Long before the COVID-19 pandemic sent many businesses into home offices, many businesses were already operating virtual teams to varying degrees.
More than two-thirds of professionals globally reported working from home at least once a week, according to IWG, and half (53%) said they work remotely at least half of the week. And in the U.S., a Census report indicated that a little more than 5 percent of Americans work virtually all the time – that’s 8 million people.
Remote work can cut back on environmental impact, curb commuting time, and help with workforce flexibility – and it’s only likely to grow.
And as businesses across the global scramble to adapt to virtual teams in this time of crisis, now is the perfect time to consider how your business is set up not only to support virtual teams but to help them thrive.
6 Commandments for Virtual or Collocated Teams
Laying the foundation for a virtual team is paramount, and these practices can help support the foundation and daily practices.
- Create clarity on tasks and processes in addition to roles and overall goals. Workflow should be clear and simple, otherwise, important tasks can fall by the wayside with virtual teams.
- Establish communication ground rules. It’s likely your organization has multiple communication channels, and setting some ground rules around what is appropriate can help streamline all the digital chatter. For example, should bad news always be put in an e-mail? Or do you have a Slack channel for reporting IT security issues?
- Meet regularly. Not only should virtual teams meet frequently, but they should be disciplined in meeting at a specific time. If teams are widely spread across the globe, they may need to shift the time zone itself to share the burden of odd hours, but the team meeting could still be every Monday morning – somewhere in the world. Is daily scrum recommended for collocated teams? Absolutely. You just may need to get creative about when that happens and where.
- Clarify commitments. Managers of virtual teams have the unique challenge of being unable to pass by an employee’s workspace to gauge his or her level of engagement and productivity. Instead, teams need to establish who is responsible for specific tasks, when they are doing, and what the deliverable is.
- Have some virtual fun. Virtual teams can’t grab a drink after work to cultivate personal relationships – but that can use an information virtual space as a water cooler of sorts. Encourage employees to share personal pictures, comments, or interests to help engage and integrate virtual teams.
- Make 1:1s a top priority. Perhaps even more so in virtual teams, managers must prioritize individual meetings with employees. Leaders should use this time to provide feedback, understand challenges, and connect the employee to larger goals and initiatives.
Effective Software Solutions for Virtual Teams
Many of the practices we just outlined require one thing: really solid technology. Meetings, virtual water coolers, and a high level of clarity and organization all require effective software solutions.
Here are some specific areas where your organization may want to assess the quality and effectiveness of the current situation:
- Collaboration tools for sharing information
- Project Management and Time Tracking
- Document Storage and File Sharing
- Video and Audio Conferencing
- Instant Messaging
- Co-Creation Tools
- Social Networking
- Virtual team games
Does your business have quality, expert software?
Aside from gauging individual team or leadership feedback, your organization can ask three questions to help assess whether your current software is optimal for today’s virtual team needs.
- Was the software developed with security in mind?
IT security concerns continue to be front and center for businesses with cyber-criminal activity on the rise. And while it may seem harmless to have an internal chat hacked, among the casual banter, there could be some critical business information. Ensure every solution is secure – not just obvious solutions like CRM systems.
- Is the solution compatible with mobile applications?
Teams aren’t just virtual – people are often mobile as well. And enabling employees to check in to the same systems with a mobile device makes things more seamless when they’re on the road, or when leaders are in meetings.
- Is the solution easy to scale and update?
Regular updates are a key aspect to security and efficiency in a solution – and on top of being manageable to maintain, your solution should also be scalable, to grow alongside your business with ease.
Does your business need a software development partner who can take your virtual teams to the next level?
Whether your business needs a technology partner to provide consultation on the right solutions or a full team of top talent engineers to launch a custom software development project, TechGenies is here to help. Our own teams are virtual in many cases, so we know a thing or two about getting the right tools in place. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started boosting the resources your business has in place for virtual teams.