To identify which environment brings the best in you you must know your preferred workstyle – are you content working alone or someone who thrives when working in a team. Whatever the case may be, it’s quite obvious that effective team-building and being a positive contributing team player are essential skills to success at work. Here are some brilliant tips from Ripley Daniels, the editor at Without The Stress, on how to build a smart team and accelerate your success when you have a remote team to manage – a work culture much prevalent now and more in future as the boundary-less workplace stretches across the globe.
10 Successful Team-Building Tips for the Cyber Workforce
You’re on your own. It’s the good news and the bad news of working in a virtual office. Even introverted pajama pant die-hards get lonely sometimes toiling away in isolation. There are ways, however, to unite your far-flung workforce around a virtual water-cooler and help its members think and work as a team.
- Pick your team mindfully.
Not every professional thrives on their own. Choose employees who are self-motivated and don’t need the formality of an office to perform. Choose people who are independent enough to work without much oversight yet who understand the mission and aren’t likely to go rogue and undermine or otherwise reflect poorly on the company. Be sure your employees are excellent communicators. Even a simple email can be misconstrued to disastrous effect if not crafted clearly. A team of remote co-workers must be able to communicate clearly and with a positive approach so that they accomplish collaboration efficiently and happily.
- Establish a clear mission all employees can rally around.
For lack of physical structure, there must be a philosophical and procedural structure employees are committed to. The company should have a specific mission that team members must understand and always bear in mind. Without a workplace to illustrate to employees what the company is all about, managers must be sure employees are educated on the goals and spirit of the business. Roles and expectations should be clearly delineated for each team member so that when she sits down at her computer she knows what she is doing for whom and why. It is easy to get disconnected from the over-arching goal when you are isolated from it, so be sure employees are kept in the loop and given specific responsibilities and procedures to follow.
- Encourage water cooler chats.
Encourage employees to reach out to each other for feedback, assistance, or support. Centralized offices enjoy that sense of camaraderie that comes with elevator conversations or even quiet cubicle complaints. Let your team indulge itself in this kind of casual social interaction. Encourage it even so that team members feel connected to each other and the mission and goals of the company. Encourage employees to be available on IM. Have a team leader that employees can turn to with questions and problems – whether minor or major. When training new employees assure them that they can reach out for help and be sure to check in on them. Make sure everyone feels supported and part of the team.
- Remind employees to step away from their desks!
One major danger of working from home is that without a time-clock employees may spend inordinate amounts of time working. A team member may think of one more thing, sit down in front of her computer for a minute, and suddenly find herself still there an hour later. Team members working from home can be encouraged to take breaks to exercise, eat, relax, and take time off when necessary. Well-rested and relaxed employees are more productive and more enjoyable for the rest of the team to interact with.
- Circulate news.
Consider producing internal online newsletters or blogs with postings of what’s going on for team members work-wise or in their personal lives. Include updates on projects, funny stories from their workdays, photos, and personal news including marriages, graduations, marathons, and even birthdays (if only there were a substitute for cake in the break room!).
- Don’t take IT for granted.
If possible provide computers, phones, and IT support for employees so that team members with less retargets are not at a noticeable disadvantage for producing good and timely work. IT frustrations can cut productivity and morale, so be sure team members have a quick and supportive platform or procedure to report and address IT issues.
- Focus on production and quality rather than time.
The value happy cyber workers place on the flexibility afforded them by working from home is extreme. Without the nine-to-five time-clock to measure work put in, though, team members should focus on solid deliverables and deadlines instead to keep them on task.
- Hold structured and scheduled weekly meetings.
Use Skype to stay in touch and make sure everyone is on the same page. Complement team conferencing with small group conversations as well as IM.
- Don’t forget your employee of the month.
Without the structured corporate culture, old-school morale techniques such as employee recognition often go overlooked in the virtual office. Be sure team managers don’t forget to praise and recognize good work from team members. Consider giving gift cards every month to an employee for an especially good review from a customer or for finishing a challenging project. Then be sure to celebrate it on the internal newsletter or blog.
- Plan an office party.
If possible get everyone physically together once a year or more. Most couples meet online before they meet in person these days – no reason why collaborative and friendly co-workers can’t do the same! Consider rotating gatherings to the different locations of each team member so others can see where their teammate comes from.
Team-building is challenging no matter what the structure of an organization. What makes a team run well is universal: dedication to a goal, communication, and support. It’s easier said than done in a cyber workforce, but well worth the effort.
Ripley Daniels is an editor at Without The Stress, which assists citizens by simplifying government-related tasks. Ripley writes about subjects dealing with passports, work visas, and many other topics.