In my years working on IT projects, I have gone from seeing my co-workers in the office every day to working mostly from my home. Now, we instant message or call each other daily to catch up on the day’s goals or work through a problem instead of walking over to each other’s cubicle. Having open conversations, building trust, and effectively communicating in a team is essential to a project’s success but what is the best way to do that when we work all over the world?
According to Global Workplace Analytics, the number of people who telecommute multiple days per week in the US has grown nearly 80% since 2005. Not only are people working from home but project teams are becoming globalized with team members from countries such as the US, Germany, and India all working together. Besides making sure normal communication happens in a team, we have to thrive with the challenge of creating that communication and productivity with a remote workforce. We need to implement ways for effective and open team communication as the number of workers who telecommute grows each year.
After thinking about my remote working team and hearing other people’s stories, I have determined the top areas to focus on to bring the human element back to a virtual setting.
3 Tips for Virtual Team Communication:
- Use tools in the cloud and promote visualization. Visual artifacts are a great tool for promoting communication whether the team is co-located or remote. Use of visual artifacts in the cloud help teams collaborate and provide transparency to the work being done, since the cloud is available at any time, on any device, globally. In one project, where our team was split at the office and at the Go Live site, we used an online Kanban board to visually display the work to be done. Other beneficial collaboration tools in the cloud are file hosting that lets team members edit documents online or companies’ own enterprise social network. An enterprise social network encourages co-workers to be self-empowered communicators and allows for real-time collaboration.
- Create communication rituals. One example is hosting a daily “stand up” when the most time zones overlap. Each individual team member describes their goal for the day and raises any challenges they are facing. This will not only clarify the work being accomplished by global team members but inspire individuals to reach out and help their teammates.
- Encourage healthy conversation: Creating healthy conversation across functional units, such as functional roles and developers, promotes partnerships where team members can work towards a common goal without fighting over their side’s values. When I work as a business analyst, sometimes I find a feature that doesn’t quite work from a user perspective. Instead of going directly to the defect tracker to log it as a design issue, I ping my developer partner and we talk about the feature together, decide on a change and implement it. These types of conversations create trust between team members and an understanding that the goal is a great working team.
How do you collaborate when working remotely? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @lilyotron to what websites, apps, and tools you use work virtually while staying connected to coworkers.
*Update* I am working at Doghead Simulations to make virtual team communication even more possible with virtual reality. Virtual Reality will soon be the only tool teams need to fully immerse themselves in real-life collaboration.