5 tips to stay connected with your virtual team mates
Communication with your team is super important, now more than ever. Here's our 5 tips for staying connected with each other.
Many of us these days either manage virtual teams or we are a part of a virtual team in some way, shape or form. Technology means we can collaborate on projects, working well together wherever we are based. Let's face it, there are colleagues who sit 10 metres away from each other who only ever collaborate on their work via email and other tech.
But these co-located colleagues still connect outside of the tasks at hand…. They say hello to each other in the morning, offer to grab each other a coffee, meet at the water cooler or in the lift. It is these small touch points that help us connect. This social time where we discuss what we watched on TV last night, the funny bloke down the gym, tuna or chicken for lunch, you never guess what my cat did last night etc etc …can be the glue that keeps us feeling that we belong to something.
So how can we create social opportunities like this with our virtual colleagues? Here are some ideas that might help.
It is easy for a whole week to go by without any meaningful, or non-work-related communication to pass between ourselves and a remote team member. Small things can make a huge difference. How about an IM every morning to say ‘hello’ and ‘how was your evening?’ I know one manager of a remote team who has a coffee with a different team member every day. What they do is agree an informal catch up over a coffee and Skype (work talk is not allowed).
1. Show that you care
Noticing the small things helps remote colleagues feel remembered and important to you. If they have been a little quiet in their communications of late, get in touch to express your concern and check that everything is okay.
A manager I worked with lately told me how much she loved and cared for her team. She had team pictures above her PC monitor to remind her of their latest get together. An ‘aha’ moment for her though drove her to move all of the photos to the wall behind her. This way, when she had a video conference with her team, they could see that she was showing her team off to anyone who came in to the office. A lovely touch.
2. Make use of meeting social time
I am always baffled at how people don’t often speak to each other when they are logged in to a video conference or virtual meeting whilst they wait for everyone else to join. People are busy checking email, rather than engaging with each other. This is less likely to happen in a face to face setting. We would catch up as we pour coffee and settle in to the room.
Kevan Hall author of ‘Speed Lead’ and ‘Making The Matrix Work’ argues that much rich discussion and necessary decision making happens in the social time around meetings - i.e as people arrive, leave, over breaks. Think about how you can make the time before virtual meetings matter as people log in, by chatting and catching up informally. In fact I try and log in a little earlier on purpose these days for just that reason.
Working more virtually is becoming the new normal; check out one of our videos on what is the future of remote working?
3. Be visible
It is tempting to hide behind a ‘bad hair day’ as an excuse not to have your webcam switched on, but the benefits outnumber any embarrassment you might feel being on camera. Being able to see each other (whether on a 2-person Skype or 10 person team meeting) creates more of a ‘real’ feeling of being in a room together. We can see how we are looking (from a wellbeing point of view) as well as seeing each other's reactions good or bad - but real. (Bandwidth allowable)… make the effort to use your webcam more and encourage others to do the same and reap the benefits.
4. Be playful and spontaneous
As I mentioned earlier, so much of the communication we have with remote colleagues tends to be around the work or task itself. IM or team WhatsApp allows for more in the moment comments and banter to occur across remote teams. Share a funny observation, or the autocorrect that almost got you in to trouble, or even how delicious your turkey sandwich is!
Like most people, I have friends and family that live abroad. I found that if we spoke rarely on a virtual basis then when we did speak when together it was about the big things going on in our lives. When we make the effort to speak and message regularly, we are more likely to talk about the small, sometimes irrelevant and funny things that happen in our day to day lives. This makes for a much closer relationship. And this can be the case too for your remote colleagues.
Imagine how your communication would be with your remote colleagues if they were really sitting on the desk next to you. Re-creating that in a virtual way will bring you closer and help you work even better together. Let me know how you get on - good luck and enjoy!