Microsoft Teams recently announced a new record of 2.7 billion meeting minutes in one day, being yet more proof that virtual collaboration plays the main role in our day-to-day work life. Especially during this hard time as we face a global pandemic.
OWL Labs has found that telecommuting makes employees happier, more capable of achieving work-life balance, and loyal to the company. The statistics showed that 80 percent of the respondents feel that their employers care for them by working remotely.
Since telecommuting is not going anywhere, virtual collaboration has become crucial for remote teams to work both interactively and independently. But what is virtual collaboration? And how can your company embrace new ways to improve team associations?
Virtual collaboration refers to the simple act of people working together without being face-to-face, using digital tools to complete or ideate a project. As its implementation has increased tremendously, telecommuting and virtual teams have been created all over the world.
The difference between telecommuting and virtual teams
First of all, we need to start by answering a simple question: what is the difference between telecommuting and virtual teams? Although both refer to people who are physically separated from each other, they differ from where they are located and how often they meet in person.
Telecommuting includes staff who work from home and relate to the same central office. Meanwhile, virtual teams can work on the same project anywhere in the world, have different corporate offices, and rarely see each other. Most organizations currently use at least one of these methods. In fact, past research has shown that staff returning to work after a crisis may have trouble staying focused at work. Consequently, many companies are reconsidering permanent telecommuting.
Due to COVID-19, the use of technology has escalated globally. Thousands of executives and managers who didn’t think their employees could deliver properly working from home have now seen outstanding results. In fact, the State of Remote Work Survey says that 42 percent of remote workers plan to stay working remotely in the next five years. Telecommuting is not a trend. It has come to stay, and any corporation that aspires to keep on growing needs to embrace and promote team collaboration.
As an international organization, TEAM has developed the ability to build teams worldwide. We have implemented virtual collaboration tools for our teammates and clients to maintain effective communication and clearly acknowledge our shared objectives.
Our best practices and experience over the past 30 years in the IT business have taught us a lot about team collaboration among multinational staff. TEAM has put together hundreds of virtual teams for many clients, and telecommuting has been part of our culture from day one. We know that promoting team collaboration leads to better productivity and goal achievement. Let us give you some valuable tips that will help your company stay at the top of the game.
Five ways to improve virtual collaboration
1. Company culture. Maintaining a strong work culture while telecommuting can promote cooperation. Culture is mostly manifested by employees’ behavior. Unseen aspects like unspoken assumptions, motivations or mindsets, define a company’s culture style. There are different ways to analyze how well your work culture is built. Observe how employees communicate and interact with each other to get an idea of the organizational culture in action. Interviewing employees in small groups or doing online surveys can also help examine where the company stands.
The outcome of the corporate culture assessment will help sustain the success of the culture or show what needs to be improved. A company that foregrounds caring and order, regardless of staff location, inspires a work environment in which teamwork, loyalty, and respect are overriding.
2. Effective and clear communication. Choosing the right day-to-day tools for your enterprise can have an enormous impact on how team members interact. Providing tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams help combine virtual collaboration and communication. Trello, Asana, or Podio can be helpful for project management. Meanwhile, Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts are good for video conferencing. Corroborating that everyone in the company has access to various communication channels helps team collaboration be unrestrained for everyone.
Clear communication is vital for healthy office life. Make sure to not only delegate responsibilities effectively but also give team members the opportunity to show initiative. Assigning tasks that will help them develop their own leadership skills will also promote team collaboration.
3. Change expectations. As many companies have migrated to telecommuting, and many more will embrace it permanently after the pandemic, staff’s expectations need to change. As team members learn to collaborate virtually, they will face challenges like time differences and delayed response since we can’t go to someone’s desk and ask directly. Consequently, becoming more aware of each individual’s needs and circumstances will help team members change their expectations and be more collaborative.
4. Encourage taking breaks. It might be strange to realize that virtual meetings lead to fatigue. However, Microsoft Work Trend Index reported that telecommuting and video meetings trouble our brain more than face-to-face work. Peculiar brainwave patterns associated with stress and overwork are the primary concerns. The study also suggests some main factors that cause meeting fatigue, like having to focus continuously on monitor or screen sharing with very little view of the people you are interacting with.
To promote team collaboration, the company needs to ensure that employees know how to deal with these unpredicted issues. It is critical to encourage staff to take breaks every two hours to recharge their brains. If meetings are over 30 minutes, they need to be aware of taking small breaks from the screen. By adopting these simple yet important actions, team members will stay more focused and active, improving team virtual collaboration while working virtually.
5. Have fun. Virtual team buildings are essential for team collaboration. Though bringing remote teams together could be challenging, it is not impossible. Taking into account that physical distance can turn into isolation, it is important to create an environment where all team members feel like part of the community. According to Remote.co, 87 percent of remote workers feel more connected when they use video conferencing, which makes it crucial to generate more human interaction.
Plan a strategy, games, and activities that will create a collaborative environment where your colleagues feel comfortable and content. Keep in mind that a happy team leads to a higher employee retention rate.
Virtual teams technology and the future of the workplace
During the pandemic crisis, digital transformation has been vital for businesses to survive. Many global companies have adopted telecommuting permanently, and we will certainly experience a lot more changes in the near future. Imagine a workplace unrestrained by geography, time, and organizational boundaries, a virtual workplace, where productivity, flexibility, and collaboration will reach unprecedented new levels.
As telecommunication technologies evolve, the future of work and education will get a more realistic presence. Team collaboration will be invigorated in the virtual interface while simultaneously costing less and becoming easier to use.