The Power of "We": Strategies for Creating Successful Virtual Teams

According to Forbes Advisor, as of 2023, 12.7% of full-time employees work from home, while 28.2% work hybrid, a clear ongoing shift towards virtual models.

Separated geographically yet digitally interconnected, these virtual teams are the pulse of today’s workforce.

But building virtual teams is only the first step; building high-performing virtual teams that actually thrive requires a more nuanced approach.

This article dives into the key aspects of building efficient and high-performing virtual teams.

Cultural Understanding

Cross-cultural virtual teams are a diverse mix of personalities, so ensuring everyone feels valued requires extra effort.

  • In-depth Onboarding: Investing in a thorough onboarding process can make each team member feel included and welcome.
  • Bridge the Gaps: Consider cultural competency workshops to equip your team with the insights to navigate everyday conversations. Also try spreading awareness and celebrating cultural holidays with virtual potlucks, trivia, and presentations.

It’s fun and builds understanding!

Prioritize Well-being

The flexibility of virtual work comes at a cost: the mental and physical burnout from sitting behind a screen for 8 hours.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Encourage Movement: Schedule short breaks during meetings for movement (stretching, walking). Motivate the team with virtual fitness challenges like daily steps count, ergonomics awareness sessions, and if possible ergonomic furniture.
  • Prioritizing Mental Wellbeing: Promote healthy boundaries by encouraging your team to disconnect after working hours and respect everyone’s downtime. Offer mental health resources like Employee Assistance Programs or counseling portals for anyone who needs them.
  • Optimal communication in a Virtual Workspace: Imagine the drain of spending your entire workday sending and receiving lengthy emails. Streamline communications instead: For low urgency, use email. For faster responses, try chat. Complex matters? Calls or video meetings win.

Building Culture and Relationships

What does your typical workweek look like?

Meetings broken up by a hello when walking past someone’s desk, quick chats over coffee, or going for a walk with a colleague who’s having a bad day?

All these minute interactions are what create relationships and internal culture.

How do we recreate all these small yet significant moments virtually?

  • Virtual team building activities: Bridge the physical gap through fun, casual activities. This could be non-work video calls for catchups, virtual coffee breaks, or online games and quizzes, or even an online movie night if your colleagues are up for it. You could start long meetings with quick, fun icebreakers that energize the team. Platforms like “Mentimeter” or “Kahoot” offer interactive options.
  • Internal communication: Keep everyone connected and motivated with a central communication hub. Send out weekly updates (internal & external), celebrate milestones, and share reminders – all in one place!
  • Recognition & Rewards: Implement a recognition system to celebrate achievements and milestones. Consider using fun online badges or small, virtual gifts.

These virtual daily pats on the back can go a long way.

  • Celebrate Milestones: Don’t forget birthdays, holidays, or other special occasions. Send a card, deliver a cake, or arrange a video call celebration.

In the long run, it’s the small things your team will remember.

  • Move the Relationship Offline: When possible, take the relationship offline and meet up in person. This could be a quarterly lunch where the entire team comes together, annual trips, or outbound team-building camps.

Get to know the vibrant personalities behind those email signatures!

Virtual Crisis Management

The iconic line: “Houston, we have a problem” during the Apollo 13 space mission is history’s first-ever virtual problem-solving scenario.

If three men stranded in space running out of oxygen can collaborate with a team 200,000 miles away to manage a crisis effectively, your virtual team definitely can!

The golden rule to follow which works for both physical and virtual teams is: Minimize before, Manage during, and Mend After

  • Minimize before:

Proactively identify challenges that could potentially occur with input from the entire team.

Develop a thorough Crisis Management Plan outlining roles, responsibilities, and communication protocols in case of a virtual crisis.

Equip team members with conflict resolution skills through online training or workshops. e.g.: How to navigate disagreements constructively in virtual space.

  • Manage during:

When a problem arises, activate the strategic plans for crisis management that your team has agreed on.

Communication during this time is key, especially interactive communication for everyone to contribute, participate, and ask for help.

  • Mend after:

Once the problem has passed, have a session to review strengths, what went well, what didn’t, and what to improve.

Time Management and Planning

Virtual teams bring unique strengths, but managing time and staying productive across distances can be tricky.

Here’s how to conquer your team’s virtual workday with effective planning and the right tools.

  • Project Management Software: Utilize platforms like Asana, Trello, or Streamtime to create clear tasks, assign owners, set deadlines, and track progress visually with Kanban boards or Gantt charts.
  • Time Tracking Tools: Tools like Toggl Track or Harvest can help manage workload, identify bottlenecks, and improve future project estimates.
  • Shared Calendars: Utilize Google or Outlook calendars for team visibility. Schedule meetings, set deadlines, and block out “focus time” for uninterrupted work.

Remote work that was once seen as a perk is quickly becoming the norm.

Therefore, it’s necessary that we move with the tide and refine methods to create a virtual work environment where everyone thrives, not just survives.

The future of work is virtual, and this is how you create the future.

One successful step at a time.

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