Apply These 9 Tactics For a Better Virtual Team Collaboration.

Virtual teams are the way of the future for office professions, no question about it. There are obvious benefits for both employees and employers when you’re working remotely.

When using virtual team collaboration, team members have a degree of flexibility that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. People could work in the morning, in the afternoon, evenings, or even during night time. 

It’s a concept that suits everyone’s preferences, and creates a real opportunity for a global, multinational team. Work from wherever, whenever. 

On the flipside, organizations also have a lot to gain. For the reasons listed above, individual productivity is going to go up on its own. 

Furthermore, infrastructure costs are cut dramatically; no need to pay the electric and heating bills for an office; no need to offer certain facilities in such an office either.

Depending on your company policy, you’d only need to pay salaries, benefits and required gear (such as high-end laptops). 

Since virtual team collaboration means a global approach though, you could also work only with freelancers. Alternatively, you could use staff augmentation to fill in the gaps of your core in-house team. 

The possibilities are pretty endless for both sides, and mutual gain is ever-present. However, you must get one thing right from the start. And that is, communication! There’s no way for virtual teams to collaborate if the right channels aren’t in place.

Do you want to jumpstart your remote teams? Simply use Alvanda. It’s a project management software that highlights the needs of both employees and management. 

Want to streamline your operations? In need of task automation? Is information not reaching who it should? Done, done, and done (and so much more).

Just give it a try yourself and you’ll see!

Virtual Team Collaboration Main Challenge

Remote working culture is a favorite for individualistic people that can manage their own timetables and organize their own work. It’s likely that their productivity isn’t going to be an issue, and that they can get the job done.

However, cross-collaboration (with other team members, departments, project managers etc) is where it gets a bit complicated. If your team members aren’t talking to each other or focusing on the bigger picture, it’s tough to see progress.

Many times, information silos form organically, separating your organization into disconnected teams that all have their individual goals. This causes disjointed efforts that don’t accomplish the actually wanted final result.

Thankfully, that’s the only real downside of virtual collaboration. If you can only get the right “countermeasures” in place for it, you’ll be all set to succeed. To accomplish that, focus on both your team and your leadership.

Employees need to be skilled in their area of work. Remote collaboration means that a certain level of self-reliance is mandatory. However, don’t look for lone wolves. 

They should know how to ask for help or peer review. They should be open to teamwork and the project’s overall objectives (not just their own).

Leaders have to be able to inspire and assist their team with whatever they need. Technical know-how is a must, as management will be done exclusively digitally, via online means. 

Team leaders have to be skilled at planning, explaining, delegating, organizing, supervising and reporting.

Common Issues for Virtual Team Collaboration

Remote work has a few caveats that are common across industries and cultures. The logistics involved with collaborating over the internet can be tough to navigate sometimes, resulting in roadblocks such as:

Sporadic Messaging

Instant messaging is not a long term solution for project management. Information gets lost easily and fast within long message chains (or email threads), and your employees will be none the wiser from it.

At best, you get a handful of knowledgeable people while the others are scratching their heads and wondering what’s going on. Virtual collaboration must happen under the concise and strategic guidance of a project manager.

There’s no time to waste on explaining the same thing 5 times to 5 different people. 

Solution: Create processes and procedures that keep everyone in the loop and centralize them using Alvanda. By giving all team members a single place to access knowledge, you can control the flow of information and who has rights to see it.

No more running around your own tail in order to make sure that everyone’s been briefed. No more missed deadlines because people legitimately didn’t know what they had to do.

Different Time Zones

Availability isn’t easy to manage when team members are spread across continents. Even scheduling a general meeting could prove to be a hassle. It’s especially frustrating if you have an emergency, or if you can’t progress with your tasks because you need someone else’s input first.

Solution: Standardize workflows for virtual collaboration. Clearly define what each team member has to finish before ending their day. If work on a project dependency or deliverable has to be finished so that other team members can move on, make that known. 

You can just let those employees finish work sooner the next day, or pay extra for those additional hours.

Lack of Interaction

Face-to-face interaction that happens daily in an office is crucial for some people. Working from home can make them feel isolated and alone, regardless of the actual size of the team.

Solution: Encourage employees to have regular leisure calls with video cameras turned on (for those who want to do this). Maybe they could have lunch together this way. Mention they should treat those calls as impromptu team building activities. 

The more accustomed they get with one another, the higher the likelihood that they’re going to collaborate well. In fact, they could even become friends. That’s one way of organically improving teamwork.

However, keep in mind that video calls are also going to seriously fatigue other employees. Requirements to have a camera on should be kept on the down low. 

Some people choose remote work because of social anxiety or severe tiredness from social interaction. You don’t want to force those team members into an artificial office space. 

Low Amounts of Trust

A common issue is team members feeling left out of big decisions. As if managers and sales are acting without taking their abilities and skills into consideration. This is a two way road though: trust is a give-and-take type of relationship.

If they don’t open up and talk about these topics, they’ll be left unaddressed. That leads down to frustration and feelings of hopelessness, as if nothing that goes on in the businesses makes sense.

There can also be problems in building trust between colleagues. Not knowing what others are up to can end up with you believing that they just aren’t working or putting in the effort.

Solution: Management should be open about the direction of the company and state of the projects, while team members must show that they’re responsible and dedicated.

A flow of communication should always exist between what’s promised, planned, and actually possible. This keeps all parties involved and focuses on reality rather than ideal scenarios.

In order to guarantee workplace task allocation transparency, use Alvanda. It’ll keep everyone informed about who is working on what, and what the next steps are.

9 Tips for Improved Virtual Team Collaboration

1. Focus on Collaboration

Just because you’ve formed a team, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to play well together from the start. Collaboration is something you teach, as humans are individualistic by nature. 

This can be detrimental in a business environment. Personal goals are fine and even encouraged for self-development; but during a project, a team must act as a complete whole. 

Concepts such as virtual “collaboration” and “‘cooperation” really do not mean anything if you don’t teach employees how to apply them. You should actively reach out to them with training programs that revolve around synching with your colleagues.

They should understand that they’re not a handful of individuals each going at it alone. That what everyone’s working on separately must eventually come together into a final product or service. 

That’s why they must keep each other updated & informed. At the same time, you should enforce setting boundaries. A business call about picking the best keywords for a website page together is one thing; but calling someone just to get them to do your job is something else.

2. Pick the Right Leaders

You can teach people how a certain technology works, or the company-specific policy for their workflows. However, interpersonal skills are much harder to form. Leadership is one great example of being more nature than nurture.

Besides needing to be able to manage daily tasks, create plans and forecasts, estimate budgets and time limits, leaders also need to work with their people. With their teams. 

If the human resource is compromised, it all falls to the ground.

How many clients you have isn’t important one bit if there’s no one to efficiently complete the tasks. That is going to rest on the shoulders of your leaders a lot, as the needs of all clients have to be satisfied simultaneously. 

Managers have to communicate with their teams and understand their standpoints, skills and availability for new projects. 

3. Emphasize Productive Meetings

Not all communication is also effective. You could have 5 virtual meetings per day, every day, and accomplish nothing in them. Long and drawn out discussions where the same things get discussed again and again will always amount to nothing. 

Focus on planning out actionable steps. What can actually be done to make the work progress? What’s the main purpose of that virtual call? Who initiated and what were they looking to find out? 

If it’s a reporting call, then you might just be wasting your time. Numbers, graphs and progress updates can easily be put into an Excel or a Google .sheet. Send that away to whoever it has to reach. Only have a clarification call if it’s requested afterwards. 

As the saying goes: be smart about how you work. 

Still, you should aim to have all teams talk to their intradepartmental peers once a week. Of course, only with a clear agenda! “How was your day?” and “how are you doing?” aren’t questions for team calls. 

Each meeting should have a clear purpose, a table of discussions and an estimated duration. Think about those things before even proposing the call.

4. Encourage Real-Time Cooperation

In a typical office space, it’s common for colleagues to ask each other questions as they work on something. It’s a natural thing that’s characteristic to people working closely together. This can be transitioned to an online space too.

If 2 or 3 employees are actively working on the same thing at the same time, they could hop on a call in the meantime. Of course, only if it’s appropriate and relevant. That way, they can easily ask for some feedback occasionally, without the need for messages or emails.

Furthermore, this can help motivate people into starting more challenging tasks. Because remote work doesn’t have a real amount of peer pressure, responsibilities can sometimes be shrugged off. 

However, another physical presence (even if just on a call) that’s working on something similar can encourage team members to own up to their duty.

5. Avoid Micromanaging

No one likes reminders that happen every 10 minutes, or having to do things “just so”. Remote work revolves around independence a lot, so don’t take away from its benefits. 

If you hired a specialist for a certain position, then award them a degree of trust. They have their tasks, they know the goal, now let them work. 

Status updates every hour and estimations down to the minute do no good to anyone. They just stress out employees and destroy their will to be productive. 

When you’re collaborating virtually, you have to be able to abandon a hierarchical management style. Centralization and structure must exist, yes, but there should also be more space for employees to affirm themselves. To solve their own problems. To willingly and actively ask for help when they need it.

It’s better to empower your people; to give them a gentle push from the back. Let them take the next steps on their own.

6. Plan Out Availabilities

It’s been proven that it’s detrimental to defocus from what you’re working on. Even a moment’s distraction can let very good ideas completely slip out of your mind. And trust us, it’s way harder to remember them than it was coming up with them.

Collaboration doesn’t mean being on call 24/7. You should decide with your leadership team from the get-go on how much you should engage with the rest of the company. If you’re just “always available”, expect to never get anything done. 

If anyone wants anything, they’re coming to you. Or to whoever is a company VIP in this scenario.

Thankfully, there’s an easy way to manage this. For example: train your employees to respect a consistent work schedule. Whenever they start work, they should:

  • Check and answer emails.
  • Check group chats/channels and answer if they’ve been tagged.
  • Have a look at the day’s plan again and establish if they need to talk with anyone about it.
  • Plan available hours for communication in a shared calendar.

This way, everything’s structured and nothing gets ignored. It’s one of the many principles we have here at Alvanda, the project management software that you should start using right now.

7. Simplify Information

Shared documents and project specifications should be clear for everyone. Especially since your teams are working across different time zones and schedules. No need to have explanatory calls if the information is clear, simple and concise to begin with. 

Whenever a colleague looks at a document, they should be able to understand its content without help.

8. Limit Team Sizes

The more people, the harder it is to centralize information and streamline communication. Besides, why would 20 people work on precisely the same thing anyway (like the same PPC campaign or a search function on a website)? 

When there are too many people working on something, accountability is a nightmare. Target a maximum of ~10 team members collaborating at once.

9. Use a Process Optimization Tool

If the “best” project manager existed, they still couldn’t get their job done without the right tools. Alvanda has all of those right tools, and more! 

Have you had difficulties managing projects, workflows and the way your team collaborates (or how they don’t)? Alvand lets you build processes and procedures intuitively; it just makes sense.

We’re sure about it because we built it for our needs as well, after we found that nothing available at the time was enough. 

When you’re looking to empower your professionals with knowledge and tools, they’ll produce outstanding results. Here are a few examples:

  • Automated workflows.
  • Automated reports.
  • Built for intra and interdepartmental collaboration.
  • Assured transparency between managers and employees.
  • Easy task definition and allocation.
  • Guaranteed consistency company-wide.
  • Better morale and proactivity.
  • Always up-to-date information.
  • Simple actionable plans.
  • And more!