5 Tips for Building a Phenomenal Virtual Team Lindsey Stroud Big corporations aren’t the only ones that benefit from virtual teams. In fact, smaller businesses can enjoy many advantages by using distributed teams, including lower operating costs and the ability to tap into a global talent pool. And thanks to things like cloud technology and the growing number of freelance marketplaces, hiring and managing remote employees has never been easier. Of course, virtual teams do come with certain challenges. To overcome these struggles, here are a few best practices to keep in mind. Consolidate One of the biggest hurdles managers of distributed teams face is keeping everyone on the same page. Tools like emails, spreadsheets, shared project documents and group chats can get confusing when remote workers are all using different ones. This can open the door for mistakes, miscommunication and important things slipping through the cracks. Utilizing as few tools as possible and mandating that all virtual employees stick with those tools for their day to day work can help minimize these risks. It’ll also ensure maximum productivity, collaboration and efficiency. Communicate Regularly Not being located in the same physical location can cause a rift in communication with management as well as amongst coworkers. It’s up to the business leaders to ensure that all distributed team members stay in touch and engaged. With virtual teams, this often requires more effort from a communication standpoint. Daily check-ins and regular one-on-one and team meetings (via phone, online chat or video conferencing) will ensure that everyone stays connected, regardless of physical location. Set Expectations It can be harder to know what’s expected of you and what role you play in the overall success of a department or company when you’re not sitting in the office with everyone else. And when employees aren’t clear on these things, they can’t perform to their fullest potential. Eliminate ambiguity by setting clear and specific expectations with each remote worker. Make sure everyone knows exactly what they’re supposed to be working on and – more importantly – why their work is so important. Differentiate Between Tasks and Projects Certain activities require more team input and collaboration than others. For instance, developing a new design for the company website is something that will involve much more thought and coordination than performing data entry. Make it clear what each remote worker’s role is and which of the items on their to-do lists are tasks they can complete independently versus which ones you expect them to collaborate with others on. The clearer you are about this, the less room for confusion and delays. Automate as Much as Possible We’ve already established that communication and collaboration are important for virtual teams to be successful. Freeing up as much time as possible for your employees to be able to engage with one another makes it much easier and more likely that they’ll do so, and automation is the key to achieving that goal. Wherever possible, automate manual, repetitive tasks. Not only will this improve productivity and efficiency, but it’ll also enable your employees to focus their efforts on more meaningful work, which will, in turn, boost morale. Without question, virtual teams can add tremendous value to a business – whether it’s just one department or an entire company that’s working remotely. As with any business initiative, however, this type of setup is not without its challenges. By putting the above tips into action, you can build and manage a virtual workforce that will drive your company forward in the right direction.