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Remote Working: How to Create a Virtual Team and Boost Your Business

COVID-19 has presented all of us with new challenges. For many, that means finding better, or new ways of keeping your business running and your virtual teams working efficiently.

Telecommuting has grown by 115% in the past 10 years, but with many of us being forced into this position at the moment, it’s time to consider how to adopt better working practices to let distributed teams work from home and get through this period successfully.

It’s no secret that good communication breeds a strong team with better results. This has been true long before any of us were working digitally. In this blog post we look at ways you can support stronger communication among your remote teams, and how you can equip them to provide stellar communication externally, too.

Remote Working - How to Create a Virtual Team and Boost Your Business
Remote working: How to create a virtual team and boost your business.

Communication within your remote teams

Structure and expectation

If your team is used to working in an office-based environment, it’s important to create a structure and some expectation around how they are expected to communicate when working remotely.

This may mean setting up calls to check in with your team or giving them access to a tool to enable them to communicate freely throughout the day. Create regular calls with teams, or individuals to ensure everyone is getting the information they need, as well as allowing people to speak up about concerns or issues they are having.

56% of remote workers said they felt their opinions and ideas are not being heard as much in video meetings.

56% of remote workers said they felt their opinions and ideas are not being heard as much in video meetings.

In difficult and unfamiliar times, it’s important that all staff members feel supported. All businesses are under pressure to perform, but remember that a happy team is a successful team.

Providing the right tools and access

Asking employees to work from home is often not as simple as getting them to take their computer home with them. Many of us use systems, devices, or tools that are not easily accessible outside of our usual working environment.

Consider carefully what your employees require in order to do their jobs properly from home. Or, if you aren’t sure, ask them! 

As well as trying to recreate the way they usually work, this new change may also require some additional tools to help your team stay effective when working from home.

Calendars

When you can’t visually see if a person is in a meeting or call, or wrapped up in a project, having shared calendars will remove the need to have an email conversation about scheduling a call, or where to place a meeting. 

When you have a shared calendar system, the individual has the responsibility of updating this with their scheduled calls, their working hours, and any leave they might be taking. They can also be used to block out any time they may want to keep ‘call free’ to get their heads down on a project.

Another upside of this is helping your staff establish better boundaries whilst working from home. 22% of remote workers say their biggest problem is unplugging after work. When your office is your kitchen table, there’s a temptation to work far longer than you would have if you had to physically leave the office. By stating your availability in your calendar you can make it clear when your working day starts and ends.

Calls

It’s unlikely that you haven’t heard about, or been invited to a call on ‘Zoom’ in the last few weeks. Their daily ‘active user’ count has seen a 378% increase from this time last year (as of March 22, 2020).

However, it goes without saying that it’s not the tool for everyone. There are plenty of options out there when it comes to conference calls. Now the initial scramble to find new tools is starting to die down, you should take some time to consider what your team really needs from online calling tools.

Task management

As with the need for shared calendars, a shared task management tool can help you get everyone on the right page, without needing to spend time on emailing or calls. Good task management software like ProofHub or Trello will help you quickly spot progress, obstacles, and upcoming tasks. 

If you take time to onboard all of your staff and make this part of everyone’s day-to-day routine, you’ll get a much more effective result. This way you’ll be able to track projects across multiple teams, communicate directly with team members about specific tasks, and create a single view of how your collaborative projects are developing.

Boost morale

Productivity is important, of course, but keeping your teams energized and feeling connected is a key part of keeping a virtual team engaged.

23% of remote workers admitted they are missing their colleagues and face-to-face interaction in the office.

Building a solid team is about nurturing the strong relationships within them, so allowing your staff to indulge in fun and games and get to know each other is worthwhile.

There are a couple of ways you can inject a bit of fun into your working day:

  • Water-cooler calls. It’s normal for internal team calls to start with a few minutes of chit chat. This is probably happening more than ever at the moment with our usual social activities cut right back. If this is starting to encroach a little too far into your call time, consider setting up an early catch up on a Monday morning, or an afternoon coffee break throughout the week, giving people time to get their small talk out of the way. 
  • Open chats. In a similar way, contact with colleagues can be a lifeline to many. Having an open chat stream where people feel free to share non-work messages can be a great way of helping your team connect when not face to face.
  • Games. If your team members enjoy socializing, then you can take it one step further with some games and competitions. It could be as simple as creating weekly online quizzes for your teams, or as far as setting up a video gaming group. A bit of healthy rivalry never hurts!

Outside your business

Of course, it’s not just about what your staff do within their teams that needs rethinking, but the way in which they operate externally too. The tools or systems that worked great in an office setting may not transfer as easily to homeworking.

The key here is communication. Your teams need to be armed with the right tools to ensure they can maintain a high-quality level of communication with your customers, partners, vendors, and suppliers.

Calls

Seek systems that offer increased flexibility, so that an investment in remote working now continues to benefit when this is no longer essential. It goes without saying that any phone systems that you provide to your staff should make their workflow as effective as possible. 

A cloud-based virtual phone system gives you that flexibility, meaning that you aren’t tied to a physical landline. Data is stored in the cloud, also giving you access to important information, regardless of where they are based.

Interactive voice response systems are a great tool for allowing teams that manage calls to streamline their workflow. Calls go directly to the right call agent, a job otherwise made much harder when you aren’t all sat in the same room. Not only does this support your team, but it provides a quicker and smoother experience for whoever is at the end of the phone too.

Emails

Communicating with customers and stakeholders is more important than ever. In times of uncertainty, we want to maintain a level of ‘normality’ whilst receiving up to date information. Having an effective email marketing tool means that you can streamline your mass external communication and receive analytics, to ensure the right people are engaging with it.

By providing your teams with an email tool, you can help reduce the amount of manual emails sent, and ensure no cross-sending of information, so that the people reliant on your business have a clear understanding and feel well informed.


To summarize, although now doesn’t feel like the right time to be making investments, laying the groundwork to ensure your teams are fully equipped to work well together, be productive and communicate effectively will pay dividends now, and well into the future.

Remote Working - How to Create a Virtual Team and Boost Your Business

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