When you're part of a virtual team, maintaining team communication poses special challenges. Whether you're leading a virtual team or if you're a telecommuting employee working remotely from home, you can benefit from best practices for effective virtual team communication.
Leverage Team Collaboration Technology
Adopt and utilize one or more technology-based solutions designed to facilitate effective team communication. There are several virtual meeting software solutions, including programs designed for videoconference meetings and options that provide instant chat functionality for one-to-one and group communication. For tools that allow for chat functionality, consider requiring team members to log in any time they are working as a way of facilitating easy communication with other team members.
Be Considerate of Varying Time Zones
When you're part of a virtual team, you may need to collaborate with people in a wide variety of time zones. Keep this in mind when scheduling meetings or requesting input from remote colleagues. For example, if all of your team is in the U.S. try to schedule real-time virtual communication between 10 a.m. and 5 .pm, EST, as this will cross over standard work-day hours across all U.S. time zones. If your team is global, you'll need to narrow the window for team meetings appropriately.
Schedule Regular Full-Team Check-Ins
It's a good idea for virtual teams to follow a regular schedule for brief, frequent virtual get-togethers, so there are frequent opportunities for team members to interact with one another. These sessions are different from regular team meetings. They are intended to be short "touch base" sessions to help facilitate frequent dialogue among team members, as well as to provide a bit of structure. For example, virtual teams with set work schedules sometimes hold 15 minute virtual huddles at the beginning or end of each workday. Others may schedule less frequent sessions, such as a weekly "all hands" check-in for the full team.
Build Bonds With Team Members
Building positive relationships with coworkers is just as important in a virtual environment as it is in a traditional face-to-face workplace setting. It's important to apply key best practices for team building with virtual teams in order to develop cohesive teams that deliver sound results. Virtual coworkers can get to know one another through team building activities appropriate for remote working, such as incorporating fun team building questions into onboarding or meetings.
Fully Engage in Virtual Meetings
From full-team check-ins to project team meetings and beyond, you're likely to participate in quite a few virtual meetings when you become a remote worker. Treat virtual meeting participation the same way you would for an in-person meeting. Clear your schedule for the allotted time, fully engage, and don't allow your attention to be diverted by distractions. Turn on your webcam if the meeting utilizes videoconference technology so your coworkers can see you and you can see them. This helps with accountability for paying attention, as well as putting faces with names of team members who are also working remotely.
Build Connections via Video
Video has applications for virtual team building beyond virtual meetings. Consider using videoconferencing technology for all team collaboration sessions to allow for more of a personal connection than a standard phone call. Use profile photos in other tech platforms, so that there is more of a sense of connection with colleagues on the same remote team, as well as across the organization.
Record Key Virtual Meetings
For formal virtual meetings, such as staff meetings or project kick-off sessions, conducted via videoconference it's a good idea to record the sessions. This will provide a way for people who miss the live session to replay the full event. Even those who attend live may find it beneficial to replay part or all of the recording to clarify what was said. Of course, if you're going to record, that fact should be disclosed to all participants in advance.
Develop Team FAQ Sheets
Keep up with the questions and concerns that come up, and start a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document with questions and concerns that come up, along with answers and/or suggestions for handling various scenarios. This will allow you to start developing a shared resource with information relevant to current virtual team members, as well as for those who may join the team in the future.
Centralize Resource Sharing
Come up with a centralized place for sharing resources that can easily be accessed by all team members. For example, if you do come up with team FAQ sheet, post it in a shared drive on your company's intranet, share it with all team members via Google drive, or use another shared, easily accessible online portal. Use the same method for sharing other resources, such as links to recordings or transcripts of virtual meetings and project documents.
Strategies for Success
Following these tips can help foster effective communication among virtual colleagues. With a commitment to effective communication and the collaboration tools, your virtual team can be highly cohesive and productive.