Virtual teams are on the rise. These are groups or units made up of people who are working in different locations. Most of these workers have their laptops and mobile phones, so they can do their jobs from basically anywhere as long as they are connected to the Internet.
According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, 50 percent of the US workforce has a job that can be done at home. In fact, many of the top companies around the world are adapting to the practice of telecommuting. Studies showed that employees of Fortune 1000 firms are not at their desks at least half of the time they are at work.
Good communication is essential to the success of virtual teams. It can create an environment where members are free to pitch in creative ideas and solutions to different problems. Without good communication, misunderstanding follows which can cause conflict and frustration among team members.
If you’re among those who are part of a virtual team, or you lead one, you would want to have open communication in your group. So how can you improve communication in your team? Here are some tips to get you started:
Even with numerous communication channels at your disposal such as instant messaging and video conference programs, communication won’t improve if you and your members don’t know how to listen.
Listening is one of the building blocks of open communication. It does not simply pertain to hearing words being uttered, but more importantly understanding and connecting with what the speaker is saying.
2. Improve email skills
Email is perhaps the most widely used communication form when it comes to virtual teams, especially for those who have employees working in different time zones. If you’re the leader of a virtual team, you should be able to manage your inbox efficiently. This means being able to read and respond to all email messages in the shortest possible time.
Also, you have to train everyone in the group to reply to emails not only immediately, but to reply in a clear and concise manner.
There are times when you can’t answer to an email right away. The appropriate way of dealing with this is to let your recipients know that you will revert soon.
In case an issue cannot be resolved by email, then it is the time to pick up the phone so that everything will be cleared.
3. Manage stress
You cannot improve communication if you don’t know how to manage stress. Being stressed out can lead to a breakdown in communication. For one, there’s the chance that you can write a poorly written memo which can be subject to misinterpretation.
When stressed, it’s better to postpone sending that email. Take the time to calm down first before speaking with your team.
4. Hold meetings regularly
Being in a virtual team doesn’t exempt you from holding regular meetings via video or voice calls. You can’t expect to improve communication if you are not meeting with your team on a regular basis. This can be done weekly or daily, depending on the needs of your unit.
5. Schedule planned downtime
If possible, reinvigorate your team by scheduling a downtime. This means having your teammates present in one location to foster collaboration and camaraderie. You may even incorporate brainstorming activities. You can have lunch with them, or a night of socializing. This can be done at least once a year or even twice a year.
Now that you have enough ideas how to improve communication in your virtual team, go ahead and try to employ them. You’ll be surprised at how your team will respond to your ideas.