How Progressive Managers are Preparing for Permanent Virtual Teams
When your team goes virtual for good, it’s harder for it to work cohesively as a unit.
As I write this it may be too soon to tell, but I believe a sea change is happening in the corporate world. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are discovering that people are just as productive, if not more, when they work remotely.
Workers end up less stressed and achieve a healthier work-life balance. Not only that, but these companies are also finding they don’t need as much expensive infrastructure (office space and equipment). They save money and their workers save the commute.
It’s a win-win for them to have their people working from home. Studies show the outcomes are overwhelmingly positive, which is why I’ve been advocating this move for years.
But there is a negative that must be dealt with. When your team goes virtual for good, it’s harder for it to work cohesively as a unit. You no longer have accidental run-ins with others in office hallways that often yield important discussions. Now the only thing you run into is that old file cabinet you keep meaning to move…
If working full-time from home ends up being your new norm, here are a few tips to keep your teamwork as strong as when you were all in the same office space.
If your virtual team stays virtual, consider beefing up the bonding and get to know your teammates a little better.
You can do that by establishing and nurturing internal social networks so people can have random, non-work-related dialogues about important things like the next Game of Thrones spinoff or tips to keep the kids occupied during your work hours. There should also be a dedicated announcement channel in place where everyone can retrieve information (this shouldn’t be interactive—no comments allowed and content should be controlled), as well as an “I need help” channel, so anyone can reach out to the team for assistance on tech, project parameters, etc.
Pay attention to people who are willing to go above and beyond.
Your team should also make an effort to get to know each other on a more personal level. That helps develop trust and allows for more candid and open dialogues when they’re necessary for project success. If you have new people on the team, make sure to do regular introductions and include hobbies and personal interests to make the person more real.
A great way to create a sense of belonging and build efficacy in a team is to highlight your high achievers. Pay attention to people who are willing to go above and beyond to make the company succeed and give them a shout-out during meetings.
Continuously Confirm Your Culture
As a completely virtual company, we’ve had to adapt bricks-and-mortar management methods to remote teams over the past decade. Our own internal culture is something we emphasize on an ongoing basis and is defined by our guiding pillars — purpose, mission, and core values. These, as well as our commitment to diversity, respect, and ethics, are communicated quickly to anyone joining our company. We also reinforce each of these values during our monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings, all of which are conducted online.
Creating common purpose and values strengthens bonds and helps put everyone on the same page.
You should consider doing the same with your team moving forward. Creating shared purpose and values strengthens bonds and helps put everyone on the same page. Just know that this step must come after you successfully transition to work online.
You can’t build culture in chaos. Once your team is virtually competent and organized, let the culture-building begin!
Put Some Personality into the Mix
To get to know each other better, a fun exercise is for everyone to take personality tests and share each other’s results. There are a lot of free and informative versions online (such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) and they’re a lot more accurate than Tarot cards or astrology (in my opinion). Beyond just entertainment value, understanding each other’s personalities also gives your team “hidden keys” on how best to deal with each other — because you learn what your colleagues do and don’t respond to.
Yes, you are all professionals. But you’re also people and you have to set up ways to keep the human touch alive and well in your interactions. This greases the wheels of communication and makes virtual work a lot less lonely.