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Some of today’s most effective work environments encourage collaboration, whether employees are physically in an office together or working remotely. Virtual teams are becoming more and more common as business owners use the internet for efficiency and cost-cutting. Workers can be in different states, countries, or even continents, a feat that would have been unmanageable just a few years ago.
Here are a few tips to help you manage your employees, wherever they may be.
Use web tools to encourage virtual collaboration. Thanks to products like Skype, Base Camp, Instant Messenger and iPhone’s Face Time application, companies with scattered employees can communicate and collaborate over the Internet, telephone, or video conferencing. For example, a web development group could have programmers based in India and designers based in the UK. With the communication technology and web-based tools now available, team members can work together as if they were really joined together in one office instead of on opposite sides of the world.
The initial setup of a virtual team is critical. The most important part of creating a virtual team is the initial setup. At this crucial phase, the purpose of the virtual team should be clearly outlined, including the mission and goals. In addition, the roles and responsibilities of the team members should be established.
Look for employees with discipline and the desire to deliberate. In order to make up for their lack of physical proximity to one another, virtual team members must have discipline and the desire to deliberate, more so than usual. Hire go-getters and motivated individuals who can get things done without constantly being watched.
Be responsive and encouraging. As a manager of a remote team, you may never physically meet virtual employees. Still, you need to be available and responsive to them. This will help keep team members motivated.
Also, let them know about company news, such as new hires, events, and new clients, even if it doesn’t directly relate to their job. Including virtual employees on exciting company happenings can help them establish a sense of belonging.
Make time for virtual team building exercises. A 2005 study by Darleen DeRosa found that out of 213 individuals representing 21 virtual teams, 65% claimed to never have had effective team building. In the same study, DeRosa found that virtual teams that made time for team building performed better than those that didn’t. As little as a weekly conference call could make all the difference.
As organisations expand and go global, the need for virtual teams will grow. It is important to note that virtual teams are different than outsourcing — they are full-fledged corporate employees and need to be managed as such. But with enough TLC, they can survive and thrive anywhere.