Working from anywhere, virtually, is where we’re headed. In fact, regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 103% since 2005 and 6.5% in 2014, which is the largest growth in telecommuters since the recession. Due to the impact of globalization, even if you work from an office, chances are you have co-workers in other countries as well.
After working another year mostly untethered, here are 3 more tips for working on a virtual team:
Sometimes you have to meet up.
When things aren’t going well (i.e., you aren’t seeing the progress you would like or the team comradery is in the hole) it is time to set up a physical meet up. There is no denying that it is easier and faster to ask your teammate across the table for help instead of instant messaging them and waiting for a response. When we work in the same place we play off each other’s visual queues and it helps to restore team balance.
The traditional 9-5 is heading out the door – set standard office hours.
In one project I had co-workers in India, Poland, and the West and East coast. That’s four different time zones! We had to set standard times that everyone would work so that we knew when everyone would be available online. This reduced confusion and uncertainty for the team and made it clear when to set up meetings or to expect calls back. Our teammate on the West coast worked from 10AM-6PM EST which is 7AM-3PM PST. Our teammate in Poland worked from 5AM – 1PM EST. Sometimes folks on the East coast would log on early or stay late depending on who we needed to work with. This way we had enough overlap so that we could still work together.
Encourage your teammates to be responsive and vocal.
The key to successful virtual projects is having vocal teammates. It doesn’t matter how many emails you send out or updates you make to your project’s hangout/social page/forum if no one else from the team responds. We can’t always pick our virtual co-workers but we can encourage them to communicate with the tools we have.