The past two years have shown how valuable a virtual team is to any organization. Regardless of industry, working with a virtual team – whether offshored or outsourced – can help businesses stay ahead of the curve. Collaborating with a virtual team may seem like a simple endeavour at first. As long as you all are connected to the internet and meet up, things can eventually work out. However, there are some intricacies and things to consider when you want to collaborate with a virtual team. Particularly, they should be seen on the same level as any on-site team and also provide just as valuable input.
We determined that there are four best practices when it comes to working with a virtual team. These practices consist of staying consistently engaged while establishing structures and processes that they can abide by within any organization. Though they may seem obvious from the outset, having a deeper understanding of these practices show just how valuable a virtual team can be.
Take Advantage Of Existing Technologies
At its heart, working with a virtual team means using all the available tools at your disposal. A few decades ago, this just meant sending back and forth emails, audio-only conference calls or exchanging ideas over text chats. Today, organizations can leverage all sorts of technologies to ensure a seamless and closer collaboration with their team. For instance, the rise of “Zoom meetings” have now become the norm. Virtual teams thrive on strong communication between each other and properly engaging with them through technology. Teams thrive on collaborative thinking and interaction with others and real-time technologies allow for this. Just short of actual face-to-face meetings.
Establish Structures and Maintain Them
One of the biggest lessons organizations learned over the last two years was the importance of routine and structure. With their teams working remotely, it was easy to forget that these routines should still exist. Remember that virtual teams operate on the same wavelength as those that also operate onshore. That is, they adhere to your organization’s principles and values in order to deliver on the objectives given to them. It’s good for leadership to set expectations about when people should be online or how to best communicate under these unique circumstances.
Defining work structures can help establish what your team will be working on. Much like onshore teams, maintaining regular work hours and a designated space remotely help in creating these structures. Doing so allows for better team alignment when it comes to scheduling meetings, catch-ups or just working on a consistent level. The familiarity of a routine brings will and a chance to increase the level of communication with all team members.
Set Limits To Abilities and Accessibility
Speaking of structures, it is just as important to set boundaries with your virtual team. It’s not uncommon for virtual teams to work in a different time zone from their organization. Whether it’s Australia or the Philippines, teams can easily end up working longer hours than needed in order to satisfy. No matter how you slice it, working long hours is unsustainable and can affect your team both physically and mentally. The past two years shone a light on how important personal and professional boundaries are for virtual teams. To better facilitate them and avoid burnout, remember that all professional requests and tasks should be completed within designated work hours. Through good leadership and time management, teams will be able to complete their requirements without intruding on their personal time after work. When these time boundaries are respected, teams become more motivated to accomplish their tasks with renewed fervor.
Boundaries in your virtual team not only mean knowing when they are available. Because of the ease that remote work brings, it’s easy to believe that your virtual team is capable of everything and anything. While it’s great to have a multi-talented team, there are also limits to what each member can do. Remember that your virtual team can only be their best to limits of their abilities. Asking them to go above and beyond their functions without proper training and assessment can also lead to burnout. Know what your team is fully capable of doing and always play to their strengths to foster stronger working relationships.
Trust and Collaboration Are Key
Companies that work with virtual teams will always tell you the same secret to their success. Building trust through consistent engagement and collaboration will go a long way with any virtual team. Even though they may not be on-site, virtual teams work best in an environment where they feel a strong sense of authentic engagement. Being compassionate and transparent with your virtual team helps them develop genuine connections and a sense of belonging in the organization. Building trust is easier said than done. Trust will always take time to build, especially remotely, but the benefits of doing so are undeniable.
So how do you build this trust? We previously discussed the importance of having a strong office culture that celebrates and prioritizes its people. Office culture is not just for on-site teams. You can also celebrate your virtual team’s own achievements together. They may be your remote counterparts, but their contributions are just as important. By also being more approachable and open, team members that may be struggling can easily reach out for any assistance that they may require.
Respect Above All for Virtual Teams
The current trend of working with virtual teams shows that not everyone needs to be in the same office to collaborate successfully. It also shows that you can celebrate and recognize the achievements and milestones of virtual teams through proper engagement. While not present in face-to-face meetings, their contributions cannot be seen as secondary to your business. By fostering trust, compassion and confidence in your virtual team, they become a valuable part of your overall organization.