Virtual teams and remote workers are growing in popularity as advancements in technology make it easier than ever to connect. Here at IVCi we fully support telework and virtual teams and I myself am a part of one. I work on Long Island while our Digital Marketing Manager (and my main counterpart) works in Denver. Even with the two hour time difference we’ve managed to develop a great process, a great relationship and most importantly, produce great results.
Here are the top 5 things that we find absolutely necessary to enable remote collaboration:
- Desktop Video Conferencing: Video conferencing is a critical aspect of virtual teams as it allows workers to connect on both a professional and personal level. Eye contact, tone and body language are all crucial to building trust, resolving conflicts and developing the relationships that are necessary for virtual teams to work effectively. Desktop video clients are easy to use and allow remote workers to connect with the click of the button. Not to mention, screen sharing capabilities allow us to view and collaborate on the same deliverable in real time resolving issues significantly faster than relying on email or trying to explain over the phone.
- Shared Calendar/Task List: Keeping organized can be extremely difficult across multiple time zones. I start working a couple hours earlier and she keeps working a few hours later so it’s hard to know which tasks have been completed or still need to be worked on. Similarly, sometimes one of us gets a great idea but the other one isn’t around to discuss. Keeping a shared calendar and task list allows us to effectively prioritize tasks and add ideas. Then we have a weekly “sync up” to discuss progress, add/remove tasks, review completed items and just catch up in general.
- Shared Document Site: As in most virtual teams, there are documents or items that we have to work on together. Trying to email versions back and forth can be extremely confusing not to mention changes can easily be lost if team members work on outdated version. A shared document site allows teams to have instantaneous access to the most current version of documents reducing the potential for errors as well as the number of emails.
- Instant Messaging: In the office you can turn around and ask a quick question; unfortunately, virtual teams do not have that ability. Sometimes picking up the phone or making a video call is just too much of a disruption for a simple question while email takes too long to get a response. Instant messaging allows for real-time dialogue without requiring workers to completely stop what they are doing, creating a more productive environment.
- Dual Monitors: Dual monitors are my saving grace as they allow me to have multiple windows open simultaneously. Regardless of how we are collaborating, I can have a document open on one screen with the communication method (video, IM or email), notes, or task list open on the other screen.
While there are many other tools and alternatives that can enhance the productivity and effectiveness of remote teams these are the ones we feel are most crucial to our success. Being part of a remote team is definitely different but with the right tools and the right attitude it can be just as successful, if not more successful, than a traditional team.