The biggest difference for a team that can only meet virtually vs. one that regularly comes together face to face is in the flow of communication. It’s less fluid and less rich in content when there are no casual conversations by the coffee machine or quick asides to the colleague next to you. This risks reducing the social bond between team members, with multiple knock-on effects like slower decision making, less trust, weaker collaboration and lower psychological health.
There’s good news though – with a little thought and modern technology, managing communication and other challenges for the virtual team effectively are entirely possible. More than ever, in these difficult times, workmates can play an important role in supporting and motivating each other.
Schedule in time for team building activities. Getting to know each other on a personal level is key to the smooth functioning of any team and for a virtual team, it has a significant impact on the speed of decision making, collaboration and engagement. And more than ever people need a little time to incorporate a bit of fun into their working day. We’ve talked above about a simple check-in at the beginning of meetings, but here are some ideas to build on that:
- Virtual coffee break, or happy hour – agree a time when you’ll all bring a drink of your choice to a video chat and talk about anything but work. Or use the time for a pub quiz or old fashioned word games like ‘20 questions’.
- Show and Tell – each member finds their favourite item in the room they work in or prepares ahead and brings something to show in a video call and explain its significance. Or try photo sharing – similar to show and tell, but specify the type of photo to be shared, eg. from childhood, a holiday, with family, with an animal.
- Extended check-in – there are all kinds of icebreaker type questions that can get people either chatting in a light-hearted way or if the team already knows each other quite well you can use them to deepen the psychological safety in the team. It could be anything from ‘If you could share your self-isolation with one celebrity/historical figure/fictional character, who would you choose?’ to ‘What 3 words best describe how you are feeling today?’ It’s often best if the team leader starts, who can then model the length of response and vulnerability they feel appropriate to share and give other people the time to think.
- Online Shared Games – experiment with the games that are available online now. Many of them build creativity, trust, or other skills, as well as injecting a bit of friendly competition and fun.
Talk to one of our coaches today about how to have a successful virtual team.View the Blog