Working Virtually

Congratulations! You just landed your dream job and it means you will be working from home or perhaps you were promoted and now are part of a division of your company that is located all over the world. You are now part of the Virtual Team.

Working remotely has some unique challenges (and opportunities!). First, know that virtual teams lose out on some of the key communication tools in-person teams regularly leverage. Virtual teams don’t have as many natural opportunities to connect, both formally and informally, with peers. Some of these moments include:

  1. In-office meetings
  2. Stopping by someone’s office to ask a quick question
  3. Brainstorming around a whiteboard as a group
  4. Lunch meetings/gatherings/potluck
  5. Working through tough problems one-on-one or in a small group
  6. Catching up with your supervisor by stopping into his office or vice versa

If you aren’t aware of this and vigilant about building good online collaboration habits, your success and future could be in jeopardy. What can you do to replace these important opportunities for bonding with co-workers, and increase your productivity and satisfaction working together?

Online Collaboration is Key to your Success

Online communication tools can be a great asset. When you train yourself and your teammates to work with each other in certain ways, you can ensure that you are making the most of your efforts. Here are some tips to build better habits:

  • Set regular meetings (video meetings are best).

Scheduling on-camera meet-ups with your team on a weekly basis gives you the face-time needed to maintain the trust and respect of your peers. One of the things I like about all the online collaboration tools is that they allow you to video chat and IM multiple team members at any one time. Not everyone likes video chatting, at first it is awkward, but it is very important.  The time you spend video chatting will insure your are understood and closer to your teammates, video chatting will help to prevent misunderstanding that often occurs with email, txt and other forms of written communication.

  • Share documentation with your comments.

When you invite teammates to collaborate on a document, be sure to offer your commentary to drive their participation. For example, if you have written up a proposal in MS Word, turn on “track changes”, be specific in the areas that you would like teammates to review and comment on. Providing them a checklist of things you want reviewed helps them structure their feedback to you online.  Use the built-in Review tools will allow each person participating to know what to change or what has changed.  There are some other cool tools like:  Skype for Business, Slack, Yammer, Trello are the first few that come to mind.

  • Direct message your co-workers on a regular basis.

Don’t wait until you have an urgent need to reach out to a co-worker online. If you are only contacting them when there is an issue, they’ll associate you with bad news. Regularly send private messages to teammates to check in and say “hi” – features like emoticons and chat stickers can bring a more natural expression of emotion. In the same way, you would ask how they are doing in the office, you can recreate that same friendly rapport online. It’s also important to offer praise and gratitude. A quick “thank you” and “you’re amazing” goes a long way!

  • Proactively keep your manager in the loop.

Make sure to setup some way of communication with your manager about what projects you are working on, tasks, issues and relevant ideas. Your manager cannot easily stop by and chat so it is up to you to make sure that they are in the know with what you are doing.  I like to setup a weekly or bi-monthly status report of projects

  • Share challenges with the team – seek feedback and ideas.

When you’re hitting, a roadblock post your challenge within your online tool so others can weigh in. You can solve a problem as a team much more easily than by yourself.

  • Offer resources and insights so others can learn and share.

The best part about online collaboration is the ability to instantly share and co-author valuable articles, videos, and other resources that can educate and inspire your peers

When you leverage the techniques above via a good online collaboration platform, you will find it easier to stay on the same page with your peers and reflect more of your offline behaviors in an online world. Using these tools to build good habits will make it easier. The sooner you make these part of your daily work routine, the better you will feel about your impact on your virtual team.

Your manager and peers with thank you!

Want more tips for working and managing at home, take a look at Vernon Roberts blog at Evoke Virtual