Tips for Effectively Working on a Virtual Team
Technology now enables co-workers to easily work together regardless of where they are located. Business travel is exhausting, expensive and time-consuming, but today businesses can choose from a wide-range of teleconferencing solutions to reduce or replace travel. Being able to work in a virtual environment also supports green initiatives by reducing a firm’s carbon footprint, and helps employees keep a healthy work/life balance by allowing them to spend more time with their families and less time on the road.
Consider the following solutions when building or maintaining a virtual team.
1. Use Instant Messaging for Impromptu Meetings
Instant messaging (IM) is a free and effective tool to quickly answer a question or get a colleague’s opinion. Once you add your teammates to your contact list, the program will let you know when they are online.
Since most IM programs allow a multi-person chat, consider using instant messages as a way to conduct a spontaneous meeting. All participants see the messages and can respond simultaneously. A team can exchange files, use a whiteboard and even see each other if each participant has installed a webcam.
2. Utilize a Virtual Conference Room for More Formal Meetings
Web-based conferencing allows for a brainstorm session, a staff meeting or conducting a training session even if a team is spread over thousands of miles. Everyone attending sees the same information at the same time, and can even see each other.
One example is GoToMeeting (www.gotomeeting.com), an easy and cost-effective web conferencing tool that allows businesses to organize meetings and meet online rather than in a conference room.
These flexible, easy-to-use resources allow businesses to conduct last-minute or scheduled presentations in real-time. They will help to improve productivity, generate additional revenue and diminish business travel costs.
3. Create an Intranet to Share Resources and Information
By setting up an intranet, a website portal created for internal company use only, teams can share resources such as calendars, contacts, workspaces, project management tools, reports, document libraries, and many others. Intranet software such as Microsoft's SharePoint (sharepoint.microsoft.com) is ideal for this.
4. Encourage the Use of Laptops and Mobile Devices to Keep Information Readily Available
Most of us are probably more connected to the office than we want to be. But in reality, modern mobile devices can actually improve the work-life balance. Using a smartphone or laptop to access email, text messages, IM, and the web allows colleagues to stay connected and productive without being tethered to the office (even if it’s a home office). Just be sure not to become a "Blackberry addict".