Nowadays, many people work remotely either on a full or part time basis. Working in such a team presents challenge of communication, trust, conflict resolution and loneliness. The following are some techniques for working effectively as part of a virtual team.
Honest and open communication is one of the most vital elements of a successful virtual team. It helps avoid misunderstanding and enhances effectiveness. Knowing how to listen is a very crucial aspect of communication. Be sure to pay close attention when someone else is talking to you. Avoid the temptation of multitasking. Listening keenly to people will help you understand their message better. In addition, it shows courtesy and respect on your part.
Virtual meeting platforms such as Skype and Google Hangout have their own challenges. In many cases, team members will have internet connections with differing speeds. Therefore, be sure you talk clearly and slowly. If you miss something, ask for clarification. And avoid the temptation of interrupting others when they are talking.
If you work in a cross-cultural team, take time to learn the communication etiquettes of the other cultures. This will help you avoid making unintentional mistakes when conveying a message.
2. Raising concerns
Once in a while, you may be required to take part in sensitive deliberations or raise concerns with your co-workers or boss. In such situations, be careful how you communicate. For instance, delivering bad news or giving feedback should be done face-to-face. When this is not feasible, you could use phone, video chat, or Skype voice. However, avoid instant messenger or email. When someone can see your facial expressions or hear your voice tone, they will get the message more clearly.
When it comes to issues such as perceived favoritism or unfairness, you need to learn how to speak up. Staying silent will only cause the issues to get worse over time. Be sure to voice your concerns as soon as issues arise. Be assertive but remember to keep your emotions under control. Learn conflict resolution skills which will help you deal with conflict fairly and objectively.
3. Relationship building
Trust is the main ingredient of strong relationships. One of the best ways of building trust is by keeping your word. Whether you promise to call a colleague or deliver a report, be sure to do it. Being reliable will cause your team members to trust you. Remember to respond fast to requests such as emails. Finally, be considerate of people from different time zones. Important meetings should be scheduled at a time which is convenient for all parties.
4. Dealing with isolation
People who work remotely are likely to experience feelings of isolation. To alleviate such feelings, be sure to connect regularly with your colleagues on virtual platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. Take time to learn about their interests, home life and personality. In addition, do your best to interact with others outside of work. Go for concerts, meet a friend for lunch or join a sports team.
It would be advisable for people working in a virtual team to meet in person at least once or twice a year. Though this could be time-consuming and costly, it can be very useful for establishing trust and strengthening relationships.