Virtual teams, or flexible work, is one of the biggest drivers of transformation in the workplace according to a forecast of employment trends by the World Economic Forum. Because of this, today’s leaders will need to figure out how to most effectively manage their remote teams to ensure that the level of productivity and collaboration within the organization does not suffer. Today we are offering some tips and tools that managers can use to build a more collaborative and productive virtual team.
The Benefits of a Virtual Team
More and more companies are embracing the virtual worker concept and allowing employees to work from home. Just take a list at the top 100 companies in 2017 that are offering remote jobs. Businesses like Amazon, UnitedHealth Group, Hilton Worldwide, Xerox, Dell, and Intuit understand the benefits, and need, of offering remote work as an option to recruit and maintain the best possible employees.
Some of the overwhelming benefits of having a virtual team include:
- Increased worker productivity: the removal of distractions like impromptu meetings and loud co-workers, remote employees, and their manager's report a definite increase in overall productivity.
- Lowers stress and boosts morale: 82 percent of remote workers report lower stress levels according to a survey by PGI. In addition, the survey also reported that 80 percent of workers had a higher morale and 69 percent reported lower absenteeism.
- It reduces employee turnover: According to a study published by Stanford University, job attrition rates fell by over 50 percent for a China-based firm with 16,000 employees.
- It satisfies millennial workers who demand flexible benefits and work styles: 68 percent of millennials surveyed by AfterCollege say that the option to work remotely increases their interest in an employer.
Each of these benefits is not only a boost to the overall operation of a business but also has a significant impact on a company's bottom line. So let’s take a look at what managers need to know about effectively building a virtual team.
Two Keys to Building a Collaborative and Productive Virtual Team
According to an article by Alvernia University, there are two keys to building a more collaborative and productive virtual team that managers and leaders need to know: Structure and Communication.
Having an outlined team structure, especially for larger teams, is essential for ensuring team productivity and collaboration. Harvard Business Review recommends using a flexible, fluid team structure of multiple tiers that include a core (strategy and development), operational level (ongoing day-to-day workers) and outer network (temporary or part-time workers with specialized expertise). Having this type of defined structure brings together team members who need to collaborate for specific purposes.
In addition to developing a team structure, companies are strongly encouraged to have a written telecommuting policy. This allows employees to understand expectations on how they will work.
The second key to building a strong virtual team is communication. However, it is not just about ensuring that you have proper methods in place for facilitating communication, but that you are continually encouraging communication between virtual team members. Non-work communication can lead to building trust which leads to success. Therefore, managers and leaders should highly encourage both work and non-work communication through team building activities and interactions when in the office and other outside activities.
Collaboration and Communication Tools for Virtual Teams
Tools play an integral part in ensuring that your team can collaborate effectively and remain productive, regardless of where they are located. Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite tools that assist virtual teams.
To ease communication between virtual employees, companies can turn to tools like Slack or Skype. These real-time tools allow for individual or group conversations and the sharing of files. Skype also allows for the use of video and screen sharing so that team members can see one another and specific details they are discussing.
Using an efficient file sharing tool not only allows team members quick access to the documents they need but the ability to collaborate by leaving comments and notes. Two great tools to consider are Dropbox and Google Drive.
By taking the right steps to implement the proper tools and best strategies, business leaders and managers can take advantage of a remote workforce to increase their business operations and bottom line. For those looking to improve their skill level and knowledge of today’s business functions and processes, consider pursuing an online MBA through an institution like Alvernia University.