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How Can You Make Real Connections in Virtual Teams?

How do genuine human connections built through virtual communication relate to virtual teams? In our last blog post, we talked about how it’s possible to make genuine human connections through virtual communication. Now let’s explore how it operates in virtual workspaces.

Human connection is powerful. If leaders of virtual teams ignore this power, they miss out on an immense potential for fulfilling and rewarding work. By itself, this isn’t exactly news: if you Google “virtual teams”, you’ll get an endless list of articles that talk about the need to grow human connections for virtual teams to succeed. But, these articles often don’t address what this advice actually implies. After all: what does it really mean to connect with someone in a virtual team?

Going Beyond Band-Aid Solutions to Build Human Connections

Text box about employee engagement in virtual workplaces: Real connections don't begin in classes but with presence.Unfortunately, we’ve seen many leaders try to encourage human connections by slapping on activities, much like a coat of paint, and getting back to work. And, while certain activities like ice-breakers are one helpful way to start growing connections, just using ice-breakers skims the surface of the real issues we need to tackle.

In face-to-face work, genuine human connections develop alongside our work routines. In an office, as colleagues work, they connect. They start conversations around the water cooler. They eat together. They share news of their family and get to know each other as people. This built-in “space” for bonding isn’t just something “nice-to-have”; it’s a necessity for a healthy workplace.

But in the virtual world, this space for connection isn’t built-in in the same way. Instead, we need to intentionally create and nurture connections throughout the life-cycle of the team.

Now let’s discuss how to start creating these connections. Real connections don’t begin with classes, five-step programs, or one-liners. Instead, they begin with presence.

What Does It Mean to Be Present?

Think for a moment: can you tell when someone is really with you in a conversation—even if they’re virtual? It’s a good feeling, isn’t it?

It doesn’t matter if it’s virtual or face-to-face: when someone is really paying attention to us, we feel respected, and the quality of conversation goes up. In virtual communication, when someone is truly present, they pay attention to the speaker, without being distracted by the environment. They ask pertinent questions, and they communicate through words, tone of voice, and even silences, that they are invested in you and what you have to say.

Text box about employee engagement in virtual teams: In virtual communication, when someone is truly present...they are invested in you and what you have to say. On the other hand, we can also tell when someone isn’t really paying attention to us. When someone is tuned out, they check their phones, type on their keyboards, and reply with monosyllabic huh’s, yep’s, and how-about-that’s. It doesn’t feel good at all. If you show this non-presence to your virtual team, you show that you’re disengaged from them.

Are You Truly Present in Your Virtual Relationships?

Take a few minutes to think about the following:

  • How do you currently show up to virtual meetings with your team?
  • How do you want to show up to meetings?

If you weren’t sure about either answer, don’t worry. Most of us aren’t even aware of how we show up for our colleagues or employees, or how we can improve.

Steps to Become More Present in Your Virtual Workspace

From now on, we suggest you start to become aware of how you show up, and how you prepare yourself. Before your next virtual meeting or one-on-one conversation, think about how you can prepare yourself to show up:

  • Take 30 seconds to one minute to sit quietly, take some deep breaths and be aware of the present moment before running to the next task.
  • Put away your smartphone so you won’t be tempted to check or respond to messages as they arise.
  • Ask yourself: are you focusing and listening to what your team needs, or are you absorbed in the work you need to get done?

These exercises should help you start to show engagement and presence within your virtual team. When you show that you’re engaged with your team, they’ll begin to engage with you. And out of this presence, you can start forging strong, genuine connections.

 

By : Claire Sookman /April 20, 2015 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team, Building Empathy in a Virtual Environment /1 Comment Read More

Four Solutions That Will Help You Overcome Your Fears of Building a Virtual Team

Globalization increases the need for companies to rely on resources and talents from different parts of the world to maintain their position in a competitive environment, like the one we live in today. Technology has advanced to the point where it can connect people from different continents. Financial issues have encouraged companies to capitalize with fewer expenses and labour costs, while providing customers with quality products and/or services.  Trying to keep up with all these new trends and demands can be quite challenging without the right work force. Often, physical boundaries can create challenges and barriers deterring your company from performing to the best of its ability. Talent should not be bounded geographically especially if it is beneficial for your company. Fortunately, conventional teams are no longer the only option we have today.

Virtual teams present you with talent and opportunities that are not offered to collocated teams. So why haven’t you built your dream virtual team yet? Here are the four most common fears most likely hindering you and solutions to help you get over them.

Problem 1: Access to technology

When building a virtual team, you need the right technology to help you access resources and connect with your virtual employees to meet objectives. Lacking the access to said technology can deter you from accomplishing tasks. Even when your whole team has access to technology, you still face the problem of teaching and training them to properly use it.

Solution: Teach and train

Teach your employees how to properly use their technology. Take the time to train them how to properly position a mic and how to talk into it. Advise them to speak slowly and to maintain proper distance to avoid mumbling or sounding muffled. Speaking clearly and enunciating can help prevent miscommunications.

Problem 2: Building Trust

When your team trusts each other, they can work cohesively and efficiently generating positive results for your company. Trust is easier to build when your employees are physically together in a room, engaging in face-to-face interaction. Working on a team where we have to guess faces and voices can be real challenging. With virtual teams, however, your employees can only build relationships through sending e-mails back and forth and hearing each other’s voices bi-weekly or monthly. And we all know when a team lacks trust; we should just expect a spiral downturn in their efficiency and productivity.

Solution: Build an online community

Have an accessible online database where your employees can display their profile including their skills, what they do in your company, their interests and hobbies. By doing this, your employees can gain a sense of who they’re interacting with. When a new team member joins, make sure you introduce them to your team allowing them to right away feel comfortable and welcomed. Engage and encourage audio conferencing and video conferencing during meetings and between employees in order to enhance your communication experience.

Problem 3: Cultural barriers

Hiring employees from various continents exposes you to different cultures. You may end up non-deliberately insulting their culture or stereotyping.

Solution: Become culturally aware

Understand that ethics and norms vary within different cultures. Know where your employees are coming from and educate yourself with their culture to avoid stereotyping or non-deliberately insulting their culture. Encourage your team members to be more culturally sensitive as well to upkeep high-morale within your team.

Problem 4: Time zone differences

Living in different time zones can pose a challenge when setting up meetings or deadlines. What might be lunch for you can be sleeping time for somebody else.

Solution: Be more considerate and understanding

Keep in mind that time zones may vary and what might be convenient for you might be inconvenient for your team members. Ensure that meetings are convenient for the majority, if not all, of your team members to have a more productive and efficient meeting. If one person cannot make it to the meeting due to time differences, show that you understand and arrange a meeting that is convenient for both of you to make sure he/she does not fall behind. As for deadlines, make sure it is within a reasonable time frame and set different deadlines as necessary for people in different time zones.

So what are you waiting for? You no longer have excuses to postpone creating your virtual team! Build your team now and explore the different opportunities that await you!

By : Amir Ahmed /April 23, 2014 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More

Home workers can experience a 12% increase in performance

Home is where the heart is. However, when you’re a virtual worker, it can also be the source of multiple distractions. From the flat screen TV, to the backyard hammock to the beckoning pile of laundry that’s not going to do itself, a virtual worker can sometimes feel their attention drifting to something other than a looming project deadline. Also, though many take comfort in the privacy a home offers, too much time spent away from the company of others is enough to drive some people up the wall. Working from home can be a tricky business but there many effective ways you can boost your productivity and conquer feelings of loneliness when your house is also your office.

First off, did you know that is possible for workers to be more productive when working from home? It’s true: recently, Brown University conducted an experiment on home working, involving 13 000 employees of a NASDAQ listed Chinese firm. Call centre employees who volunteered to work from home alternatively worked from either their home or the office over the course of 9 months. In the end, the study found that home workers experienced a 12% increase in performance. 8.5% of this increase came from working more minutes per shift and 3.5% of this increase came from higher performance per minute. Sometimes, the home can be a more effective work environment than the traditional office place.

But what about those who are intimidated by the prospect of working from home, in the face of countless distractions and those that struggle with the lack of co-worker interaction? Luckily, I have a whole range of tips to help you become an effective home worker:

1. Delineate a Workspace:

It’s advisable to transform one room of your home into a space that is purely dedicated to work. Working in another room of your home that already has a specific purpose, such as the living room or bedroom, can quickly zap your motivation because you automatically associate these rooms with entertainment or relaxation. Entering a room that has been specifically designed to be a workplace will get you into the right mindset when it comes time to buckle down and tackle those assignments.

2. Impose Time Limits on Tasks:

It’s much easier to become distracted from your work when it is particularly dull or difficult. If you feel yourself losing focus when dealing with this kind of work, tell yourself to work through it for 15 more minutes. Perhaps knowing that you are working toward a deadline will provide you with the extra burst of energy you need to get the job done. If, after the 15 minute mark, you still find yourself unable to focus, take a break or switch to another task to give yourself some mental relief.

3. Set Strict Deadlines:

Have you ever experienced that sudden increase in productivity when you are working on a tight deadline while a simpler task may take a few hours to complete? Many attribute this phenomenon to Parkinson’s Law, which states that a task will expand to fill the time you can give it. Avoid this time sucking law by assigning your own deadlines to specific tasks to ensure they are accomplished in a reasonable amount of time.

4. Conduct a Time Audit:

To get a better sense of your work rhythm and use of time, conduct an audit of your day every so often. Make a detailed record of what you did during the day and how long each task took. These audits can reveal much about your daily workflow and you can make adjustments if you need to. Create Tasks Lists: Create two lists of tasks; one that outlines long term goals, and one that includes a detailed outline of the day’s tasks. Keep these lists as realistic and uncluttered as possible. Nothing can zap your energy faster than glancing at a complicated list full of ambitious tasks that are not likely to easily be completed any time soon.

5. When Feeling Isolated, Reach Out:

If you ever feel lonely, pick up the phone and have a conversation with a colleague. This tactic can accomplish two goals at once: it provides you with a connection to the outside world and you can also ask your colleague for advice about a particularly challenging assignment, boosting your productivity when you get around to tackling the assignment once more.

Working from home comes with a unique set of challenges. The ability to remain motivated and focused on work can easily wane in the comfort of one’s home, where the list of distractions is too long to print. Also, the lack of human interaction is a difficult obstacle to overcome for many home workers, but these strategies can turn anyone into a focused, dedicated virtual employee in no time. Set realistic goals for yourself and make the effort to stick to them. Most importantly, know that your colleagues are always a phone or Skype call away.

Give us you feedback-what your greatest challenge when you work from home?

By : Amir Ahmed /April 23, 2014 /Blog, Performance Increase in Homeworkers /0 Comment Read More
  • ABOUT US

    Virtual Team Builders is a training and consulting company that caters to corporations and teams who depend on effective virtual collaboration to succeed. Our training is targeted towards the unique challenges faced by teams operating in a virtual environment; challenges that are present whether members work 90 feet apart or 3000 miles apart.