Remote working is no longer just a trend or a "sign of things to come." It's already a way of life for thousands of organizations and millions of virtual team members.
It's easy to appreciate the attractions of a remote workforce. Employers can access skills and expertise from around the world, and it can reduce the costs of office space. Employees may enjoy considerable savings in time and money by not having to travel to work. They may also have a better work-life balance, which has the knock-on effects of reduced stress and increased job satisfaction.
But there are downsides to managing or working in virtual teams. Team members can feel disconnected from one another and from their organizations, and managers may struggle to keep track of projects that may involve people working in different cities, countries, continents, and time zones.
Communication is Critical
So we asked you, our friends, followers and contacts on social media, "What are your top tips for working in a virtual team?"
One word dominated your replies: communication.
Neil Canham (@NeilCanham), from Surrey in the U.K., creates collaboration spaces for virtual teams. He said, "Virtual teams need significantly better, more disciplined communication and routine than co-located teams."
HR expert Piyush Govil (@PG_pmp), responding from India, has more than 15 years' experience of working with virtual teams. He said that managing them effectively required "communication and team bonding."
Facebook friend Midgie Thompson, a life coach based in the south of France, added, "Communication is obviously critical so that the team knows what they are doing and what is going on in the overall company. Yet, what is also important are the non-business connections and chats. Much like you would chat with your colleague about what they are up to or what they did on the weekend, this is also important for virtual workers."
Gamification consultant Ioana Popa, from Perth, Australia, said, "Great question! As someone who's been working in a virtual team for a while now, I'd say the most important aspect is to communicate on regular basis with your team or supervisor."
Include Virtual Team Members in Decisions
Ioana added, "Working in a virtual team means that most likely the person in question is working on their own and that could lead to isolation, loss of motivation, and performance severely reduced.
"Also, include all team members in taking those decisions that would affect the entire team's performance. One of the risks of excluding them in such cases is to make them feel 'abandoned' and this, in the long run, will seriously impact negatively their self-esteem and their trust in their own abilities."
Michele Mryick warned people that, because they may not work normal office hours, they should beware spending too much time at their desks. She said, "Top tip for working on a virtual team - account for your time, since your desk is virtual it can become very easy to work for free!"
Thank you to everyone who responded to our question, and apologies to those people whose replies did not get a mention this time - we really appreciate the time and effort it takes to join the discussion.
If you have any other tips or advice that you'd like to share, please use the box, below!