Virtual teamwork has become a vital component of corporate success as companies worldwide have shifted to hybrid, or even fully remote, work models. The beauty of virtual teamwork is that it eliminates the possibility of transmitting viruses in the midst of health emergencies, while simultaneously giving employees more freedom.
But how can companies maintain efficient communication when meetings are no longer face-to-face? How can coworkers feel a sense of connection and foster trust when they are missing the nuances of in-person interaction? What are the other, less obvious barriers to virtual teamwork? Conversely, how can companies benefit from the virtual teamwork advantages? We’ll cover the best ways to promote virtual teamwork.
Virtual Teamwork Definition
Virtual teamwork is about ensuring trust, harmony, and open dialogue amongst employees over digital communication channels. Let’s explore a variety of different categories of virtual teams. These categories correspond to a company’s objectives and team size.
Networked Teams are made up of cross-functional individuals who can share expertise. These teams are fluid, and people will leave when their role in a project is complete.
Parallel Teams are temporary groups that come together to work towards one specific project or goal. These teams are usually made up of coworkers from the same company.
Production Teams are like parallel teams, but focused on developing a new system, process, or product.
Service Teams are also like parallel teams, but in this instance, team members work independently. Time zone separation is common amongst members of a service team.
Management Teams are groups of senior leaders who discuss both long term company strategy and day-to-day operations and tactics.
Action Teams are temporary, with members coming together to resolve pressing issues. Action teams are dissolved once that issue is solved.
Virtual Teamwork Best Practices
Corporate training is a critical opportunity for companies to establish smooth, honest communication amongst employees, and for employees to observe and internalize a company’s teamwork style. What can leadership do to follow virtual teamwork best practices?
Onboarding and shadowing sets the tone for a company culture. A first impression carries significant weight for new employees; it is important they feel comfortable speaking openly and honestly.
Form the right team– Make sure everyone is clear on their role, the size of the team is appropriate for the scale of work, and only emotionally intelligent individuals in relevant roles are offered positions on the team.
Meet at least once in-person, if possible- even if it is a social event unrelated to work, meeting in person goes a long way to fostering trust and connection amongst employees that can be brought to digital spaces.
Be clear and disciplined with communication– Without in-person communications. It is harder to tell the general energy of a group. Thus, it is more important for virtual teams to feel comfortable sharing opinions and potential discomforts, as this likely cannot be inferred over a computer camera in a Zoom meeting.
Create a virtual fun space/conversation unrelated to work– Engaging in conversations unrelated to work duties is a major way that employees form a rhythm with each other, improving their work flow.
Technology is a key factor in virtual communication. Can this be done in a slack chat thread? Or is a virtual meeting a better avenue to address concerns and let everyone be heard? These decisions matter greatly to ensuring teamwork runs effectively and without anyone feeling left out or holding resentment.
Virtual Teamwork Advantages
Virtual teamwork advantages are enormous if corporate leadership designs a healthy work environment. For starters, not everyone works best in-person. By allowing employees to create their own workspace and more freedom to work according to their own parameters, companies will find that some employees produce their best work. An employee will likely be happier with the freedom to sip martinis on the beach after a long workday instead of a long, crowded commute, as traveling becomes much easier for members of a virtual team. Personal flexibility is a major advantage.
Additionally, the talent pool expands when you allow virtual work. A company moves from a local base of talent to a national or even global base when remote work is allowed. This gives employees and companies more freedom, options, and opportunities.
Barriers to Virtual Teamwork
There are a few potential barriers to virtual teamwork. The first and most obvious is technological lapses. If someone on a team is not versed in using technology to their advantage, then digital communication can become a hurdle.
Physical distance can create psychological distance; properly-utilized technology can alleviate this potential barrier. This can hurt team bonding potential, leading employees to feel disconnected from the team and uninvested in their work or the company at-large. Likewise, non-verbal communications can speak volumes; this is largely lost in digital communication, which can impede virtual teamwork. Many people find that decisions are much harder to make and alignment is much harder to build when individuals are connecting virtually instead of in-person.
Whether we like it or not, remote work is here to stay. Virtual teamwork can be just as efficient, if not more efficient, than spending every day at an office – if the right tactics are applied. Our recommended virtual teamwork best practices will ensure that you avoid barriers to virtual teamwork, and instead set the groundwork for a thriving remote workplace.
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