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Working With Virtual Teams

Virtual Work Is Here to Stay

According to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people working from home in the United States increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, about 28 million workers worked from home, which is approximately 17.9% of all home-based workers.

It was difficult to find a reliable source that provides an estimate for the number of people working from home in 2023. According to a report by EarthWeb, it was estimated that there were around 22 million people working from home in the United States in 2023.

It’s also worth noting that remote work is becoming increasingly popular across various industries. According to a report by Forbes Advisor, as of 2023, 12.7% of full-time employees work from home, while 28.2% work a hybrid model. The computer and IT sector leads as the top industry for remote work in 2023.

Bottom line, virtual work is here to stay!

So, what is the biggest challenge that managers have leading a virtual team? Many would say communication.

Communication has always been a challenge in the workplace, but being able to constructively share and express themselves has become a full-on communication challenge as workers began working from home. Team goals have all but gone out the window for workers that had the tendency to isolate themselves in the office workspace. Out of the office they are now completely focused on their individual contributions.

Now more than ever teams need effective communication and collaboration to meet corporate goals. We live in a fast-paced and ever-changing business landscape. Virtual communication is the key to success.

You would think that the various platforms would make it easier to collaborate and communicate. Communication platforms have often made communication more not less difficult. The sheer number of platforms creates overload in employees working from home. Texting, email, social media, and instant messaging have made workers feel like they are on an information scavenger hunt (a phrase created by Nick Sonnenberg of GetLeverage.com). This is a challenge for the leader and the employee.

What, as Leaders, can we do to communicate more effectively?

1. Over communicate

Don’t assume that people know what you mean. Effective communication may be different for different team members. Working in small groups can spark more candid conversations.

2. Utilize Zoom or Team Meeting

Read body language. Make video-conference mandatory. Workers prepare for face-to-face meetings. If someone is in their pajamas and constantly looking at their phone or doodling, they are uninspired. Be mindful of the virtual space you are using to communicate/collaborate.

3. Put a communication agreement in place.

If something is marked “urgent” you have 24 hours to respond would be an example of an agreement.

4. Allow and encourage all types of communication

Allow your team to criticize without feeling uncomfortable. Encourage diversity and inclusion in team discussions.

Meeting the undertaking that your company has adopted and being in service of that mission is the goal. Working from home should not impede that undertaking.