19 Feb New to Virtual Teams? Here’s What You Need to Know
Are you a new member of a virtual team? Hopefully this is something you’ve been asking for and you’re excited about it. But if you’re an ambivalent (or unenthusiastic) participant in this new workplace arrangement, then allow us to set your mind at ease.
Let’s start with this – some kind of flexible work schedule is now the norm. Today, nearly half of all Americans work from home at least occasionally. And once released from the office, remote workers love it. A staggering 99% of remote workers responded that they plan to work remotely for the rest of their careers.
A certain set of skills will definitely come in handy on a virtual team – great organization, being self-directed, an excellent communicator – but we understand that the cultural change of virtual work can be jarring. Here’s a short list of what you need to know:
- No one is an island – Being on a virtual team does not mean that you can disappear for days at a time; it’s the opposite of that! Isolation and disengagement is the death knell for virtual teams, so expect daily contact with your team leader and colleagues.
- Flexibility and transparency – Yes, you will have a flexible schedule, but you will also be expected to be transparent with your plans, your calendar, your progress on projects, and be flexible about when work happens. If you’re on a global team that means very early mornings or late nights to accommodate international meetings.
- Real trust – Yes, you will be entrusted to get your work done on your own schedule, but that also means that you must trust your colleagues and teammates to do the same. When people do their work unseen by others, it is imperative that they – and every member of the team – are accountable for doing what they say they will.
- Get comfortable with technology – Working on a virtual team means that you’ll need to connect via screens. There are so many great tools available to bring virtual teams together – collaborative software, video conferencing, project management tools, group scheduling, note taking and brainstorming, file sharing, social media-type tools and much more.
- New meeting rules – Since most of your meetings will happen via video, you need to reconfirm yourself to basic meeting etiquette best practices. These reminders are even more important when you are not in the same room. Be on time, be prepared, no multitasking during meeting, don’t eat, look professional/camera ready, remove distractions in the background of your camera and make eye contact. Finally, speak clearly, concisely, slowly, and don’t interrupt. Tech has come a long way, but there are still delays.
- Over-communication is the rule — This one’s no surprise and it’s even more critical in the virtual world. When you aren’t together every day, you must communicate goals and expectations clearly and seek feedback frequently, using all the technologies available to you. Use emojis liberally to communicate your intent — leave nothing open to interpretation!
- Increased cultural sensitivity – Many virtual teams exist to connect people across the country and the world. It is critical to understand each other’s cultures, language barriers, body language differences, humor, sensitivities, not to mention work hours and time zones. This is a big one and it usually requires its own training.
Do you and your virtual team members need to brush up on virtual team best practices? Check out PRC CEO Tara Powers’ book Virtual Teams for Dummies. For more hands on training, we have a workshop on virtual team effectiveness that’s ideal for new and existing virtual teams. Or if you’re a new virtual team leader, we have a workshop to teach you everything you need to know.