Fostering teams in a virtual world

September 23, 2020 | Richard Ellis

Building and fostering a team-based atmosphere can be difficult when working remotely. Technology now creates a lot of opportunities for people to work from different locations, challenging companies to come up with ways to reinforce a sense of accountability, responsibility, and collaboration within teams. But at the same time, innovations in technology also make it more convenient to keep in touch and connect with anyone from anywhere in the world.

According to a study, remote teams often perform better than teams that work in the same location. One of the reasons is that team members tend to be more productive when they are working on their own in a space where they are most comfortable. To leverage this productivity, organisations with remote teams must effectively manage and foster teamwork in a virtual setting. Technology, particularly online collaboration and conferencing tools, play a big role in this.

Onboarding new staff through video conferencing tools

The first step to developing a good team relationship is to get to know new hires during the onboarding process. In addition to providing them with onboarding and training videos and other materials, make it more personal by investing the time to develop a rapport with them. Create a human connection and learn about the new staff member’s goals, strengths, and weaknesses to understand what motivates them.

Video conferencing tools allow management to connect with new staff through presentation and screen sharing functions. While going through the onboarding process, the trainer can speak directly with the trainee and get feedback and questions as well as address them in real-time.

Making everyone feel part of the team

Even when you are not physically together, making everyone feel part of the team boosts their morale and, in turn, motivates them to work more productively. Build bonds and foster trust by scheduling regular face-to-face virtual meetings to track project status, make sure everyone is on the same page, and just to catch up with each other in general. Video calls, rather than audio-only calls, are more effective in engaging everyone to join the conversation and gauging their reaction, along with other non-verbal clues.

Encourage collaboration through brainstorming chats or group calls to get the team enthusiastic over a shared goal, rather than just assigning tasks to each one and leaving them alone to do it. Collaboration tools like project management software and file-sharing features keep everyone in the loop.

Another way of keeping everyone in the loop is to encourage team members to share their calendars. Shared calendars allow members to see each one’s availability, so they know when to get in touch for project discussions and even just to have a “water cooler” chat.

It’s not always about work

There’s more to teamwork than working together professionally. Beyond shared project goals and objectives, true teamwork comes from developing a sense of camaraderie, respect, and support within the team. Staying connected shouldn’t stop at communicating only when necessary for work. Build a sense of community and encourage small talk by having an informal group channel where everyone can have virtual “water cooler” moments, exchange ideas, and bond outside of meetings, just like in a real office set-up.

Virtual team building activities and friendly competitions could also be arranged to break the ice and further foster teamwork and open dialogue. Online meetings could include games that could be played virtually, like quizzes and video games. Social media challenges could also be used to encourage employee engagement and reward those who are most active.

Creating a virtual coaching system

Occasionally, employees, even the tenured ones, need coaching and retraining. People have different learning styles; some learn best by reading, others by watching video tutorials, and others prefer a hands-on approach. Create a coaching system that covers the different learning styles. The organisation could have a shared library of written content, videos, podcasts, and audio instructions accessible to remote workers. And while an actual one-on-one hands-on training may not be possible, create a channel or designate a representative whom employees can reach out to schedule a video conference for training or walkthrough.

Sending company swag

Providing employees with branded promotional products like pens, shirts, and caps would make them feel more connected to the team and the company. This could also be a good idea for company videos that showcases the work from home culture. There is also a good chance that the employees would upload their photos wearing the company swag to their social media profiles, showing their appreciation of the company.

Promoting workplace wellness

Previously, those who work remotely went to coffee shops and co-working spaces to work in another environment other than their homes. Unfortunately, the outbreak of a global pandemic forced us to do self-quarantine at home. Promoting workplace wellness outside of the office means helping those working from home to fight cabin fever and isolation. Companies could send out internal communications materials on some health and wellness tips and proper working space set-up and ergonomics.

Communication is key

Connection and communication are crucial to have a happy and engaged team. Face-to-face meaningful interactions should not be lost in the virtual world. That’s why it’s important to invest in good, secure web collaboration and conferencing solutions. Not only do they enhance and streamline existing processes and systems, but they also help in boosting productivity by empowering employees to create a human connection, socialise, and continue to be motivated.