By establishing trust, using the right tools, and being mindful of others, organizations can make the most out of virtual collaboration.
Working remotely, or teleworking, is becoming much more prevalent in the world of work.
Virtual collaboration tools are allowing companies of all sizes to recruit, train, develop, and retain talent from all over the world while empowering employees to opt for remote work.
When I started at D2L more than 12 years ago, being geographically diverse meant sitting at the opposite end of the same office. Now, with employees from nine countries spread across seven offices plus numerous home offices, it’s a little trickier to keep track of everyone.
Like many D2Lers, I now work out of my home office most of the time. This has been a huge learning experience, especially since I manage a team that I only see once a week. But let me assure you, a virtual team can be successful (hopefully my team members would agree!).
Here are three ways global organizations can make virtual collaboration work effectively.
1. Build trust
Once you have built a trusting relationship between team members, it’s much easier to collaborate and work together. Here are some ways to help build that trust:
- Get to know each other
- Meet face to face at first, if possible
- Complete employee “get to know you” profiles of all team members
- Build-in time for informal chats—whether that’s at the start of meetings or a specific meeting set up as a “virtual water cooler”
- Turn on your video!!
- Seeing body language makes a huge difference to a conversation
- It helps with getting to know each other (seeing faces and where they work helps start some fun conversations)
- Do what you say you will do and be available when your colleagues need you
- If you are the home-based employee, your colleagues need to trust that you are there, working hard, and available to the team
- Encourage feedback and open communication
- Take the time to ask people if they have any concerns about the way the team is working together and work to correct any issues quickly
Use the right tools
When team members are not in the same office, it’s important to find the best way for the team to stay in touch and collaborate so that everyone still feels like they are a part of the team.
- Consider if you need a room or if you go completely online
- Even if some team members are in the same office, it can be helpful to do completely virtual calls for team meetings to keep everyone on the same level
- Invest in good quality equipment
- Having good video and audio connections during video conferencing is critical to everyone feeling like they are a part of the discussion.
- Be sure to include everyone on the call in the conversation
- Pause to check in with those calling in on the phone, for questions or comments
- Avoid hallway conversations or chats that don’t include everyone
- If a conversation is continued after some team members have left the call, be sure to update them
- Avoid side “chats” on video calls that aren’t seen by those in the room and can be distracting to the facilitator.
- Find the right collaboration tool for informal chats
- Informal chats go a long way towards building relationships and fostering communication; tools such as Slack can be effective
Be mindful of others
- Always treat team members the way you want to be treated
- It can be helpful to try working remotely yourself to experience what other team members might be experiencing
- Consider different time zones
- Don’t always book in the time zone of your HQ or where most of the team members are located; change it up and communicate with team members to see what works best for the team
- Consider cultural differences
- In some cultures, being 20 minutes late for meetings is quite normal; you may need to set clear expectations or ground rules for your team right from the beginning
- Communication styles can vary by culture as well; fostering open communication and frequently checking in with team members can help raise any concerns in this area
These tips don’t just apply to globally dispersed teams, they can be applied to any team to make the collaboration more efficient and more effective. As workplaces continue to expand across the globe, virtual interactions will become much more common. Building trust and being mindful of others will help us succeed in those situations. Now, go forth and don’t forget to turn on your video!
Here’s how you can use video for social assessment in the workplace: