Four Ways to Foster a Team Atmosphere Among Remote Workers

Very few entrepreneurs can go from idea to success without a team of people supporting their projects. Besides hiring people in-house for human resources, marketing, production and service jobs, they may need to hire virtual employees and contractors to fill these positions. Either way, it is critical to build and foster a team-based environment to ensure there is a feeling of accountability and responsibility within the shared goal of success.

Creating a team atmosphere can be very difficult with virtual staff, whether employees or contractors. It’s a growing issue because technology opens up so many options for people to work from locations around the world. According to Gallup, as many as 37 percent of workers were telecommuting as of 2015.

The importance of having a strong team is rarely felt more than when you don’t have one. Being in business means you are constantly overcoming obstacles – as well as with celebrating success. It takes perseverance and usually a good dose of luck to beat out the competition in the best of scenarios. A lack of cohesion and collaboration within your team can be detrimental to projects and goals because in order to win everyone needs to be rowing in the same direction and giving 100%.

But there’s more to teamwork than simply working together on the same project. True teamwork involves a sense of camaraderie, support, respect and even cohesiveness that can’t always be manufactured simply by the process of a shared project.

Fostering Teamwork in a Remote-Working World

Remote teams are not at a disadvantage in terms of overall performance. In a study conducted by MIT, it was found that teams of dispersed, remote workers often outperformed teams comprised of workers within the same location. In part, this is due to the increased productivity that employees and contractors enjoy while working on their own, within their own ideal environment.

To truly harness that productivity, entrepreneurs with dispersed teams must learn to effectively manage those teams and create a sense of teamwork within them. This can be done by:

  1. Having a face-to-face or screen-to-screen meeting at least once a week. Virtual face-to-face communication through sites like Skype can help build relationships and foster trust within the team. People like human contact. Using tools like Skype or WebEx ensures everyone is on the same page and aware of issues as they arise.
  2. Encouraging collaboration. There is a difference between true collaboration and simply working together. Collaboration allows the team to get excited over a shared goal and inspiration, rather than simply doing their part to achieve an end to a project. Schedule occasional brainstorming chats or conference calls in order to foster a collaborative environment. We use BBM group across various devises as well as WebEx and Skype in-house. There are many other real-time communication tools available to keep both teams in the loop.
  3. Being clear about expectations, guidelines and standards. One of the best ways to undermine a team is to give every member a different set of rules to play by. Assume that your team members are going to talk and share information outside of scheduled meetings. Keep all their expectations, guidelines and standards uniform so there is no jealousy, competitiveness or implied favoritism.
  4. Giving the team a place to collectively debrief. Create a “virtual water cooler” so that remote employees and contractors can talk, exchange ideas, and have an informal place to bond outside of meetings, Harvard Business Review suggests. You can do this by setting up a private group on a social networking platform or by using an application, such as Slack for example, that facilitates group chats and forums.

In a world where more and more employees are working remotely, it is important to take extra steps like these to create a team environment. The result can be a sense of community and loyalty that cannot be quantified. Feeling like you’re part of the team leads to lower employee turnover, greater job satisfaction and higher productivity and creativity.

So why not schedule that weekly Skype, Webex or BBM meeting? And allow the same technology that enables us to work apart to bring us together.