23 Apr

12 Tips on How to Build Virtual Teams Effectively


The rise of virtual teams is a defining trend in the workplace, especially due to the global pandemic. This shift has caused teams to reevaluate how they communicate, collaborate, and achieve their objectives without traditional in-person interactions.

Effective leadership has also become more crucial when working remotely. Leaders need to foster an environment of collaboration and productivity among virtual team members and staff.

They must know how to navigate the complexities of remote work to maintain team cohesion and ensure the team’s success and social connection.

Virtual team members also often face issues related to communication barriers, isolation, and the blurring of work-life boundaries. These challenges can impede the effectiveness of virtual teams and require thoughtful strategies to overcome.

That said, online work also presents unique opportunities, allowing for greater flexibility and access to a broader talent pool for increased productivity and satisfaction. Successful virtual teams can use these advantages to outperform in-person counterparts.

As a leader or member of such a unit, you might be asking, “How do I effectively build a virtual team?”

There are many ways to harness the potential of remote work and build successful virtual teams that can be productive. We will discuss several of them in the article below.

1. Define Work Processes

Work processes refer to any effort or task that requires the collaboration of more than one person to reach a desired goal. These processes often involve the use of technology or other business-related resources.

In the context of virtual teams, work processes are fundamental to effectively organizing how remote team members work together.

In a virtual environment, the difference in dynamics means a reliance on digital platforms for collaboration. This means traditional teamwork methods need to be adjusted so remote teams can function effectively and reach their goals.

Leadership plays a crucial role in the success of virtual teams, particularly in the areas of effective communication and role clarification.

Training for virtual team leaders and team leaders in the nuances of virtual leadership can significantly enhance the clarity of work processes. This training ensures everyone is on the same page despite differences in time zones and physical locations.

Written communication is also vital in establishing a productive online work environment. Practicing virtual team communication helps boost the productivity and coherence of the team. All this starts with a good virtual team leader.

Clear, concise, and well-documented communication skills help establish work processes that align remote employees with their individual tasks and the team’s overall objectives.

2. Implement Communication Tools for Virtual Teams

2. Implement Communication Tools for Virtual Teams

Communication is vital for the success of virtual teams, especially in online setups where traditional face-to-face interactions are not possible. A team that would typically mingle by a coffee machine or the break would have to adapt to online means.

That is where specialized communication tools come in for virtual environments.

The absence of physical presence makes strong communication more important for effective virtual teams, requiring methods beyond the capabilities of in-person teams. They would have to rely more on a group chat or community boards to stay connected.

These tools facilitate good, open communication and regular check-ins, ensuring virtual team members and remote employees stay connected and aligned with their tasks.

Virtual teams can use the following virtual communication tools to foster camaraderie, connect with old and new members, and communicate with every team leader and team member to complete tasks.

  • Trello: This project management tool enables team members to organize tasks and projects into boards, offering a visual overview of who is working on what and the status of different tasks.
  • Miro: An online collaborative whiteboarding platform that allows remote teams to brainstorm, plan projects, and collaborate on interactive canvases in real time.
  • Figma: A cloud-based design tool that supports team-based approaches to design and prototyping, facilitating real-time collaboration among designers.
  • Microsoft Teams: A comprehensive platform that combines workplace chat, video calls, file storage, and application integration, designed to enhance communication and collaboration within teams.
  • Discord: Originally popular among gamers, it has features like voice channels and group chats that are useful for creating a virtual workplace where teams can quickly communicate and collaborate.

However, good communication also means avoiding micromanagement and overcommunication. While the right technology can empower virtual teams, excessive monitoring, and unnecessary meetings can hinder productivity.

Effective virtual teams can strike a balance between using communication technology for efficiency and ensuring that every remote worker feels trusted and valued to do their tasks the best way they can.

3. Adopt Flexible Work Schedules

There is a common misconception that remote work equates to a perpetual vacation, leading to a dangerous oversight of its potential for causing burnout.

This belief undermines the reality that virtual teams and remote workers are highly engaged in their work, often to the point where the boundaries between their personal and professional lives blur.

The lack of a change in environment or the tendency to bring work along during actual vacations exacerbates this issue, contributing to stress and burnout among virtual employees.

The introduction of flexible working hours allows individuals to work when they are most productive and take breaks when needed. This encourages a healthy work-life balance among workers to not be overwhelmed by their workloads.

Flexible working hours maintain mental well-being and improve time management for virtual teams. It allows each team member to tailor their work routine to fit their personal lives and time zones, creating a company culture that values employee well-being.

This approach leads to better performance, as team members can work effectively at times that suit them best, boosting productivity across the whole team.

As virtual meetings and video calls become the norm, adopting flexible schedules builds successful virtual teams that ensure everyone can contribute to their fullest potential without sacrificing their mental health or personal time.

4. Utilize Project Management Software

4. Utilize Project Management Software

Project management tools are vital for virtual teams, allowing them to track all deadlines and assignment details efficiently.

These tools help organize the team and everything associated with the projects they are working on, ensuring that nothing slips through the cracks.

They are also great for collaboration and co-creation of tasks, enabling the virtual team to work together seamlessly, no matter where they are. This collaborative environment fosters a sense of unity and purpose among virtual team members.

Virtual teams can use the following applications for employee engagement and to ensure that all small teams are coherent with one another.

  • Evernote: This is a well-known note-taking app that helps virtual teams capture ideas, project notes, and to-do lists, making information easily accessible and organized.
  • Trello: This is a visual project management tool used by teams to organize tasks and projects into boards for a clear overview of progress and responsibilities.
  • Google Docs: A real-time document collaboration tool that enables team members to work on documents simultaneously, facilitating immediate feedback and iteration.
  • SmartDraw: A tool designed for creating flowcharts, project charts, and other diagrams, which can help in planning and visualizing project workflows.

These tools are vital for leaders and members alike to ensure coherence among the team.

They support managing virtual teams by providing the right technology to boost productivity, making the team highly efficient and allowing them to work remotely more effectively.

5. Cultivate a Virtual Team’s Shared Identity

One of the challenges virtual teams face is recreating the cohesive and interactive culture of in-person companies. This task is complex because the physical separation can often lead to feelings of isolation among remote employees.

Remote workers desire to feel like they are part of the same organization, working towards a common cause despite being part of a dispersed team.

This unity requires a solid foundation where virtual teammates genuinely know and understand each other beyond the scope of work tasks. This is crucial for fostering a strong company culture and a sense of camaraderie.

You can propose virtual events like trivia nights or game nights to strengthen team bonds. Icebreakers and short team-building activities during virtual meetings can also help people feel more connected to their teammates.

These activities allow team members to interact in a more relaxed and social environment, promoting work-life balance and enhancing virtual teamwork. It also helps the team form a level of trust with one another as they get to know who they work with.

The role of digital invitations is crucial in this context, as they convey the necessary event details and demonstrate the organization’s commitment to fostering a unified team.

Ensuring that these invitations are well-crafted and include all pertinent information makes it easier for the team to participate fully in these virtual gatherings.

6. Embrace a Merit-Based Approach

In virtual teams, the physical distance can unintentionally magnify assumptions and prejudices, as interactions are limited and often devoid of body language cues.

This distance can affect how virtual team members perceive one another, potentially leading to biases that can impact team dynamics.

A meritocratic system within virtual teams promotes the recognition and rewarding of efforts based solely on achievements and contributions, irrespective of an employee’s background.

Advocating for such systems ensures that all virtual employees are evaluated fairly, fostering a successful virtual team environment.

For example, if a virtual team performed exceptionally over the past year, the team members must be acknowledged and rewarded appropriately. This motivates the team and reinforces the value of their contributions to the organization.

Preventing isolation and disconnection among remote workers is essential. Regular check-ins and virtual team meetings via video call can help maintain a sense of belonging and team cohesion.

In a successful virtual team, ensuring the right team members feel valued and connected is vital to maintaining high morale and productivity.

7. Prioritize Virtual Team Training

7. Prioritize Virtual Team Training

Many hold misconceptions about the value of virtual training sessions, viewing them as less impactful or secondary to in-person training.

This view overlooks the critical importance of training for virtual teams, which operate in environments distinct from traditional office settings. Virtual team training can be just as effective, given the right approach and resources.

Training for virtual teams should incorporate technology tools, cross-cultural training, and communication training as essential components. Technology tools enable the team to collaborate efficiently across different locations.

Cross-cultural training helps bridge the gaps between team members from diverse backgrounds, fostering a more inclusive and understanding work environment.

Communication training is crucial for ensuring that all team members can express themselves clearly and understand each other despite the lack of face-to-face interaction.

The role of training in a virtual team setting goes beyond just improving skills. It fosters diversity, enhancing effective communication and ultimately boosting productivity.

By investing in comprehensive training programs, organizations can ensure that their virtual teams are well-equipped to meet the challenges of remote work. This shows recognition of the dynamics of dispersed teams and support for their development.

8. Praise Employees Publicly

Acknowledging individual strengths and contributions during virtual training sessions or in your everyday activities is essential in a virtual team environment.

This practice recognizes remote workers’ achievements and validates their efforts in contributing to the team’s success. It reinforces the value of each individual’s work and motivates them to continue performing at their best.

Such recognition encourages the entire team to excel, as credit is given where it is due. When remote workers see their colleagues being praised for their contributions, it fosters a positive and competitive atmosphere within the team.

This approach also ensures that all efforts are noticed and appreciated, leading to increased motivation and a stronger desire to contribute to the team’s objectives.

Advocating for the maintenance of a running list of accomplishments is crucial. Praising employees in virtual team meetings boosts morale and enhances the sense of community and belonging among dispersed teams.

This practice helps prevent feelings of isolation among remote workers, ensuring that they feel connected and valued by the team and the organization as a whole.

9. Monitor and Achieve Goals

9. Monitor and Achieve Goals

Virtual learning tools are important in tracking work output and enhancing individual skills within a virtual team.

These tools provide a comprehensive view of each remote team member’s contributions and progress, allowing for a more tailored approach to skills development and performance improvement.

By leveraging the capabilities of these tools, leaders can ensure that every aspect of remote work is optimized for success.

Centralized data is fundamental to the efficiency and effectiveness of a remote team. It fosters effective communication and skill refinement by ensuring that all necessary information is accessible in one place.

This accessibility not only streamlines workflows but also enables management teams to make informed decisions that propel the team forward.

The impact of shared data on a virtual team highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the team. It allows for targeted team-building activities and strategies designed to address areas of improvement while capitalizing on the team’s collective strengths.

By focusing on shared goals and objectives, a virtual team can navigate the complexities of remote work with greater cohesion and productivity.

10. Schedule Regular Quarterly Reviews

Quarterly reviews offer substantial benefits for virtual teams in terms of productivity, progress, and collaboration. It is common to notice the following when there are regular quarterly reviews among the team.

  • Reduced Turnover: Implementing regular feedback and recognition during quarterly reviews can significantly boost job satisfaction among virtual workers. This acknowledges their hard work and achievements, making them feel valued and seen within the organization. This is more likely to keep them engaged, less likely to seek opportunities elsewhere, and more inclined to grow with the company, thus reducing turnover rates.
  • Stronger Teams: Quarterly reviews help identify areas for improvement and celebrate team successes. This dual approach ensures that issues are addressed promptly, promoting a positive work culture. This leads to stronger, more cohesive teams that are better aligned with organizational goals. It gives them a sense of unity and shared purpose, which is excellent for long-term success.
  • Enhanced Communication: Scheduled quarterly reviews offer a structured opportunity for open dialogue between management teams and virtual workers. This goes beyond day-to-day tasks and focuses on broader objectives, feedback, and personal development. It encourages transparency and trust, allowing for honest conversations about performance, expectations, and future goals. These reviews lead to a better understanding among the members and management, facilitating more effective collaboration and teamwork in a virtual setting.

Connecting feedback, data retrieval, and goal-setting helps with the development and progress of virtual employees. Reviews help companies evaluate performance against set objectives, allowing for adjustments and refinements in strategy.

This ensures that all efforts align with the virtual team’s overarching goals, enhancing communication and skill refinement.

The importance of appreciation, improvement, and productivity within virtual teams cannot be overstressed.

Regular quarterly reviews are a crucial mechanism for recognizing the hard work and achievements of remote teams, identifying opportunities for improvement, and setting new targets that drive productivity.

These reviews are essential for maintaining momentum and ensuring everyone feels valued and motivated to contribute to the team’s success.

11. Foster Continuous Learning

Advocating for a culture of continuous learning within virtual teams is pivotal. This approach fosters personal growth and ensures the team remains competitive and innovative.

A culture that values ongoing education and skill development can adapt more swiftly to changes and challenges in the business landscape.

Encouraging the use of online courses, webinars, and knowledge-sharing platforms is an excellent way to enhance the skills and competencies of virtual teams.

These resources offer flexible, accessible opportunities for learning that can be tailored to the needs and interests of remote workers. Integrating these tools into the regular workflow helps to continuously improve their communication and skill sets.

Staying updated on industry trends and innovations is also one of the more notable benefits of continuous learning, keeping everyone up-to-date on what would work best in their industry.

Teams that are well-informed about their industry are better equipped to innovate, anticipate market shifts, and develop strategies that leverage current trends.

This proactive approach to learning and development not only enhances productivity but also positions the virtual team as a leader in their field, ready to tackle future challenges.

12. Facilitate Regular Team-Building Sessions

12. Facilitate Regular Team-Building Sessions

Regular team-building sessions are crucial for virtual teams, helping to bridge the physical distance that can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation or disconnection.

These sessions are vital for maintaining a strong, cohesive unit, ensuring all individuals feel part of a collective effort towards shared goals. By dedicating time to team-building, teams can cultivate a supportive and inclusive environment.

Activities such as virtual escape rooms, trivia, or collaborative challenges offer innovative and engaging ways to strengthen team bonds. These provide a fun break from the work routine while enhancing different skills in a relaxed setting.

Such experiences are invaluable for building trust and understanding among remote workers fostering a spirit of cooperation and mutual support.

The role of team-building is to foster camaraderie and a sense of belonging. These sessions contribute significantly to building a positive team culture where every individual feels valued and recognized.

The sense of belonging that comes from successful team-building activities enhances motivation and commitment to the team’s objectives, driving overall productivity and satisfaction within the teams.

Key Takeaways on Building Virtual Teams

Virtual teams are here to stay when it comes to company structures.

However, to successfully build a reliable and productive virtual team, it is crucial to consider your members and how they can work together despite the distance.

Try out these tips to strengthen your team and become successful in your industry.

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