When you have a team of people spread out across multiple locations, something as simple as collaborating around a project becomes more challenging.
But thankfully, some solutions make this feasible for small and large teams alike.
The Problem With Virtual Collaboration
Running a virtual team has its benefits but also comes with several challenges that can affect team productivity and morale. Some of the challenges include:
- Communication barriers: One of the biggest challenges of virtual collaboration is communication. It can be difficult to convey messages effectively and understand each other without the benefit of in-person interactions.
- Lack of social interaction: Remote work can be isolating, and virtual collaboration can exacerbate this feeling. Teams may miss the social interaction and camaraderie that come with working in an office environment.
- Technical difficulties: Technical issues such as poor internet connectivity, software glitches, and equipment failures can disrupt virtual collaboration and cause delays.
- Time zone differences: When team members are located in different parts of the world, it can be difficult to schedule virtual meetings and deadlines that work for everyone.
- Lack of face-to-face interaction: Virtual collaboration lacks the nonverbal cues and personal connections that are present in face-to-face interactions. This can make it more challenging to build trust and establish a team dynamic.
- Distractions: Working from home can present many distractions, such as household chores, family members, and pets. These distractions can affect productivity and make it difficult to focus during virtual meetings.
- Difficulty with accountability: It can be challenging to keep track of everyone’s progress and hold team members accountable when working in a virtual environment.
- Inadequate training: Some team members may not have the technical skills or knowledge needed to effectively use the virtual collaboration tools, leading to frustration and ineffective collaboration.
7 Tips for Better Virtual Collaboration
Here are some tips to help you collaborate virtually with your team members effectively:
Set clear communication expectations
The most important aspect of virtual collaboration is clear and effective communication. Make sure to set clear expectations with your team members regarding how and when you will communicate. For example, you can schedule regular virtual meetings, set up email or chat guidelines, and establish response times.
Use the right tools
There are many tools available to support virtual collaboration. Some popular ones include Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Slack. Choose the tool that works best for your team and make sure everyone is trained on how to use it.
Most virtual teams already know about the tools mentioned above, but there are also some under-the-radar technologies you can use to improve virtual collaboration. Take digital whiteboards as an example.
“A digital online whiteboard allows anyone who is logged into the meeting to create drawings, make notes to share, brainstorm maps, contribute to lists, and more,” Box explains. “Meetings are still a highly productive place to share ideas, but digital whiteboards provide enhanced collaboration.”
The more interactivity you create, the more people feel engaged and the less physical separation hampers communication and collaboration.
Virtual collaboration can be challenging, especially when there are multiple projects and deadlines. To stay organized, use a project management tool such as Asana, Trello, or Jira. This will help you keep track of projects, deadlines, and team members’ tasks.
Create a virtual workspace
A virtual workspace is a shared space where team members can access and work on the same project. This can be a shared Google Drive folder, a shared cloud folder, or a shared project management tool. Having a virtual workspace helps ensure that everyone has access to the latest version of the project.
In a virtual environment, it can be easy for some team members to become passive participants. Encourage everyone to participate in virtual meetings and discussions, and make sure that everyone’s opinions and ideas are heard.
When working in a virtual environment, it is crucial to establish accountability. Make sure everyone knows what their responsibilities are and what they need to do to contribute to the team’s success. Use project management tools to track progress and hold team members accountable for their tasks.
Virtual collaboration can be challenging, and things may not always go as planned. Be flexible and adjust your approach as needed to ensure that the team is working effectively. For example, if virtual meetings are not working, try a different approach, such as email or instant messaging.
Shifting Into the Virtual World
Collaborating virtually can be challenging, but it is important to maintain a positive attitude. Encourage your team members to be respectful and professional, and lead by example. With a combination of the right processes, systems, and technology, your virtual team can thrive under any circumstances.
(Main image: Freepik)
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