9 to 5 desk jobs may be far from becoming obsolete, but the rise in demand for flexible working arrangements has pushed the establishment of new rules of engagement and normalised remote working and virtual collaboration.
Entire companies today are run by fully remote workers, while others have back-pedalled their remote work policies. What gives? What makes one virtual team succeed, and another fail?
Good self-management and communication skills are generally important criteria in hiring decisions at any organisation, but considering the fact that remote work requires less (or in some cases, minimal) supervision than typical working conditions, it’s even more imperative to hire people who thrive under such settings.
It’s also imperative to ensure a good candidate-team-company fit.
The higher the intensity of collaboration and communication required for your project, the more detrimental it is to have a team member who doesn’t fit in well–it would only augment their isolation relative to the rest of the team more than they already physically are.
Once you’ve secured your ideal candidate, set aside some time to ensure that both parties are on the same page with regards to what is expected of who, how much, and by when.
A big reason why working remotely is still shunned today in some quarters is the difficulty of tracking performance. Having concrete and concise performance metrics tackles the problem head on, allowing each member of a virtual team to keep to a given standard, and providing clear avenues for you (as a manager) to evaluate individual and team performance.
Without the crutch of physical proximity, virtual teams rely more heavily on digital tools to have fully centralised project management systems.
That heightens the need for an efficient and organised virtual project management system, but it also has the potential to eliminate redundant, time-wasting processes in the workflow like unnecessary, overrun meetings, and leaves more time for personal productivity.
Think, as well, about instituting unique company practices virtually, for instance, having a daily Scrum every morning (via your chosen communicator) where each team member states:
When you spend as much time working by yourself as virtual team members do, it’s easy for each member to lose sight of the bigger picture in favour of focusing on their individual work, even with daily team status updates.
Dedicate time for:
How you use these meetings depends greatly on your project needs.
Weekly virtual meetings, for instance, are a good way to discuss overall progress on a given project, while the less frequent physical meetups are better utilised for team-building exercises like company retreats.
Remember when you accidentally upset a friend because you sent her the wrong emoji? Without the physical cues normally present in interpersonal relationships, conflicts that occur between virtual team members may deteriorate faster than normal.
Resolving conflicts between virtual team members requires a quicker hand and a team culture that’s more forthcoming and problem-solving oriented rather than antagonistic.