way we do this is by sharing our revenue and revenue goals with the team, as well as any progress we are making toward those goals. This allows the virtual employees to feel ownership over their role in the organization.
We were inspired by a great idea we read on Buffer. To make meaningful connections and build morale we share our non-work related goals with each other each week.
This gives everybody a glance into each other’s lives and also allows us to cheer people on things they are working on in their personal lives. This is our team’s version of “water cooler talk.”
One of the things that I’ve learned from running a virtual team is that you have to constantly improve the process. We have made mistakes, yet from those we are able to refine the process and make things smoother as we proceed.
Our hope is that we are able to still make connections with one another despite our remote locale and that through these building blocks we can achieve goals just as well as if our desks were within arms reach rather than hundreds of miles away.
What are your tips for managing a virtual team?
Image credit: Max Griboedov via Shutterstock.