How to Build Effective Virtual Teams at Work Through Team Building
Henry Ford once stated that “if everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” For managers and team leaders, the ability to build and coordinate a workforce through practical team-building exercises and activities has always been a critical component for success.
The dramatic rise in remote work, and the conception of virtual teams, has added another dimension to this endeavor, with 64% of organizations now stating that the shift to remote teams and virtual communication technology is likely to be a permanent one. As a result, companies everywhere are clamoring for the most effective virtual team-building solutions for their remote employees.
Here we will take a look at the rise of the remote team and the challenges of remote work, the core features of successful virtual teams, and strategies to build your own effective remote workforce.
The Virtual Team and its Challenges
According to the Harvard business review, two key factors define a virtual team. The first of these is that the workforce must use electronic means, such as video call software or remote project management tools, to communicate and complete tasks. The rise in popularity of software such as Zoom has coincided with the uptick in remote teams.
The second of these is that the virtual team members must use this technology to work interdependently to complete collaborative tasks. They are not simply a group of remote individuals but rather a collective workforce, with its remote workers each contributing towards a goal, a product, or a service.
With this form of working and office environment being relatively new, companies have inevitably faced challenges when getting to grips with this new way of working and virtual team building. Some of the more common challenges facing your virtual team are as follows.
Technological Issues and Competency
Though there is no shortage of robust technology that your remote team members can utilize, there is always the risk of internet outages disrupting the workflow. Many pockets of workers are not used to the virtual world, so getting up to speed with the technology might prove challenging.
While helpful in conveying information quickly, communication via instant messaging apps can easily be misconstrued in terms of tone and urgency. Similarly, body language can often be an essential cue for reading situations, and while video calls are an effective communication tool, they still lack the nuance of face-to-face exchanges.
With no physical proximity to a team leader or manager, virtual team members may risk dropping their level of productivity. It is easy for an instant message to be overlooked or ignored, and without clear and concise expectations and regular feedback, remote teams can often suffer.
Risk of Social Isolation
When a home also becomes the remote worker’s office, personal lives can interfere with the ability to work effectively. There is also a body of evidence to suggest that while productivity can increase with structured virtual teams, loneliness and general happiness can suffer without the structure of a physical, social office environment.
Team leaders, like remote workers, are having to adapt as well. Managers might be tempted to over-communicate and micromanage with no physical evidence that their instructions are being followed. This perceived lack of trust can negatively affect trust between the virtual team leader and their members.
What Makes a Successful Virtual Team?
Despite the challenges of moving from in-person offices to virtual teams, evidence suggests that when coordinated efficiently, a virtual team can achieve as much success as a physical one. Benefits such as flexible working hours, a comfortable environment, and a more achievable work-life balance for the remote team member are all possible reasons for this success.
The other reason is that a company has adapted to make virtual team building an essential facet of their business model. Through strong virtual leadership and a commitment to regular virtual team-building exercises, these companies are seeing their remote workers thrive.
There are several common characteristics that successful virtual teams may demonstrate:
Trust – with the absence of in-person accountability, trust is needed across all aspects of a virtual team. Successful virtual teams will trust their team leaders to provide key indicators for success and progress. Virtual team leaders will have trust that their team members will work with minimal supervision, allowing them to focus on other things.
Transparency – a successful virtual team will know what is expected of them and precisely how to achieve it. A virtual team leader will keep their remote teams up-to-date with company expectations through regular team-building exercises and team meetings. They will be honest when providing feedback and constructive criticism.
Diverse Thought and Opinions – one of the advantages the virtual team has over in-person is the ability to assemble global teams. A successful virtual team can take advantage of this. Virtual team members from different cultures and with ways of thinking can contribute toward targets and objectives, confident that their team leader will consider their ideas.
High Levels of Competency – successful virtual teams have taken the time to fully ensure their virtual team members are confident in using all the technology they will need with minimum supervision. Through careful virtual team building and training, regular feedback, and progress updates, workers will know exactly what is expected of them and how to succeed.
Versatility – through careful research and planning, a successful virtual team can envisage any potential issues that may arise during the typical working day. Remote workers will be aware of contingency plans should technological problems occur. They will be ready to adapt their schedules, prioritize, and communicate if there are any disruptions.
Team Building Strategies for Your Virtual Team
With all of the challenges and pitfalls mentioned during this article, the prospect of building a successful virtual team may seem daunting. It is still a relatively new phenomenon, and each workforce is unique in its makeup and personality.
Fortunately, the fundamental strategies for success are largely universal, with focused virtual team building forming the basis of these strategies. Listed below are what we believe to be the vital strategies you will need to get you started.
Dedicate Training for Technology
First and foremost, virtual teams will need to know precisely how best to use the technology and communication tools needed to succeed in the virtual environment. Video conferencing software, in particular, is an essential tool as it best replicates the face-to-face working environment your workforce will typically be used to.
When your virtual team is in its infancy, arrange a series of informal team meetings or virtual team-building exercises to allow your team members to get to know each other and get to grips with the technology. Our Virtual Treasure Hunt is an excellent example of a virtual team-building exercise that fully embraces the power of video conferencing software.
Account for Geographical Distance
With this rise in technology comes the increased prevalence of global virtual teams and various time zones. This can cause issues for virtual team leaders when arranging virtual meetings involving the entire team.
Whenever a team meeting is required, allow for as many of your team members to be present as possible, but make sure the sessions are recorded. Ensure those who are missing have easy access to these meetings, so they are fully up to speed with any updates and progress.
Utilize project management tools such as Trello to account for ongoing projects that team members can access at any time and encourage virtual teamwork. As a team leader, make sure that the first thing you do each day is respond to any messages from virtual team members in different time zones and account for these differences when prioritizing tasks.
Develop Joint Goals and Feedback Practices
As a team leader, you will be expected to set clear goals and expectations for virtual employees. However, there is the danger that unless these goals are tangible with measurable outcomes, they will become lost and lack any real purpose.
When a project is in its infancy, consider setting up some joint goals and targets for your team to strive for. The collaborative nature of these goals will help virtual teams and their team leaders develop trust and make remote employees feel as though they are a genuine part of something, rather than just a number tasked with hitting objectives.
Focused, regular meetings are essential when it comes to virtual teams, with both whole team meetings and 1-to-1 sessions necessary to provide feedback on employee progress and company updates.
When working remotely, there is the danger that employees will feel separate from the company. They might not see any measurable results, which might negatively impact motivation and productivity.
To combat this, set aside time each week for virtual teams to get together in a more relaxed environment. Highlight examples of where the team’s success has had a clear impact on the business and individual accomplishments. Take them seriously and commit to them regularly as it will give remote workers something to look forward to as the week progresses.
In addition to these regular check-ins, consider implementing structured virtual team-building activities. These can provide an opportunity for team members to connect on a personal level and reinforce their sense of belonging to the team. For organizations in the Netherlands, we offer a range of virtual team building activities designed to foster collaboration and engagement in remote teams. These activities can serve as a valuable tool in maintaining team cohesion and morale in a virtual work environment.
Helping Your Virtual Teams with Making Teams
Virtual team building remains a vital component that can dictate team performance and competency. At Making Teams, our first-class, tailor-made team-building activities utilize the power of video conferencing and communication tools to give your remote employees a fantastic experience.
Contact us today and let us organize the perfect event for your virtual team.