Category: Virtual Teams

How to Be an Effective Virtual Team Member

How to be an effective team member.

Access our ultimate guide to building and managing virtual teams

As with any job position, certain skills and abilities are needed to be a successful member of a virtual team. Common skills needed are ways to manage your time and organize all assignments and duties. When building your virtual team, remember to find employees that can work well under minimal supervision and can function with different types of technology.

Virtual Team Building Events - Remote Team Building
TBAE will customize a virtual team building event for your remote team in line with the desired outcomes, values and ethos of your company and number of remote staff to participate in the event.

Self-Management

More employees are choosing to work from home or outside the standard office. It not only saves the company money, but it allows them to expand into other areas and cover more ground. But when working outside of a standard office, you must learn to self-manage. A manager cannot always be present and cannot always watch over your shoulder. You must be able to monitor your progress and be able to keep track of your assignments and deadlines.  If you do not have basic skills of self-management, then you won’t be able to function in a virtual office.

Common tools for self-management:

  • Make a schedule and stick to it
  • Keep a calendar of important dates and deadlines
  • Check-in with team members periodically to stay in the loop

Time Management

When you work with little supervision, you must be able to manage your time on your own. This does not necessarily mean you must manage every minute or try to force yourself to stay focused. Time management means recognizing when you have deadlines and knowing how long it will take you to finish a project or assignment. Sometimes you can let in too many distractions or try to take on too many duties at once. This in turn can cause you to manage your work time poorly and fail to do a good job. Your manager cannot completely manage your time and resources for you. Instead, they will give support and offer advice on ways to stay focused and on track. Many employees know good time management skills and methods but may need a reminder on how to use them.

Organizing and Planning

When a virtual team member has to work in their own office, you need to be sure that all files and assignments (paper or electronic) are fully organized, which is a form of self-management. Ensuring that the office is always organized can boost productivity and reduce errors made by misplaced files or a forgotten assignment. Planning is also an important part of organization because you need to be able to manage your time and resources – especially since you do not have a manager to supervise you at all times. Be encouraged to adopt a universal or adaptable filing system to organize your work for easy access. Also feel free to utilize different methods of planning and organizing your time, such as day planners, email timers, or reminder systems.

Common tips for better organization:

  • Create a pattern in your day to organize and plan different tasks
  • Keep a calendar or planner with important dates and reminders
  • Plan ahead and know what assignments or deadlines are approaching
  • Set up your email account to remind you periodically of important dates
  • Use a filing/storage that can be adapted in case there are any changes or modifications

Communication

Communication can be a difficult aspect to master with a virtual team. You will not only deal with traditional communication issues among team members and management, but you can face additional problems that can cause you to feel additional stress.  With your peers not being able to directly come to you when they need to talk; this extra time to reach out to teammates can be a cause of friction. Everyone needs to be aware of the various methods of communication available to them, including email, phone, fax, mail, etc. Employees should know how to use each method of communication and what kind of information they can be used for. Be open and clear about what you want from your teammates and let them know of ways they can reach you if they have a problem.

Example forms of communication for remote workers:

  • Email
  • Instant messaging
  • Phone call
  • Text messaging
  • Video call

Conclusion

For some people, working from home can seem like a dream opportunity. But they may not realize that this kind of position comes with a great amount of responsibility and challenges. Since these employees are not working in a centralized office, they may have the advantage of having flexible schedules and shorter or no commute, they can have disadvantages when it comes to receiving feedback and being able to communicate with teammates. To be a successful member of a virtual team you must learn to self-manage and manage your time on your own. Ensure your home office is organized and all files are properly stored for easy retrieval. Communication can be the most challenging part of being part of a virtual team and you will have to be clear about what you want from your teammates and when and where they can reach you.

One of the most effective ways to overcome challenges that virtual teams face is through a virtual team building activity. TBAE offers interactive virtual team building events that will help your virtual team to bond and enhance communication among remote workers.

Subscribe to TBAE’s Blog and Receive Notifications of New Blog Posts

7 Communication Barriers That Virtual Teams Must Overcome

Communication Barriers That Virtual Teams Must Overcome

Access our ultimate guide to building and managing virtual teams

Effective communication is the key to the success of virtual teams. The nature of remote working teams is such that your team members will likely face many communication barriers which they will have to overcome.

Poor communication in virtual teams can cause low employee morale and a decrease in productivity. Encourage your remote working team members to engage in two way communication and ask questions when they receive new information.

Related: Communication Strategies Workshop for Teams

The following are 7 communication barriers that your remote working team will have to overcome:

  1. Team Members Not Contributing During Virtual Team Meetings
  2. No Communication Outside of the Virtual Team Meetings
  3. Lack of Communication Ground Rules
  4. Too Many Virtual Team Meetings
  5. Not Being Aware of Digital Body Language
  6. Redoing the Work from Remote Working Team Members
  7. No Agenda or Structure for Virtual Team Meetings
Virtual Team Building Events - Remote Team Building
TBAE will customize a virtual team building event for your remote team in line with the desired outcomes, values and ethos of your company and number of remote staff to participate in the event.

Virtual Team Communication Barriers

Team Members Not Contributing During Virtual Team Meetings

One of the big challenges in virtual team meetings is to get all the team members to contribute to the discussion. Unless it is addressed, the same team members will be the ones that are speaking up at every team meeting. In virtual team meetings, this communication barrier is more pronounced since everybody is not together in the same physical location.

When leading a virtual team meeting you must ensure that all the remote working team members are contributing. One effective way of doing this is to ask each of the team members to answer a question in turn so that everyone gets a chance to speak.

Related: How to Be an Effective Virtual Team Member

No Communication Outside of the Virtual Team Meetings

Although remote working teams can go days without talking to each other, it is a sign that the virtual team isn’t communicating well. The more your team members talk to each other, the more they will trust each other.

Encourage your team to communicate with each other during the day, even if it is something quick like a GIF to the group chat. Checking in with each other is an important part of building camaraderie and better communication in the remote working team.

Lack of Communication Ground Rules

Without some ground rules for communication in your virtual team, communication will not happen as freely and effectively as you want it to.

This will include rules about everybody’s work hours and breaks. For example, everyone could be on the same Google calendar and update the rest of the team when they are not available. Whatever the method, make sure that it is communicated to everyone.

You could also set ground rules for email communication. Such as getting the team members to make it clear when an email needs a response and when it does not.

Setting expectations and ground rules will help improve communication among your remote working team.

Too Many Virtual Team Meetings

Having too many meetings can sometimes be a symptom of poor communication. On most occasions, virtual teams shouldn’t have to meet several times a week. Much of what is shared in meetings can be sent in an email.

As the team leader, before scheduling a meeting, consider whether the meeting is necessary, or will it waste time. Will everyone that you invite be able to attend? Can you make the meeting shorter?

Be intentional when you plan a virtual team meeting.

Related: How to Conduct an Engaging Virtual Team Meeting

Not Being Aware of Digital Body Language

The importance of body language is oftentimes forgotten when you’re communicating through video conferencing. You will have to pay more attention to body language as nothing on camera is subtle and it can feel like you have a spotlight on you.

Some of the body language basics to keep in mind are maintaining eye contact, speaking clearly, and having video on during remote calls.

Redoing the Work from Remote Working Team Members

If you find that you are redoing work done by your team, it could be a sign that you are not communicating effectively. If assignments come back with errors, it is likely that that the expectations weren’t communicated clearly.

If you redo a team member’s work, it may be a sign that you feel comfortable sending the edits. This again points to a communication problem.

No Agenda or Structure for Virtual Team Meetings

Effective communication during a virtual team meeting is difficult if you don’t have an agenda or meeting structure. To host a productive online meeting, the meeting should be organized and structured. An agenda will ensure that your meeting is kept on track.

Try and send the agenda before the start of the meeting if it is not a scheduled meeting. You can implement five minutes of informal chat before the meeting starts for team members to catch up with each other. This will help keep the focus on the meeting agenda when the meeting formally starts.

Conclusion

For all the benefits of remote working teams there are also challenges that your team will encounter. Communication is one of them and your team will need to find ways to overcome the barriers to effective communication that exists in a virtual team setting.

We have found that a virtual team building event is a very effective tool to promote effective communication in remote working teams. These activities help your team members to get to know each other better, get all the team members to participate, and help to get everybody comfortable with the online conferencing software that the team uses.

Subscribe to TBAE’s Blog and Receive Notifications of New Blog Posts

Digital Etiquette for Your Virtual Team

Digital Etiquette for Your Virtual Team

Access our ultimate guide to building and managing virtual teams

Like any other community, etiquette needs to be observed in the digital realm. It is easy to forget that actual human beings write the words we read on the computer screen. When your virtual team interacts with others online, they should treat them like we would if they were standing in front of them. Keeping the topic and tone respectful will help the community run smoothly.

There is more to etiquette than being polite in conversation. It requires continuing education for your virtual team and the ability to evaluate what is posted online. It is equally important to understand why people behave the way that they do and that everything posted online does not automatically become public domain. Finalizing your team’s education in etiquette will give them the tools to be effective digital citizens.

Virtual Team Building Events - Remote Team Building
TBAE will customize a virtual team building event for your remote team in line with the desired outcomes, values and ethos of your company and number of remote staff to participate in the event.

Respect and Tone

Your virtual team needs to be respectful when communicating online. They should remember that they are talking to a person, not the embodiment of an idea. They may disagree with someone, but rudeness and personal attacks cross the line of respectful dialogue. It may be easier for them to read the words aloud before drafting a response to someone. This will help them understand the writer’s tone.

It is important to note that tone does not easily translate in written text. You cannot hear tone when you cannot hear the speaker. Many digital misunderstandings occur because a joke was taken seriously. You can misinterpret the tone of a text, and someone else can misinterpret the tone of something that you write. Encourage your team to reread everything that they write before posting online. It is also a good idea for them to have someone else look over their correspondence to identify potential misunderstandings before they occur.

Related: How to Be an Effective Virtual Team Member

Speak Up, Not Out

Your team members are entitled to speak up when the occasion arises; this is much more effective than speaking out. Speaking up is done when there is an issue or problem, and it requires a level head. It is tempting to speak out rather than speak up. When speaking out, logic and clarity go out the window. This occurs when we trash people anonymously. This type of communication is ineffective and only succeeds in escalating the argument.

How to Speak Up:

  • Be honest
  • Be calm
  • Be direct

Topics to Avoid

Your virtual team must always consider the topics that they discuss online very carefully. If they want to create controversy, bring up the topics: politics, religion, and sex. These topics are all guaranteed to polarize their audience and bring on a tidal wave of biased comments. It is best to avoid these topics in the workplace and on their professional networks.

Remember that digital media should be used to build the team’s brand. They should focus on personal and professional growth in their social media posts. Share ideas and discuss changes in the marketplace. Ask for feedback on new products and strategies. When they choose helpful topics, they invite dialogue that is not distracted by hot button topics.

Keep Private Messages Private

Sometimes private messages make their way into very public settings. It is easy to have complete conversations in the comments of a post. Accidentally hitting reply all when addressing a single person is a mistake that many people have made. Public forums, however, are not places to rant or publicize personal issues.

What your team should avoid in public forums:

  • Negativity
  • Personal problems
  • Drama
  • Conversations

If your team members would not discuss something with strangers, they should never put it on a social media network. There is no such thing as privacy when they are online. Your virtual team should keep rants and personal conversations in the ears of their friends.

Educate Themselves

Technology is ever-changing and evolving. Your virtual team members are likely to see something new every day that they will not recognize. There is no reason for them to be embarrassed by their lack of knowledge. They should simply ask about the new technology or look it up online. There are numerous ways to lookup technology. They can read technology journals, go-to company websites, read books, and look at product reviews online. This type of education needs to occur regularly. To be part of the digital community, your virtual team members must be familiar with the tools necessary to access it.

Information Processing

Your virtual team must exercise critical thinking when they go online. They will read false, misleading, or partially true information. A large percentage of information is not true. Unfortunately, people are quick to believe what they read online. Even journalists and news broadcasters have shared false information because they did not think critically and question what they saw. The key to information processing is to consider the source.

Your team should ask the following questions to determine if the source is reliable:

  • Is the information biased?
  • Can you verify the information?
  • Is the source reputable? (For example, the Mayo clinic)
  • Is there a copyright?
  • What is the purpose of the information?

Even if your team uses reliable sources, they are only effective if the complete posts are read. Many people only read the title before they comment. This is obvious in the comments, and it highlights the fact that they are not willing to read a few hundred words to be informed before making judgment calls.

Internet Boldness

The Internet makes people bold because it offers some anonymity. It is possible to interact with strangers and they would not recognize us if we met in the real world. Many experts believe that this type of anonymity is what empowers Internet trolls. People often behave differently online than they do in person. They say things that they normally would not say and become bolder than normal. This boldness can cause problems when it remains unchecked. For some people, however, Internet boldness can be helpful. For example, shy people can often communicate better online than in person. Your virtual team members need to keep a close watch over their boldness. There is a line between confidence and behaving like a troll.

team-building-activity-quote

Subscribe to TBAE’s Blog and Receive Notifications of New Blog Posts

Keep Your Team Digitally Secure and Safe

Keep Your Team Digitally Secure and Safe

Access our ultimate guide to building and managing virtual teams

Every member of your team must be responsible for their own digital security and safety. Cyber crimes happen every day. When they are online, team members need to practice the same level of vigilance that they do when they are interacting in the real world. They must be slow to trust new people, and implement security software and other precautions to protect their information.

Digital security and safety requires users to monitor email attachments, use strong passwords, back up files, and update software. Taking these steps will make your team proactive in their digital citizenship and protect their personal information online.

Virtual Team Building Events - Remote Team Building
TBAE will customize a virtual team building event for your remote team in line with the desired outcomes, values and ethos of your company and number of remote staff to participate in the event.

Don’t Trust Anyone You Don’t Know

The Internet is just like any other place. It is possible to meet wonderful people and develop useful contact online. There are, however, many malicious people who are looking for opportunities to steal and exploit personal information. When your team is online, they must not put their trust in anyone they do not know. Internet scammers are professionals, and are very good at manipulating people.

Signs of a scammer:

  • You are asked to download something.
  • You are given a link to something.
  • An offer seems too good to be true.
  • You are asked for money.
  • You are asked for personal information.
  • You are promised money.

Enable 2-Step Verification Processes

Password accounts are commonly hacked, and you do not have to be a computer genius to hack emails. In fact, there are numerous online tutorials on how to hack an email account.

There are precautions that your team can take to limit their risk online. Many email accounts and other sites offer a 2-step verification process. If your team has access to this service, they must use it. The process is simple, and it helps prevent the theft of your passwords. After signing up, you will enter your password, and a verification code will be sent to your phone. You will only be able to access your account after entering the code. It is possible to establish your home computer and request that the code not be needed to log in on it. The code would still be required from other locations, making it difficult for someone else to hack your account.

Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is great for the person on the go. Your team members must, however, take extra precautions when using public Wi-Fi. This type of connection does not have the same security that a personal Internet account does because there are numerous users. When your team uses public Wi-Fi, they must avoid accessing sensitive information, like their bank account.

Public Computers

With the popularity of laptops and smartphones, it is often possible to avoid using public computers. There may be times, however, when team members find themselves using public computers. There are a few tips to help your team keep their information secure:

  • Do not save login information: Always choose the option not to save your login name or password, and make sure that you log out when done.
  • Erase your history: Disable settings that save passwords and delete your Internet history when done.
  • Be aware of your surroundings: Do not leave the computer unattended, and keep an eye out for people watching your screen.
  • Mind what you do: Never enter personal or sensitive information, like credit card info, on a public computer.

Email and Attachments

We use email for work and personal reasons every day. Emails and their attachments, however, are regularly used to hack computers. Just because you receive an email from someone you know, does not mean that the email is safe. Once an account is hacked, it is used to send messages to the contact list. If any of your team members receive an email that seems odd, they must contact the sender before clicking on any links or opening any attachments.

Once you download an attachment, the damage is done. Before downloading or clicking on anything, they can hover over the link and check to see that the link they see and the link they are being directed to match. They should never click a link or download an attachment unless they are sure that they are safe. If they accidentally click something, they must run a virus scan, preferably in Safe Mode.

Password Rules

Hacking often occurs because people choose the wrong passwords. Using the same password for everything, using easy passwords, and keeping the same passwords for years will put your account at risk. There are a few key points to choosing strong passwords. Typically an eight character password minimum with ten characters a normal recommendation. They must include:

  • Uppercase letters
  • Lowercase letters
  • Numbers
  • Symbols/characters

Back Up Your Files

It is essential for your team members to back up their files regularly. You never know when a computer will crash, or if your computer will be stolen. Backing up files protects their information. How often they back up your files will depend on how regularly you use their computer. Files should be backed up daily, weekly, or monthly. There are different backups.

  • Full back up – This type of backup takes the most time and storage space. It is the fastest to restore.
  • Incremental backup – These backups changes made after the latest backup. It is faster to backup, but it takes longer to restore.
  • Differential backup – The backup occurs after the latest full backup. It does not take long to backup, and it restores slower than full and incremental backup.
  • Mirror – Files deleted in the computer are also deleted on the backup.
  • Local – Backups in the same building such as external hard drives, etc.
  • Online – It is possible to backup files online. It is safe in the case of natural disasters but it is slow to restore.

Update Your Software

It is important for your team to update their software regularly. Software companies frequently update their programs to fix bugs and address security threats. If your team members do not update their software regularly, they risk their programs running slower than normal and contracting malware and viruses. They should check for updates regularly. A good rule of thumb is to check for updates every time that they turn on your computer for the day. This way, they will have any updates completed before they begin their work.

 

team-building-activity-quote

Subscribe to TBAE’s Blog and Receive Notifications of New Blog Posts

How Your Team Members Can Become Good Digital Citizens

How Your Team Members Can Be Good Digital Citizens

Access our ultimate guide to building and managing virtual teams

Good digital citizenship in its essence is using technology responsibly and appropriately. Anyone on your team who interacts regularly online automatically becomes a digital citizen. Like any other community, digital citizenship requires your team members to behave in a mature and civil manner. Good citizens ensure that digital users have safe and pleasurable experiences.

Being a good citizen is important both online and off. The rules of citizenship for each are similar. When using digital technology, encourage your team members to be positive and helpful, and apply what works in real life in the digital realm.

Virtual Team Building Events - Remote Team Building
TBAE will customize a virtual team building event for your remote team in line with the desired outcomes, values and ethos of your company and number of remote staff to participate in the event.

What Is Digital Citizenship?

Digital citizens all belong to the digital society, and they need to adhere to the norms and rules that have been established. There are nine elements that people experience when they interact online. These interactions define what occurs in digital citizenship.

Nine Normal Elements:

  • Access – Citizens have different levels of access. Full access should be a goal of citizenship.
  • Commerce – Buying and selling online is increasing, and consumers need to be aware of what the purchase and the legality of their purchases.
  • Communication – There are numerous ways to communicate online, and citizens need to make wise decisions in what and how they communicate.
  • Literacy – Technological literacy requires people to keep up with digital changes.
  • Etiquette – Citizenship comes with a responsibility to follow etiquette when communicating with others.
  • Law – Citizens have a responsibility to behave ethically and be aware of laws governing them.
  • Rights and Responsibilities – The rights of users are shared equally. These rights come with responsibilities.
  • Health and wellness – Physical and psychological issues can occur when ergonomics and other problems are not addressed.
  • Security – Citizens must take action to protect their information online.

Engaging with Others

Digital media allows your team members to communicate, collaborate, learn, and share online. When engaging with others online, it is important to behave as though they are in the room with you.

Tips to Engage:

  • Be patient – Build relationships slowly. Aggressive attempts at communication can make people uncomfortable.
  • Dialogue Ask and answer questions to begin discussions.
  • Share sparingly – It is important to share information, but be careful not to spam people.
  • Maintain relationships – Build new friendships, but be sure to pay attention to existing relationships.
  • Be respectful – Unless you are video chatting, it is difficult to convey tone. If you are not sure if something is respectful, do not type or say it.

It’s a Moving Target

Our digital lives are constantly evolving. The changes in technology are rapidly occurring, and our lives are shifting at a great pace. Over the past few decades, technology has changed the way we work, shop, and communicate. Social media is relatively new, but it is an integral part of society. As technology changes, the way your team interact change along with it. It is imperative that we pay attention as our tools change in order to remain relevant in our work and social lives. The target of technology is constantly changing, and we need to change with it.

Belonging to a Community

The ability to communicate is easy, inexpensive, and instantaneous in a digital world. Distance no longer limits our communication.

Methods of communication:

  • Text
  • FaceTime
  • Email
  • Social media
  • Instant messaging

Because communication is essential to any community, the digital world can help improve communities. Digital citizens are citizens of the Internet, and they are citizens of their personal and professional communities. When you are part of any community, you have a responsibility to communicate respectfully and expand relationships. Your team member must invest in their digital relationships with their time and interest. Remember that it takes time for a strong community to develop.

Build It Up

Your team members’ tone will define their digital presence. No matter the content that they produce or communication they make, it is essential that they attempt to remain positive. Build up their community, and avoid negativity. Positive content generates more traffic than negative content. This is because people will share positive content with their friends and family, which grows your community.

Your team will draw people if they feel that that team is able to help them. Provide useful information and tips. Invite people to ask questions, and develop a respectful dialogue. This cements relationships and leads to repeat viewings and communication. When your team members are good digital citizens, they encourage good citizenship in others.

Real World Influences

Real world influences are useful when examining your digital citizenship. If your team members are good citizens in real life, they will be good digital citizens. Consider what makes a good public citizen. Examples include participation, civility, meeting responsibilities, and obeying laws. Translate real world ideas into conduct online.

Use Technology Appropriately

Technology needs to be used responsibly. All activity needs to be both legal and ethical. How you use technology will depend on where your team members are and what they are doing. For example, it is unethical to download and play games at work, but it is perfectly acceptable to do so at home.

There are basic rules and laws that govern digital citizenship. For example, the Internet is not free. Using a neighbor’s connection is not only illegal; it is inconsiderate because it slows the Internet speed for paying customers. Additionally, your team should avoid pirated software, music, movies, etc. These downloads are illegal, and some questionable websites increase their chance of contracting a computer virus.

The Golden Rule

Treating others the way that you would like to be treated is the golden rule. This should be applied in all areas of life, including digital life. Encourage your team members to treat themselves and others with respect. They should not communicate in a way that they would consider rude or disrespectful as the receiver. Obeying the golden rule sounds easy, but many problems occur because this rule is ignored. Your team members should think before they communicate; they should not act out of emotion.

 

team-building-activity-quote

Subscribe to TBAE’s Blog and Receive Notifications of New Blog Posts

How to Conduct an Engaging Virtual Team Meeting

Hosting a Virtual Team Meeting

Access our ultimate guide to building and managing virtual teams

Hosting a virtual team meeting for remote workers often requires that the way in which content is discussed or presented is altered so that everyone is actively engaged, even though the content may remain the same.

There has been a recent rise in the need for remote working and there are many options such as Zoom, WebEx or Join Me available to host meetings. All companies have different needs, but using a platform that permits audio, video and screen sharing allows for far better engagement than a conference call.

Ask your team members to provide feedback on how the virtual meetings can be improved. Technical glitches and awkward pauses are inevitable. Stay calm and use them to learn. Practice makes perfect!

Here are some tips on how to conduct an engaging virtual team meeting.

Virtual Team Building Events - Remote Team Building
TBAE will customize a virtual team building event for your remote team in line with the desired outcomes, values and ethos of your company and number of remote staff to participate in the event.

Implement Rules for the Virtual Team Meeting

A visual slide is a good way of setting expectations for virtual meetings with large groups.

Remember to record the meeting if you need to refer back to it at a later stage.

Communicate to your team members about your expectations on how engage in the virtual team meeting.

Common etiquette such as not eating during meetings or leaving the desk needs to be communicated as well.

Remaining muted in a virtual meeting until team members are answering a question or presenting is a good way to prevent background noise and creates an indication of someone wanting to speak.

Non-verbal communication and body language is an important part for an engaging meeting. Encourage team members to use the video feed.

Virtual Team Meeting Ice breakers

Virtual team meeting ice breakers are short activities that are designed to ease into a discussion or conversation. They could be discussions or games that break down walls between people in a group. It is always easier to start conversations when the people in the group are more relaxed and comfortable with each other.

Ice breakers also help people to get to know each other before working together in a team setting or project. Better trust and communication is developed when there is a secure understanding.

Structure of the Virtual Team Meeting

Communicating the structure of the virtual team meeting ensures that there is a flow to the meeting. Make use of a signal to allow team members to indicate that they want to provide input or ask a question. Most virtual meeting platforms also have tools that allow this.

Most virtual team meeting platforms also have a chat feature that allows you to get quick feedback from all team members without wasting time on individual video feedback.

Using Visuals in the Virtual Team Meeting

You can make use of visual tools such as: Share your screen, Jamboard, LucidChart, and Miro to ensure that everyone is clear about the ideas and information being presented.

Virtual Team Meeting Agenda

An agenda is important for a virtual team meeting just like a normal meeting. It helps you to keep the meeting on course and on time and communicate what topics, expectations, preparation and outcomes are aimed for.

Don’t rush through the meeting agenda. Allow an opportunity for team members to take in the information or jump in. Some team members may also be working with slower Wi-Fi connections, and a pause helps them to stay on course with the virtual meeting.

 

team-building-activity-quote

Subscribe to TBAE’s Blog and Receive Notifications of New Blog Posts

26 Ice Breakers for Your Virtual Team Meetings

Ice Breakers for Virtual Team Meetings

Access our ultimate guide to building and managing virtual teams

Virtual Team Meeting ice breakers are short activities that are designed to ease the participants into your virtual team meeting. They could include discussions or games that break down walls between the people in your virtual team. It is always easier to start conversations when the participants of your virtual team meeting are more relaxed and comfortable with each other.

With more people working remotely these days, using ice breakers at the start of a virtual team meeting is vital in breaking down barriers and generating a connected and open discussion. Remote workers often have a feeling of loneliness and creating a space for interactions is crucial. Virtual team meeting ice breakers lightens the mood and helps keep the attention of your remote working team throughout the meeting.

The following are examples of ice breakers you can use that will help your next virtual team meeting be an engaged and energized experience.

Virtual Team Building Events - Remote Team Building

My Story in Six Words

In this ice-breaker, the virtual team members have to creatively explain their life story using only six words, and the other team members can join in and discuss their choice. For example, a team member can say: “The greatest encounters can occur randomly” for when they met their favorite celebrity. This is a creative way to encourage the team members to want to know more about each other.

Unmatched

In this ice-breaker activity for virtual team meetings, participants get to find out something unique about each other while sharing something unique about them. It could be something as simple as a holiday, hobby, or award. One by one the team members try to come up with something that is the most unique without anyone else also having done that. Once a unique fact has been found, it is the next team member’s turn.

Follow Me

In this ice-breaker one of the virtual team meeting participants have to take the lead and make everyone else follow their movements, but only if the leader says: “Follow Me” beforehand. When the movements increase in pace, the participants will start to forget about the phrase and just go along with the movements. These people are eliminated, and the last person standing wins.

What’s your preference?

Help your remote working team get to know each other by having them answer some light and fun personal questions. Use your company culture to choose what questions to ask some of these questions:

What is the best way to eat pizza? What talent or skill do you wish you had? What is your favourite sound? Who is your favourite villain?

Team members will feel closer to each other once they find out that they share common ideas and interests.

Emoji Greet

Each team member selects an emoji that describes their current feelings when checking in or about a project.

Questions in Colour

Each virtual team member needs to answer a work or non-work related question based on a randomly generated colour.

Embarrassing Photos

Get to know your team members on a personal level with plenty of laughs by finding an embarrassing or funny photo on your phone, album, or bookshelf and share it with your team.

Quickfire Questions

Get to know your team with prepared quick questions. Each team member answers the question and everybody gets to know each other.

Where would you be right now?

As the title suggests, simply ask the question: “Where would you be right now?” The remote working team members can answer using tools such as Google Maps, images or simply just saying where.

Let me give you the tour

In this virtual team ice-breaker, the participants become tour guides giving the rest of the team members a virtual tour of their immediate surroundings. This ice-breaker will give your team a feeling of being connected physically, even though they are working remotely.

Image Charades

This ice-breaker for virtual team meetings is the same as traditional charades, except that you may only use 5 images to try and explain your book, movie, celebrity, etc.

10 Shared Things

In this ice-breaker activity, you ask your team to come up with 10 things that everyone in the group has in common – we are all wearing shoes, we all have a notepad, etc. This virtual ice breaker can be varied by asking the team members to find 10 things in common in their immediate areas.

Where are you from?

A great virtual ice breaker for teams located in a wide range of areas. Initiate the meeting with the question: “Where are you from?”  As the team members post their locations, give them a shout-out.

Team Portrait

Take a screenshot of everyone’s funny face, gesture, etc in the meeting and share your team portrait.

One Word Summary

Ask the team members to summarize their feelings about a project or the team. You can also ask them to summarize their feelings with one colour. A fun ice breaker that also gives you an overall picture of how the team is feeling.

Remote Body Language

Create visual signals such as handshakes, hearts, or thumbs up that help team members to express themselves without needing to un-mute the microphone.

Quiz Show

This is a fun ice-breaker that energises the team and makes team members excited for the next virtual meeting. Start with one to three questions at the start of every meeting

Mood Scale

Check the overall feeling and mood of your team at the start of the virtual meeting. Ask them how they feel on a scale of 1 – 10 and use the results to further the discussion and allow team members to share their thoughts.

Time to get physical

Simple physical exercises do a lot to get team members to fire up and to clear their heads for a short while. It does not need to be strenuous. Allow a team member to lead a few quick stretch exercises or ask them to stand a jump a few times.

Honours

Everyone needs a morale boost now and then and even more so when working remotely. Honour the team members who went the extra mile. Ask team members to vote for their hero this month. Start your next meeting by honouring the effort of your team.

Highlights

Highlights is another great ice breaker that you can use to lift the morale of your team. Get team members to post their top achievements before the meeting. When the meeting starts, display all of the achievements in your team and give a shout out to each one. It is always good to remind people of the great work that they are doing.

Remote Coffee Break

Before the meeting, have a video chat with your team members for an informal catch-up. Socialising helps those working remotely, even if it is through a screen.

Spot the Lie

Get to know each other better with this fun ice breaker. Gather one false fact along with two true facts of each team member and put them into a multiple-choice poll. Team members then need to guess which fact of the particular team member is a lie. Also, ask the team member to share a story behind the facts.

Remote Fashion Police

There is a myth that people only wear pyjamas all day long when working remotely. Have a fun poll to lighten the atmosphere and loosen people up by letting them check up on team members’ work clothes. You could also ask them to take pictures of their shoes!

Virtual DJ

Music always helps people loosen up a little. Choose a team member to play some music while others join the virtual team meeting. Some team members might even start dancing!

Doodles

It is said that doodling helps people be more creative as well as attentive. Ask your team members to get a pen and paper and get them to doodle some pictures. After the meeting, have them share their unique artwork by showing it to their cameras.

13 Bad Habits to Avoid When Working Remotely

13 Bad Habits to Avoid When Working Remotely

Access our ultimate guide to building and managing virtual teams

Many people are finding themselves in the position of having to work from home for the first time in their careers. Although there are many benefits of working remotely, there are also pitfalls that you need to avoid to remain effective in your profession.

Related: How to Be an Effective Virtual Team Member

The following are a list of bad habits to avoid when working from home that will not only affect your productivity but in many cases your mental health.

  1. Being accessible and available for everyone 24/7.
  2. Not taking regular breaks.
  3. Not having a break for lunch but eating in front of your computer.
  4. Holding yourself to the same high standard every day.
  5. Always wanting to look busy due to fear of looking “lazy”.
  6. Not getting enough sleep.
  7. Agreeing to take calls at inconvenient times because you want to be seen as agreeable.
  8. Not maintaining a healthy work-life balance and not separating work and life enough.
  9. Allowing your schedule to become too flexible.
  10. Checking your phone that one more time before going to bed.
  11. Getting involved in things that need to be done in the house in the time set aside for work.
  12. Sending one more email or making one more call when you are supposed to log off for the day.
  13. Never seeing your friends or family.

…And all the other things we regularly do because we feel obligated to do even if they are not realistically possible.

Virtual Team Building Events - Remote Team Building

10 Online Virtual Team Building Games for Remote Workers

Online Virtual Team Building Games for Remote Workers

Access Our Ultimate Guide to Building and Managing Virtual Teams

Technology has made remote working a popular option and with it the need for effective online virtual team building games.

For all the benefits of working with virtual teams, one of the major challenges of working remotely is the lack of social interaction. Members of virtual teams often feel isolated and it can be challenging to create and maintain team morale for remote workers. To overcome these challenges, virtual team building games are essential.

The approach to remote team building is different from in-person team building as your team is never in the same room together. But virtual team building games can be just as effective as in-person team building games. Remote team building games promote employee happiness, staff retention, and increase productivity.

The following are some of our favorite online virtual team building games that can easily be applied to most virtual team situations.

  1. Live Virtual Office
  2. Show and Tell
  3. Stranded on an Island
  4. How Well do You Know Me?
  5. Virtual Scavenger Hunt
  6. Art Instructions
  7. Surprise Craft Challenge
  8. Desk Gardens
  9. What Do I Have Here?
  10. That’s Right John

Virtual Team Building Events - Remote Team Building

Virtual Team Building Games

 

1. Live Virtual Office

Live Virtual Office Virtual Team Building Game

Setting up a Live Virtual Office will help your virtual team members experience the office feel without physically being in an office.

The Live Virtual Office game is set up using video chat. The first team member to go online for work starts a video chat that the rest of the team can join. As the rest of the team goes online, they join the video chat. As they join the chat they are essentially arriving at the virtual office.

The Live Virtual Office game mimic’s an office environment, offering a virtual place where members are working on their tasks but still feeling part of a bigger team. Seeing other members of the team hard at work will inspire and motivate all the virtual team members to stay focused and productive.

2. Show and Tell

Show and Tell Virtual Team Building Game

In the “Show and Tell” virtual team building game, the virtual team members show each other their homes. This is usually a very effective and often funny way for remote team members to get to know each other better.

It is relatively easy to implement with the only requirement being that each virtual team member take a short video tour of their home and some of their prized possessions.

It is a very effective way to help virtual team members to get to know each other on a more personal level, creating feelings of belonging and friendship in the team.

Instead of everybody showing their videos at one meeting, you can also allow one team member to show their home at the beginning of each week’s virtual team meeting.

3. Stranded on an Island

Stranded on an Island Virtual Team Building Game

In the “Stranded on an Island” virtual team building game, the team members are told that they are stranded on an island with seven objects, but they can only choose three. The objects should be chosen in such a way that the team members are challenged to think and strategize. Some examples of items are vegetable seeds, 2 liters of kerosene, a pocket knife, a bag of fruit, a bed sheet, etc.

You can also split the team into groups to allow them to work together to decide what items to choose. When all the team members have made their choice, arrange a team video chat where the members can share what they choose and why they choose those objects.

This virtual team building game will help create a sense of teamwork and excitement in the team. It also demonstrates to the team how working together can help your team produce better results.

4. How Well Do You Know Me?

How Well Do You Know Me Virtual Team Building Game

The “How Do You Know Me” virtual team building game is another effective way for virtual team members to get to know each other better. The game helps in particular for team members to learn more about each other’s interests outside of work.

Each virtual team member receives a list of personal facts. Next to each personal fact is an empty column where each employee will guess which team member the fact belongs to.

After every team member submitted their guesses, the answers are sent through to the team members so that they can see how well they guessed.

You can also use a group video chat for this activity. As the facilitator, you will open the sheet on your computer and share your screen while the other team members try to guess the answers. As the answer is guessed correctly, you can fill in the empty column.

5. Virtual Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger Hunt Virtual Team Building Activity

The “Virtual Scavenger Hunt” virtual team building game starts by dividing the team into groups. Each team receives an identical list of tasks to complete. The groups can then divide the tasks among themselves and go on the hunt to complete each task. A photo must be sent through to prove that a task was completed by a team member. You can have all the teams submit their photos to the company chat group.

Some examples of tasks are: taking a photo of your reflection, getting a stranger to do a yoga pose with you, wearing a funny hat or other pieces of clothing, etc.

This virtual team building activity is a fun way for your team to collaborate and boost team spirit. Team members also get to know each other better and learn to utilize each other’s strengths and skills.

6. Art Instructions

Art Instructions Virtual Team Building Activity

The “Art Instructions” virtual team building game is usually played in a virtual conference room. One person is nominated to be the instructor and the rest of the team will be the artists.

Using a random image generator, the art instructor must describe the image to the rest of the team in such a way that they can draw it successfully.  The catch is that the instructor may only use geometric shapes to describe the image. For example, the image of the letter “E” can be described as “draw a large circle and then three triangles horizontally below each other”.

The importance of effective online communication is highlighted in this virtual team building game. The instructor needs to exercise accurate communication and the artists need to listen and interpret the instructions. This is a really fun way for virtual teams to practice their communication skills.

7. Surprise Craft Challenge

Surprise Craft Challenge Virtual Team Building Activity

The “Surprise Craft Challenge” virtual team building game begins with bringing all the team members on a virtual call. You then let them know that each team member has 30 minutes to build something from the materials that they have available at home.

Team members could make pasta art, a doodle or a poem. The idea is not to make something worthy of display in the art gallery, but to get your team’s creative juices following and encourage them to interact with each other.

8. Desk Gardens

Desk Garden Virtual Team Building Game

In the “Desk Gardens” virtual team building game, your team members have to plant and cultivate a “scrappy garden” form scratch. You can make this a competition for over a month. They can sow seeds from fruit snacks, propagate vegetables or flowers.

By the end of the month, you can see who has green fingers and your virtual team’s desks will be a little greener.

9. What Do I Have Here?

What Do I Have Here Virtual Team Building Game

The “What Do I Have Here?” virtual team building game is a quick and easy storytelling game. While on a virtual team call, each team member grabs a random object in arms-length and creates a story about it.

The story should be an exaggeration about what makes that object amazing. For example, an alarm clock could be described as a relic from ancient Egypt which you discovered on an archaeological expedition.

10. That’s Right John

That's Right John Virtual Team Building Game

The “That’s Right John” is a quick online virtual team building game. In the game, everyone on the team work’s at the same news station that has a wild and creative story to tell.

The first team member shares a simple news story with no more than a sentence or two, for example, “the cat was stuck in the tree”. The next team member must then say “that’s right John”, repeat the original and then ads to it. Each team member continues to add to the story until it becomes too long to repeat or you call for a commercial break.

This virtual team building game is an effective way to engage your team. It helps your team to communicate creatively. It is a quick and easy to implement and usually created a lot of laughter.

 

team-building-activity-quote

Subscribe to TBAE’s Blog and Receive Notifications of New Blog Posts

Ultimate Guide to Building and Managing Virtual Teams

Guide to Building and Managing Virtual Teams

Virtual teams are growing in popularity since many companies continue to grow and expand in different areas. But sometimes learning to manage a team that we can’t physically see every day can be difficult. When we learn how to manage our local teams, as well as our virtual teams, we can form a group that works together to increase productivity and provides a new perspective on any project.

We will be covering the following topics in our ultimate guide to building and managing virtual teams (click on a heading to go directly to that section):

Virtual Team Building Events - Remote Team Building

Setting Up Your Virtual Team

One of the key challenges in managing a virtual team is creating one in the first place. The manager must find employees that can work well under minimal supervision and can function with different types of technology. Don’t let geographical differences hinder the team you want to create.

When employees are happy and work together, they work harder to accomplish the job. When establishing your virtual team, it’s more than just employee skills and abilities – you have to consider how they interact with each other and socialize in a group. Some of these things you may not know in the beginning, but some of them you learn along the way.

Related: Virtual Team Building Activities for Remote Working Teams

Choose Self-Motivated People with Initiative

One aspect of working on a virtual team is the ability to be self-motivated and self-disciplined enough to finish the job without someone looking over your shoulder. When building your virtual team, choose team members that show self-motivation characteristics, such as making goals and having strategies for completing assignments. If looking to utilize current employees, look for employees who have had a proven record for getting assignments done and sticking to what they want to accomplish. If hiring from outside the company, look at the person’s resume and see what kind of success they have had and how they reached it.

Characteristics of a self-motivated person:

  • They don’t fear failure
  • They have definite goals
  • They make plans
  • They are flexible when faced with a problem

Face to Face Meetings at First (Kick-off Meeting)

Even though virtual team members will be working apart from each other, it is important to start the team in the same location, usually through some type of ‘kick-off’ meeting. At this first virtual team meeting, members are introduced to each other and usually exchange contact information. The manager would then usually introduce the goals, assignments, and future projects for the group. This is the time where team members can ask questions, discuss availability, and plan for what they will be doing during the upcoming projects.

If geography is a problem for gathering everyone together, try to find a central location that is a fair distance from everyone involved. In some cases, team members may need to be present by phone or video to be a part of the meeting. Setting up a one-time video meeting or conference may be the only way to get some face time between all participants. Having that initial face time is very important to the overall success of the team.

Diversity Will Add Value

Any team leader wants a team of employees that can all work hard and accomplish their goals, but in the same instance, a team leader needs each team member to be different in their own way and utilize what they have to offer. Each member of the team is different and has a different set of skills that they excel at. They can provide different ideas and opinions that can be shared with others and create a new, unique perspective. When we bring a diverse group of employees together, they are not only able to use their diverse skills to complement each other, but they can ensure their part of the project is done to the best of their abilities, making the overall assignment a great success.

Benefits of a diverse workgroup:

  • Various ideas and perspectives
  • Each employee excels at their skillset
  • Contributes to the group as a whole

Experienced with Technology

One of the most important aspects of a virtual team member is the need to be experienced with various types of technology. Team members will be in different locations, but will still need to keep in contact. Many ways employees accomplish this is to communicate by phone, email, fax, or even video phone. A member of a virtual team must know how to operate different forms of technology to stay connected to other employees and management.

Related: How Your Team Members Can Become Good Digital Citizens

Assignments and projects are often sent by electronic files in a variety of programs and shared among the group to edit and sent along. If team members do not have a high level of knowledge when it comes to technology, they may not be able to function well on a team that relies so much on it. Current knowledge as well as keeping up-to-date with new and emerging technologies is required for today’s teleworker.

Personality Can Count as Much as Skills

Many people can master a certain skill set or become experts in many abilities, but their personality while they do it is what can set them apart. The same thing goes for a virtual team. An accounting team full of employees that can balance a budget is great, but if their personalities don’t work together and they don’t have personality in their assignments, the experience is not as productive and can even have negative effects. When choosing employees to join your team, look at their personality and how they present themselves. These traits will speak louder than their skills alone.

Avoid negative personality types:

  • “Negative Ned/Nancy”
  • The “Downer”
  • The Gossiper
  • The Antagonist

Rules of Engagement

The rules of engagement on any team are an important base to build on. With a virtual team, it can be a crucial part of the team plan. These rules include basic concepts of who to contact and who will be in contact with them. Some organizations have nicknamed it ‘the phone tree’, in which a chart or graph is created with employee names and channels in which they can use to contact someone else. This is important to establish with your virtual team members to let them know where they can go with any problems or concerns so they don’t feel lost when they are in an area by themselves.

Example:

  • Who do the employees contact for help?
  • Who do they work with on a regular basis?
  • Who do they contact with a complaint?

Setting up Ground Rules

Ground rules are guidelines that help form appropriate group behaviour. By setting up ground rules at the beginning of your team’s formation, it will help stop some problems before they begin. Many ground rules start with employee behaviour, such as how to treat each other and some sort of ‘code of ethics’ but also include basic rules about behaviour at work, such as deadlines and basic workplace behaviours. Other areas for ground rules include project deliverables, such as following deadlines and procedures for presenting an assignment. One commonly overlooked set of ground rules are rules for employee work hours, including attendance policies, procedure for calling in sick, and rules for clocking in and out. Although there are many areas to cover when establishing these rules, the team will run smoother when everyone knows what they can and cannot do.

Related: 13 Bad Habits to Avoid When Working Remotely

Examples:

  • Email usage
  • Contact procedure
  • Project deliverables and deadlines
  • Employee respect
  • Employee acknowledgment
  • Adhering to employee schedules

Icebreakers and Introductions

Icebreakers and introductions are very important tools to use at the kick-off meeting. Introductions are especially important since it allows the team to get to know each other before they begin working together and are required to communicate back and forth. Icebreakers are a fun way to get each employee to interact with the team. This is often done with a small game or involving everyone in a group activity. In these activities, team members share their name, job title or position, and some sort of fun fact, such as their favourite hobby or vacation spot. Icebreakers and introductions allow team members to relax with one another by talking about themselves and learning things about their fellow team members.

Example Icebreaker activities:

  • Talk about favorite foods
  • Group people by common job duties
  • Compare hobbies

Related: Activities for Building Teams

Back to The Top

Virtual Team Meetings

Virtual Team Meetings

Now that you have your virtual team assembled, the next step is to effectively hold virtual team meetings with all of them. Just because your team members aren’t at a table in front of you doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with them and guide them during a project. As with a normal meeting, there will be an issue with setting a good time, ensuring everyone shows up and making sure you deliver all the right information. The key is learning tools that can help you run a successful meeting, in person or virtually!

Scheduling Will Always Be an Issue

Virtual teams have a harder time scheduling meetings because the employees are not in the same location. Some team members are in different time zones, others work different hours while the rest may be constantly traveling. One tip for managing the employees’ time schedules is to keep a log or chart of an employee’s location, working hours and where they could be assigned later. With this tool, you can determine prime times to hold virtual meetings that won’t conflict with someone’s schedule.

If different meetings need to be held, plan a schedule with the team members regarding a rotation of team members staying late or coming in earlier to cover meeting times. Many employees are happy to abide by a schedule in which they can give their opinions. Be sure to remind the team members of any consequence that can occur for not sticking with the schedule or not participating in the meeting, such as written warnings and disciplinary actions on their employee record. Understand that employees may still be hard to schedule even with adjustments. So have an alternate solution handy in case a team member cannot attend team meetings. Be flexible with team members that attend meetings outside of their normal work hours, offer the next day off or maybe a half-day.

Have a Clear Objective and Agenda

An agenda is very important to have in any team meeting and is more so in a virtual meeting because it keeps everyone on the same track. Outline what you want to discuss and accomplish from the meeting and jot down ideas on how you can make them happen. Include specific topics that need to be reviewed and events that have happened with the team. Team members need to know there a clear objective to the meeting and that it is not a waste of their production time. Share your agenda with the rest of the team so they can be aware of the purpose of the meeting and what they can contribute.

Tips for sharing your agenda:

  • Include it in a mass email so team members can read ahead of time.
  • On video calls, have the agenda displayed at all times on the screen.
  • For conference call meetings, read over the agenda first and allow team members to take notes.

Solicit Additional Topics in Advance

Soliciting ideas before the actual meeting is an important tool to use when creating your agenda for the meeting. Speak with your team members and ask if they have any additional topics they would like included in the meeting agenda. Sometimes after the team members are aware of the original agenda, ideas or topics are added to the plate, either by management or other employees. However, don’t leave these new topics as a surprise for the other meeting attendees.

It is important to share these additional topics with team members before they ‘arrive’ at the meeting so that they can be prepared and don’t feel as though they were blind-sided. When employees know of the meeting topics ahead of time, they can research the topic ahead of time and be able to make a meaningful contribution when they participate in the next meeting.

Discourage Just Being a Status Report

Status report type information can be sent through email or other electronic messages because it often does not include much of a response from the team members. It is generally one-sided information that is meant to be informative, not discussed in depth. One of the problems of a virtual team meeting is that the moderator will do most of the talking and presenting, leaving the other team members feeling as though they are only there to hear the latest status report. The same can go for team members that come to the meeting to share their information and then sit out for the rest of the time. Encourage team members to ask questions and take notes of the information given. Set aside time for team members to share ideas and engage in conversation or debate about the meeting topics. These meetings are meant to be a time of learning and interaction, not just one-sided information sharing.

Back to The Top

Communication

Communication in Virtual Teams

Effective communication is a key component to any successful business. It is especially important when managing a virtual team because not only do you deal with traditional communication problems with employees, but virtual teams can face more obstacles trying to keep in touch. Learning helpful tools and techniques for effective communication can take any virtual team a long way.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Poor communication among team members and team members has been shown to cause low employee morale and a decrease in productivity. Sometimes team members can feel unsure about approaching you or are not sure what to do when they have a problem. Encourage your team members to engage in two way communication and ask questions when they receive new information. When they know who they can come to in a jam, they will feel more comfortable communicating their needs.

Early and Often

Early communication means not waiting for a problem to happen before addressing it. Check-in with your team members regularly, whether by phone, email, conference, etc. Don’t let the team members struggle through a problem over a long period. Don’t wait for them to contact you; reach out to them to offer help. Contact each team member often and follow up after any problems they have reported. Keeping in touch with each team member not only cuts down on large problems, but it shows your support in the employee and can boost their morale substantially.

Tips:

  • Create a regular schedule to check in with team members
  • Find what methods work best for each team member
  • Keep track of small problems that arise early to prevent bigger ones later

Rules of Responsiveness

Communication is a two-way street and can shut down when one side doesn’t contribute or doesn’t act on their responsibility. When outlining communication techniques with your virtual team, one aspect to cover is the rules of responsiveness. Determine which forms of response are appropriate in various situations. Do you need a response right away? Is it something they can reply to later? Will you need a short or long response? When sending communication to team members, let them know how soon they need a reply and how soon you expect to hear from them. Team members need to understand that the communication you exchange with them is very important and that they need to respond promptly.

Face to Face When Possible

Sometimes communication needs to be made in person or face to face. Communication over the phone or email can often be skewed because there is a loss of tone and body language. Although this can be hard with a virtual team, there are ways the manager and employees can work together. If distance is somewhat small, arrange a time for team members to meet either at your office or theirs. If the distance is too great, the next best option is to use some sort of video message system, such as Skype. Although it does not replace in-person meetings, it allows the manager and team members to talk ‘face to face’ and monitor their tone and body language signals. Sometimes long-distance communication just can’t deliver an effective message – so never underestimate the power of talking in person.

Choose the Best Tool

Every form of communication has an appropriate tool to use with it. Some information can be delivered by informal methods, such as email or telephone calls. Informal methods are great to use when a short or quick answer is needed rather than a longer response. Participants can share information quickly and then continue with their work. Other messages should be delivered more formally, such as face to face talks or even in a team meeting.

Formal methods are better used for in-depth messages and descriptions. The information is often lengthy and may require explanations or presentations. Formal methods also allow participants to ask questions or add their input. To choose the best tool, the manager should determine how urgent the message is, how quickly it needs to be received, and what kind of response they are looking for. Once they determine what is to be shared and what they need in response, they can then choose the best tool for the job.

Be Honest and Clear

One of the pitfalls of team communication is that we try to hide information from each other. Managers will try to ‘sugar coat’ a problem within the company or employees won’t mention how hard they are struggling with an assignment. When speaking with your team members, don’t try to hide facts behind blurred words. If you have to deliver bad news, be upfront and let them know what is going on. If you need to change something they are doing or working on, be clear as to why and the effect it will have on them. When we try to hide facts or information, team members can become skeptical and will eventually lose their trust in you.

Tips:

  • Remain honest, even if it is a negative aspect.
  • Speak clearly and don’t hide the fact behind ‘sugar-coated’ words.
  • Ensure the team member is clear about what they hear (Any questions?)

Stay in Constant Contact

Nothing can be more frustrating than trying to reach a manager that has fallen out of touch. Team members need to be able to reach you during regular business hours and should always have a source to contact outside those hours (i.e. on-call, second shift manager). It is especially hard for virtual team members since they cannot always physically contact you and will need some other way to speak to you when needed.

You need to stay in constant contact with your team members and ensure them that you are there for them when they need you. Some examples include sending daily emails to check on progress or making regular meetings to follow up with team members. Make a note of team members that need your assistance more often and be sure to check up on how they are doing over time. By staying in contact now, you are helping to prevent further problems later.

Don’t Make Assumptions

We all know that old saying of what happens when we assume. A common problem in communication is assuming that we have delivered all of the information needed or assuming that the team members will not have any trouble with their work. These assumptions can cause us to leave our team members out to dry and cause them to feel as though you are not there to help them. The team can begin to resent you and may feel too uncomfortable to ask for further information.

Ask for team members to follow up on any information they receive, especially if they have questions or concerns. Periodically check on each team member’s productivity and ask if they are having any difficulties or need another problem addressed. Your team members can benefit from your guidance, so don’t assume they will make it on their own without you.

Set Up Email Protocols

Email is one of the most important forms of communication on a virtual team. It allows a person to send a message from anywhere, and at any time. Unfortunately, it can often be misused and can lead to confusion and upset team members. When the virtual team is formed and introduced to using email, introduce the team members to the rules and regulations of using email for contact purposes. Outline when it should be used in different situations and stress that is it for company business, not personal usage. Many companies require employees to sign a form acknowledging that they are aware of the email protocols and will abide by them. Again, don’t assume your team members know the protocol and follow up with them to check for any questions.

Back to The Top

Building Trust

Building Trust in Virtual Teams

Creating an open and honest environment in the workplace is a key factor in keeping employees happy and productive. On a virtual team, it is just as important to remain open with your team members and keep them in the immediate loop of information. Since they are not always in a central location, it is essential to keep them updated on current happenings in the company and their department. When the team members feel included, they learn to trust you and will look to you when they have questions.

Related: Trust Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Trust Your Team and They Will Trust You

Trust is a key component in any relationship, personal or professional. Virtual teams can have additional problems with trust when they are not always in each other’s company. They can be unsure about what is being said or if they are doing as well as they should. As a manager, it is important to show your trust in your employees first. Show them that you trust them to complete their work and trust them with crucial information, such as potential job reassignments or even closures. When the employees feel as though you trust them, they can, in turn, learn to trust you. They will instill their trust in you and confide in you when they have concerns or are worried. This trust not only builds a stronger relationship among the employee and manager, but also the entire virtual team.

Beware of “Us vs. Them” Territorial Issues

Often when management tries to solely run a team without regard to its members, the employees can begin to have that “Us against Them” mentality. They begin to believe that management is only looking out for management or does not value the opinion of the team members. This can cause further resentment from employees and can affect the whole team’s productivity. Remind your team members that you are on their side and that you realize that the team works together to accomplish the same goal. Let them know that they are included in many of the decisions made (although not ALL of them) and that their presence on the team is valued. When team members feel as though they are part of the working machine, they are less likely to feel like an opposing force.

Share Best Practices

A form of ‘best practice’ is loosely defined as a practice that has proved productive in the past and has results behind it to back it up. Sharing best practices with your virtual team can be a great move when faced with some of the same situations. Common forms of sharing these practices including sending them through email or forming some kind of instruction sheet. Some team members may need to be counseled in person or shown how to follow a process step by step. Sharing these practices shows trust among team members and trust that they can continue the chain of success.

Best practices:

  • Processes/procedures that have worked before
  • Can be shared several ways, including email, videos or personal instruction
  • Consult with team members regarding alterations/variations if needed
  • Follow up with team members to ensure comprehension

Create a Sense of Ownership

One overlooked method of building trust among your virtual team is helping them create a sense of ownership. Team members feel more passionate about their jobs when they feel as though they not only have a part in the team’s success but can feel as though their part is essential to the overall success. Although it can take a good amount of time to help a team member establish their sense of ownership, it can prove beneficial for everyone in the long run.

Tips:

    • Ask what you can do to accomplish something
    • Encourage every new idea
    • Make a plan and put into action

Back to The Top

Cultural Issues

Cultural Issues in Virtual Teams

Cultural issues in the workplace have been a hot topic for many years. They are more than just demographics and cannot always be detected right away. Even though team members may be from the same office or a similar location, each one has their own unique culture and following. It is important to embrace these differences and acknowledge the cultural issues that may be present. This can help the team build successful relationships with each other and prove more productive in the long run.

Respect and Embrace Differences

Diversity among a group is always a good thing, but under the wrong impressions, it can ruin any team. Whether the difference is a type of culture, political opinions, or simply a difference in background, all these factors can change how a person interacts with another person and what kind of view they have.  When team members are diverse, it can keep the team from thinking on one path and stop the ‘one-track mind’. It opens teammates up to new ideas and points of view, which in turn can create new concepts for projects and assignments. Together, they can learn to not only respect their differences among each other but embrace them to create a whole new work style.

Be Aware of Different Work Styles

Sometimes different work styles on a team can be a good thing because they allow each employee to think on their own and work within a design that works best for them. Other times, it can be a real source of trouble if not properly addressed. Some team members may prefer to work alone even though they are needed on a team project. One team member may be a procrastinator and wait until the last minute to complete their assignment. The key is to learn to be flexible with one another and adjust how you approach each other. No two people work the same way, so any team, especially a virtual one, will need time to adjust to one another and learn what makes the other team member work so hard. When we know how they function, we can work in sync with them without a hitch…most of the time!

Know Your Team Members Cultural Background

On a virtual team, it can be hard to get to know your teammates personally since you are so limited in communication and socialization. Even if the members meet during some sort of meeting or conference, it can be hard to acknowledge a person’s cultural background. Some companies have an employee fill out a personal profile that can be shared with other employees, which allows them to better know the person even though they are not in the same office. When we can better understand a person’s cultural background, we can better understand why they do some of the things they do and can make them feel more comfortable on your team.

Examples:

  • Provide an “All About Me” survey to gather information about team members
  • Some information can remain private if desired, such as religion or political views
  • Acknowledge cultural instances, such as holidays and rituals

Dealing with Stereotypes

Stereotypes can ruin any team relationship or bond. The sweeping generalization of a stereotype can cause people to become confused or view people in a negative light, even if it was unprovoked. Knowledge and understanding are the only tools we can use to deal with stereotypes. Get to know your team members and encourage them to get to know their coworkers. Learn more about the team member as a whole person instead of what their cultural background may have been labeled as. Through observation and interaction, the chances of anyone creating or following stereotypes in the virtual team decreases and team members can focus on the task at hand, and not each other.

Back to The Top

To Succeed With a Virtual Team

Succeeding with Virtual Teams

Succeeding with traditional face-to-face teams can be challenging enough, but succeeding with a virtual team can be just as hard, if not more so. Inspiring a team to create and meet goals, maintain motivation and work together are only a few obstacles when managing a team that you cannot see daily. But with effective communication and a little discipline, any virtual team can succeed.

Related: 10 Online Virtual Team Building Games for Remote Workers

Set Clear Goals

Setting goals are one of the most elementary processes that can lead to success. After all, you don’t know where you’re going until you determine what you want! Clear goals are normally set for the team as a whole as well as each individual teammate. The manager works with the team to determine what they want to achieve over a set amount of time (i.e. increased sales, decreased absences) while the employee sets their own goals about what they want to achieve as a member of the team (i.e. decreased data errors, increased personal productivity). Setting goals with your virtual team can help them stay task-focused and can make them feel as though they are making a difference on the team.

Tips for setting goals:

  • Determine what you want to achieve
  • Define a path that can help you get there (there may be more than one)
  • Decide what you will do when you reach that goal

Related: Goal Setting Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

A Standard Operating System is generally a company’s process or procedure that it follows in the workplace. Sometimes a company does not feel the need to document these procedures, since many people may already know it. But creating these procedures and correctly documenting them allows the manager to share them with other employees and create them as a type of guideline and resource. As a manager, review some of the procedures and processes that have worked for you in the past and try to create them into an SOP. Although it can be time-consuming, it will be worth the benefits in the end. On a virtual team, these can be especially helpful for team members who may not have experience on the team yet.  They will come to you for help and will need to learn procedures if they are to contribute to the team.

Build a Team Culture

Your virtual team is your family. Every member should take the time to get to know each other and familiarize themselves with someone else’s situation. After all, every member of the team is a human being and deserves to be treated with respect and friendliness. If team members are not able to socialize locally, allow them to have a chat room on a private server or virtual community they can come and go in to speak with other employees on a non-business level. If possible, assign projects or assignments in pairs or small groups to encourage further mingling and socializing. When the team members feel as though they are part of a family, they see other teammates as family also and will create their own team culture they can fit into.

Related: Digital Etiquette for Your Virtual Team

Provide Timely Feedback

Positive or negative, feedback is a great tool to help team members at work. On a virtual team, giving timely feedback is important to the team’s overall success. The team members need to know how they are doing on assignments and need to know if they need to change anything. Since the manager cannot randomly approach the team member to give feedback as they would in person, it is best to set up regular, scheduled sessions (such as by phone or chat) to alert the employee of any negative feedback that needs to be addressed or any positive feedback that should be shared. This will require the manager to get to know the team member personally so that the feedback sessions are not awkward or uncomfortable.

Back to The Top

Dealing With Poor Team Players

Dealing With Bad Team Players

When we manage a team, there will always be a time where we have to address a member, or members, that are not working well with the group. No one wants to be the bad guy, but if the employee is not confronted and not given the chance to improve, it can affect the other members of the team and could cause a ‘domino effect’ for productivity. Learn the techniques of approaching this delicate situation and look out for your team as a whole – not just one member.

Manage Their Results, Not Their Activities

When a person manages an office, they can see for themselves what an employee is doing or what they are working on. However, on a virtual team, the progress can be much harder to monitor. Because of this, it is more important to monitor the employee’s results, rather than the individual activities. If the employee is delivering great work and it’s on time, then the process of how they finish it means very little.

For many team members, having this sense of freedom and trust can boost their confidence and improve productivity. However, if a team member is not completing work on time or is not turning in projects, then this is an indication of poor work habits and the manager should investigate into what is causing the problem. Approach the employee and talk to them about their routine schedule. If needed, organize some form of an improvement plan to help them adjust their ways of completing their assignments.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

It is better to be prepared for any mishap before it happens, which is why it is important to be proactive rather than reactive. If we wait for something to go wrong before we act on it, we cannot think clearly about what to do and it may be too late to fix. The same theory goes for team members. Do not sit back and wait for them to make a mistake before they are taught how to do something correctly. Monitor each team member’s progress and notice any minor problems they may have along the way. Speak to the team member early on when the problem started and try to find a way to guide them on the right path. This will prevent the problem from getting worse and having to use more damage control later. Being proactive will always keep you one step ahead and ready to help the employee succeed.

Check-In Often

On the same lines of being proactive, be sure to check in with your team members often. They may not always have the chance to contact you or may not want to admit they need help. Schedule some form of regular communication for informal check-in times that best work for you and the employee. Check-in can be done by a phone call or simply sending an email. This will help both of you stay on track and allows you to report any feedback that needs to be addressed. Think of it as keeping a close eye on your flock and ensuring that you are there for them if they happen to go astray.

Example forms of check-in methods:

  • Email
  • Phone call
  • Recurring group meeting
  • Video chat

Remove Them

Sometimes after a manager has tried several attempts to help an employee work well on a virtual team, they come to realize that the particular employee is just not a great fit and will need to be removed. Some employees can be too disruptive to their teammates or are not able to work independently. This can cause problems for the whole team and should be addressed right away. Before you decide to remove the team member, make sure your ducks are in a row and that you have done all you can to help them succeed, such as personal help or extra training. If you have followed all of the correct guidelines and the team member does not show any type of improvement, then you can take the next steps in removing the team member from the virtual team. Some team members may be reassigned to another department in the company while others may need to be fired altogether. Review all of their available options and determine which would be best for the company and the virtual team.

Back to The Top

Choosing the Right Tools

Tools for Virtual Teams

Success on any kind of team depends on the tools you use to make it work. After all, you can’t build a house without a hammer and you can’t change a tire without a jack. But having a lot of tools at your disposal does not necessarily mean you have the right ones to get the job done. The key is in knowing what you want to do and what kind of tool would help you do it.

Communication Software

On a virtual team, communication software is crucial to have and use well. Employees are far apart and cannot communicate in person with each other when they have questions. How do your team members want or need to communicate with each other? For quick and easy questions or comments, text messaging or an instant message program can be the key. But if a team member needs to ask lengthy questions to a coworker or manager, a phone call or tagged email may be the answer instead. Whichever way the team chooses to communicate with each other, it is just as important to know how to use and work the software, so be sure to ensure every member has proper training and can come to you with questions.

Collaboration and Sharing Tools

Collaboration and sharing tools allow team members across a virtual team to not only share a project they are working on but also to work with each other by editing and commenting on projects within the same program. It can be a hassle to try and email a project back and forth when one person is trying to suggest a change or add their notes. Several software programs can be added to the virtual team to help make the collaboration process go more smoothly among team members. Many of these tools allow team members to upload a file for several others to see at once. Others include comment or adjustment features and can save any progress made after each person touches the file. These types of tools can make a virtual team run better and allows them to work as a team rather than several individuals trying to reach the same goal.

Project Management Software

Project management software is aimed at managing the different aspects of a project, such as budgets, productivity, scheduling, communication, and even employee evaluations. There are many different ways of keeping track of this information, and companies normally take a different approach depending on the situation. Virtual teams generally have some sort of web-based management program, such as web application for clocking in and out or keeping track of employee absences.

Other software options can include a program installed on the employee’s desktop that can monitor their progress over a period of time and can show the employee what kind of progress they are making. Although we don’t want to feel as though we are micromanaging our employees, it is necessary to implement some form of project management software for the team to use. While some may not like the approach to managing their projects, they will feel relieved when the time comes that they will need your feedback and guidance.

Use What Works for You and Your Team

Every manager has an opinion about what methods work and which ones do not for a virtual team. But only you can decide what works for you and your team. You know your employees and you know what would be the best way to communicate with them when you need to. Sometimes this can take some trial and error to see what forms of communication work best for the team as a whole. Some may communicate better by email while others are more comfortable talking on the phone. Many employees communicate using many different methods, depending on what kind of response they will need. The best part about having so many tools at your disposal is that you can use a combination of them to achieve what you and your team need to do.

Use the method, or methods, that get(s) what you need:

Email/text messaging/phone calls – short answers and quick information delivery, such as a meeting change or a quick clarification question.

Group meetings/individual meetings/video chats – in-depth and lengthy information given; usually requires explanations or discussions from both sides. This includes discussion of employee progress, business reports, or company changes.

Back to The Top

team-building-activity-quote

Subscribe to TBAE’s Blog and Receive Notifications of New Blog Posts