Tools You Need to Manage a Virtual Team
As technology rapidly changes, it gets easier to connect with talented people across the globe, and virtual teams are becoming the new normal. Virtual teams come with their own set of opportunities and challenges, and managers need the right tools at their fingertips. Here’s a run-down of the tech you need — for communicating, motivating, and improving workflow — to lead your virtual team to success.
The Challenge: Getting Started
Even though you do not have a physical office space, your virtual team still needs high-quality infrastructure. This is how your team members will communicate and get their work done — so make sure you build a foundation that will propel your business to success.
- Computers: Based on individual work requirements, determine whether your virtual team members need laptop or desktop computers — and purchase the same type for everyone so they are compatible.
- Email and Instant Message: It’s important to keep all of your team members on the same page. Select a standard email and instant messaging program that everyone will use for work. Gmail bundles the two together, which can streamline communication and make it easier for everyone to stay in touch.
- High-Speed Internet: Virtual teams require top-notch Internet access that will support high volume file transfers and frequent use of audio and video applications. To ensure that all team members have the same quality and speed in their virtual work environment, you may need to provide Internet access at each location.
- Phones: In many cases, landline phones will provide better and more reliable service for your virtual teams to communicate with each other and your customers. Make sure your phone service provider offers all of the features your team needs.
The Challenge: Meetings and Collaboration
Virtual team members aren’t able to peek over their cubicles and ask their co-workers a question. In order to overcome this, they need online workspaces that make it easy to share, brainstorm, and collaborate on projects.
- Document Sharing: Help your team create, store, and share files safely and securely. Tools like Dropbox Business, Google Drive, and SharePoint are simple and easy to use. They create a virtual file cabinet where anyone on your team can review, edit, and share files instantly.
- Project Management: A vital key to a virtual team’s success is meeting project deadlines and staying on task. Project management tools like Basecamp and Wrike help you clearly define roles and responsibilities, implement deadlines and milestones, and keep an eye on progress.
- Meeting and Training: Because your team doesn’t share the same physical space, it is even more important to implement effective training and meeting tactics. Tools like GoToMeeting and Adobe Connect facilitate meeting schedules and invites, document and screen sharing, and training on new processes and products.
- Audio and Video Conferencing: To see your team face to face, you need a conferencing system that provides clear audio and video and can accommodate everyone. Depending on your requirements, Skype may offer everything you need. However, more advanced systems like Lifesize also provide calendar integration and recording technology.
The Challenge: Team Building
Bonding is just as important for virtual teams as it is for colleagues who see each other in the office every day. As a virtual team manager, you need to be even more intentional when it comes to team building and creating trust.
- Team Games: Games help team members get to know one another, foster open communication, and enhance trust. Prelude helps teams accelerate bonding, identify one another’s strengths, and practice project skills through 20 best practices of virtual teams.
- Virtual Water Cooler: Informal communication in office break rooms helps colleagues develop relationships outside the office. By reserving the first 10–15 minutes of a meeting for small talk, you can create this environment for your virtual team as well. Your team will also enjoy Slack, a messaging app that allows co-workers to chat about work projects as well as shared interests.
- Tours: Take turns giving virtual office tours so your team members understand each other’s locations. Show off favorite knick-knacks, family photos, or points of pride like awards and degrees. Turn it into a “Whose Office Is It Anyway?” game by collecting photos from each team member and quizzing the others.
Whether you’re just putting together your first virtual team or want to elevate the efficiency of an existing one, your virtual team’s success hinges on having the right infrastructure and communication tools. Get started today by finding the right phone and Internet service to support every activity of your virtual team.