Collaboration, Productivity Updated on: 6 June 2019

10 tips for successful virtual collaboration

Effective collaboration in virtual teams

Hiring a virtual development team has a range of advantages such as saved costs and access to a wider tech talent pool. Remote workers benefit from a better work-life-balance, because they do not commute and thus have more time and less stress. However, despite those undeniable benefits, remote collaboration can be a challenging task.

Leaders of such teams should put extra effort into further collaboration with their remote employees. To guide a remote team requires different efforts from the leader. In this article, we are going to share some tips on how to make collaboration with your virtual team more efficient and successful.

1. Treat your remote workers equally

If your company is not 100% distributed and you have a central office, never treat your local and remote workers differently. As a leader, your task is to create a friendly atmosphere in which your remote workers feel like they belong to your company as much as the non-remote do. Let everyone know that all are one team, not different teams with different responsibilities. Give the remote colleagues an opportunity to participate in all meetings and assign them tasks of the same value as you would give the non-remote who have the same roles. 

2. Carry out video conferences and quick checkups

Luckily, modern tools allow seamless video conferencing with up to 30 people at the same time, so you can benefit from these tools and bring the real-time remote collaboration meetings closer to “reality”. With video conferencing, you can observe body language, hear the tone of voice, and see what people are talking about. Additionally, you can use messengers for quick checkups and questions.

3. Hire the right people

Hire people who are self-motivated, require minimum supervision, and experienced working in a remote team. This is especially true for distributed teams without a centralized office. Members of remote teams should clearly understand, that they will not get the same level of supervision as they would in an office. This is especially true, when the employees are spread across several time zones. Your perfect candidate is someone who knows the specifics of remote collaboration and accustomed to flexible working times. But where to find such people? We recommend looking on websites designed specifically for remote employment – for example TopTal, Crossover, YouTeamRemote.co or Outsourcely. Another option is networking at events for remote workers such as the Virtual Working Summit, The Remote Work Summit, or Running Remote Conference.

4. Encourage casual conversations

Virtual collaboration does not mean that you have to talk only about work. Casual communication is important for any team, especially for distributed ones. Luckily! We have the internet, and people don’t live on deserted islands. The best way to foster such conversations in remote teams is to create an internal message board or a Slack channel. These are places where people can chat about various non-work-related topics, such as their hobbies or families, plus celebrate personal events like birthdays. As Sara Rosso, a member of Automattic distributed team (the team behind WordPress), writes in her blog, “We’re getting better at creating and using our online water coolers – we have something like 40+ internal blogs where people can share their interests in gaming, music, books, children, pets, fitness, and even beards.” You might also give virtual ice-breakers a try. 

Effective virtual teamwork

5. Get the most out of written communication

Text-based communication places less emphasis on physical appearance and interpersonal skills. Therefore, this type of communication can unlock the hidden potential of team members who may not feel comfortable speaking up during video conferences.

But keep in mind, that 93% of communication is non-verbal and therefore written communication also poses certain challenges. Following the 7 C’s of Communication can help to improve how you interact with your team.

6. Use specialized tools for virtual teams

Many companies that build such tools are also remote (e.g. Doist or Basecamp), so be sure that they know the pains and gains of remote work. A typical toolset of any remote worker includes time tracking, time zone management, project management, instant messaging, real-time collaboration and video conferencing tools. Examples: Slack, Zoom, Time Doctor, Trello, Timezone.io, Conceptboard.

7. Create a standardized doc for process control

All team members should have roles, responsibilities, goals, and related tasks. Additionally, their performance must be measured. All of this information should be laid out in a shared dedicated document, so everyone can access it. This is important, because the employees should follow a standard workflow to not only be aware of their own roles and responsibilities, but also their colleagues.

8. Reward people for good work

Bonuses and regular raises of salary keep people motivated, and this also refers to remote employees. Ryan Carson, founder of Treehouse, practices quarterly salary raises for his distributed team members. He says that it shows people their career path and brings more transparency to their role at work.

9. Trust your remote workers

When expanding your virtual team, be sure that you can trust those you hire. Requirements for remote team members are typically more strict than for co-located workers. Being able to build trust in the beginning is one of the things that CEOs of remote companies do differently.

10. Meet in person from time to time

Last, but not least: Try to bring the team together at least once a year – these team retreats are practiced by many remote companies such as Zapier, Buffer, or GitHub. If you have a centralized office, invite your virtual team members there from time to time. These get-togethers provide a connection to colleagues, create trust, and help to build the company culture.

Collaboration with a virtual team can be a challenge, but hopefully these tips have provided you with some valuable insights on how to make this collaboration easier. Good luck!

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