Back in the day, teams have to be in the same physical location so they can work effectively. But with the advent of emails, intranet, and videoconferencing, it is now possible to work with another colleague based in another part of the world.
Today, many workers don’t report to a physical office. They’re situated in various cities, countries, and even continents. They follow different time zones, and are part of different cultures.
In the United States, telecommuting has become so prevalent that nearly 4 out of 10 workers have telecommuted in the past year according to Gallup. A report by the Wall Street Journal says that 67 percent of companies in the US allow their workers to do work at home on an occasional basis.
If you’re looking for ways to improve communications in a virtual team, here are some tips to get you started:
1. Schedule regular communication
Since your workers are in remote location, it is important that you communicate with them regularly. There are lots of communication tools that you can use for this purpose, such as email, chat, phone, web, and video conferencing. But each communication tool has its specific uses and should be used only in certain situations.
For example, email is best for sharing information, data, and project update. Phone conference is best suited for brainstorming, while video conferencing is great when tackling a challenging topic.
2. Be proactive
Whether you’re the team leader or a team member, you can help improve communications in your team by being proactive.
If you’re the team leader, reach out to your team members regularly. This way, you can set clear goals and expectations. You can also offer support and assistance. Even simple greetings in the morning can show that you care for them as individuals, and not just employees or co-workers.
You can also be proactive as a team member. You can join a team call a few minutes early so you can chat and catch up with your team members. Or be the one to initiate virtual lunch dates with your workmates.
3. Promote team bonding
Obviously, geographically dispersed teams won’t be able to bond over lunch and drinks with co-workers. But there are lots of creative ways to promote team bonding in remote offices and improve communications in your team.
For one, you can try to get your team together annually. If your budget permits, why not recommend spending a weekend with your co-workers for some team building activities.
Yet if budget is a problem, you can just set up an intranet page where team members can post anything about themselves, or even ideas on certain projects. You can also use webcams so that you and other team members can see each other during phone calls and Skype sessions.
4. Manage results
If you’re the team leader, you should realize that you should be after results and not activity. Because you can’t see what your workers are doing during office hours, you should not be too particular with their daily activities. Instead of asking your team members to update you on their tasks, you should wait for their outputs.
Simply put, don’t micromanage. Let your team members do their job.
5. Respect time differences
You should understand that your team members are working indifferent time zones. Thus you have to accept and adapt to these differences. If you’re just in the process of building a virtual team, make sure that the greatest time difference between two members is just 12 hours.
By following these tips for virtual teams, you can improve communications in your group and make your team capable of accomplishing more.