Like many businesses, our team is temporarily moving to a completely virtual team structure from today. We don’t have anyone who is currently unwell or with recent COVID-19 contact, but we want to play our part in minimising the risk of spread of COVID-19 over the coming weeks and/or months.
The idea of working remotely, or virtually, for our team isn’t unusual. About 20% of our team already work remotely so, we have the systems and processes in place to move quickly and implement this approach out to the rest of our team.
However, working as a high performing remote team has given us some lessons over the years, which I wanted to share with you.
Here are our top three hacks to accelerate your virtual team’s effectiveness this year!
Hack 1: Maintain Connection
‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is a common gripe we hear from virtual teams who miss out on the impromptu team chats, or the ‘water cooler’ conversations. Effective virtual teams need to be intentional in setting up their virtual ‘water cooler’ conversations, with online platforms that enable clear, regular and consistent communication to, and across, the team. It is digital collaboration at its best – but not just the work-related chats. We also need to build some fun into the conversations too!
Whilst the options are endless in our digital world, we recommend Office 365 Teams, Slack, Workplace, or Trello. Pick one, engage your team on the platform, and stick to it!
Hack 2: Provide Clarity
Here, we’re talking about clarity of each team member’s role in your virtual team. What responsibility do they each have for maintaining the interconnectedness of people, processes, and practices that are needed to work together for the whole team to function optimally. What are the ‘rules of the game’ by which your team are going to play, in your virtual environment?
Using the Values established in your organisation, agree as a team the behaviours to which you will all commit when working as a virtual team – what’s accepted? What’s not? This could be committing to a team video conference check in each week, or a commitment to discuss problems or issues via phone or facetime, not email. In our team, we call these our ‘Ways of Working’.
Hack 3: Build Accountability
Connection established? Tick!
‘Rules of the game’ in place? Tick!
Now we set the standard of accountability – for ourselves and to each other. Be explicit in what needs to be done, by when and who needs to be involved in either the generation of the work or the decision making.
For us, shifting from whiteboards in our office to embracing a virtual dashboard to capture a single view of our projects and initiatives, has been ideal. We use Trello, capturing our ideas, our work in progress (with due dates and communication updates enabled across the team), and to celebrate our successes.
Really, when we think about, a virtual team should be set up and act like any other high performing team! Each of these hacks is underpinned by team fundamentals such as common team purpose, trust, interdependence, healthy conflict etc etc
The key differences are connection, clarity and accountability. These take positive and purposeful intention, with both the team leader and the team members being responsible to keep open and regular communications as a prioritised mindset in their virtual team.
If you have a team member who needs some hot tips and tricks to working from home, you can also check out this great article from Forbes.
We hope you all stay safe, healthy and collaborative (with social distance, of course!) and we look forward to hearing of all of your achievements and lessons learnt as you either begin or continue your journey with virtual teams in 2020.
From The Seed People Consulting Team