A broomstick with one or two bristles can’t do its job. It has to have thousands of bristles to serve its purpose. Teamwork is the collective effort of a group of people to work together effectively and efficiently. A company can hire the best remote workers, but without their will to work with each other, their skills will be put to waste.
Coordination is needed to get things done correctly and on a timely matter. This is true to all teams including that of remote or virtual teams where instructions, management, work, and communications are all done online. Engaging virtual employees and freelancers need additional effort from both the managers and the workers. Creating a virtual team is not as simple as hiring, assigning work, and sending money to freelancers. Creating a unified team, one who shares the same vision and goals, and works collectively regardless of their location, to achieving those goals should be a priority. It is a complex process that comes with several challenges:
- Cultural Differences – A virtual team is composed of remote workers with different races, languages and cultures. There might be comments, actions, or gestures that will unintentionally offend someone else. It is important that expectations are well set to respect each other’s’ differences and cultures.
- Lack of Physical Interaction – Remote workers work at their own homes and it is very rare that they get to meet the people they work with in person. Physical interactions like meetings and group activities are scientifically proven to increase connection and understanding between people. Physically being with someone increases their trust on each other. Since remote workers rely on virtual meetings and online messages to communicate, it is crucial for a manager, to think of creative ways to interact with your people.
- Limited Communication – This leads us to our third obstacle, that is communication. Communication is integral in creating a bond with people. To communicate, people use words, facial expressions, and gestures to get the meaning across. Without access to gestures and expressions, virtual teams are given limited ways to communicate with each other. You may also have some team members who would prefer to work on their own. It is imperative that you let everyone in the team know the importance of teamwork for the business to run with ease.
- Unique Personalities – Ultimately, you have to remember that everyone in your team has a personality unique to themselves. Some are direct while others are opinionated. Since they have not met each other, this may create conflict. It is crucial that expectations are set as to how they’d like to be treated and given feedback. Having a getting-to-know session with each of them will also help identify these differences.
Teamwork does not happen in a day. It takes effort, time and cooperation from all parties to solidify the team as one. Your team will go through different stages, conflicts will arise and solutions will come forth. But just as what Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
For virtual teams, communication and interaction are keys to establishing camaraderie between remote workers. It may prove difficult to think of ways to get the team together especially when on a web-based office setup. Here are some tips for work to be more fun and promote engagement from your employees:
- Virtual Team Bonding – Since it may not be possible for them to meet personally, as a manager, you can promote interaction by giving them bonding time of some sort. You can call it Happy Hour or Coffee Break, where they can freely communicate through video or chat and talk about things not related to work. Exploring the personal side of each other will help them get to know their colleagues better. You can also set up coffee meetings and meet-ups between your employees in cases where they live near each other.
- Ice Breakers – Creativity is limitless. As a supervisor, you can try to give them ice breakers or fun office games. You can send an email with a question that’s not related to work or a mind game which will require them to reply to your email with their answers. Instructing them to send their replies to everyone will promote openness to how they think and respond to certain scenarios.
- Chat Time – Aside from giving them the Happy Hour, it is also recommended that they have an open way of communication. For virtual workers, one of the most convenient ways is through chat. Allow them to talk about non-work related things like what they do on their free time. This will help them find their common interests. Be sure to set expectations though that this should not affect their productivity at work.
- Online Games – Managers can also encourage the members of their team to join online games with their colleagues. This will not just promote fun but also a friendly competition in the group. This will help them be more comfortable with each other. For additional motivation and feel good factor, you can even send money to freelancers and winners of the games.
Work can be done easily with employees working together to achieve a common goal. Communication is an important factor towards an efficient team, most especially to a team of freelancers and remote workers. As quoted by Hellen Keller, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.“