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Seven best ideas to improve virtual teamwork

You want to improve virtual team work? So you better make sure everybody is truly „on board“. Here are seven ideas for you, how to make that happen.

We all write the occasional e-mail during online meetings, right? However, would you have known how bad the situation really is? According to research published in the Harvard Business Review, 65% of all people who meet online write mails or do other work. 55% prepare food or eat. 47% secretly go to the bathroom. A quarter of the people play video games and a fifth even do online shopping while you are trying to discuss with them. It is a small wonder that people get anything done at all.

Welcome to my world. I am Theresia Tauber and have been working in and with virtual teams for over a dozen years by now. This text also is available as a podcast here: https://www.brainfood-for-leaders.com/virtual-teamwork/

Humans have been called “the rational animal”. Well, we are far more animal than rational. We do NOT primarily base our actions on rational calculation, especially not, when the action has to do with helping another person or contributing to a group goal. Have you heard about this experiment? Two people correspond via mail. One needs specific information from the other. The speed and quality of the answer increase significantly, if the person giving the information can simply look at photograph of the other while responding. Humans tend to help humans. They don’t tend to help voices in the ether or letters on the computer screen.

So here are my seven tips how to build up the needed “social glue”.

  1. Make sure that you all have pictures of each other in front of you.
  2. Start the meeting with a check-in round.
  3. At certain points of the meeting, let people use their webcams.
  4. Before contributing, people should always say their name.
  5. Acknowledge everybody’s presence as often as possible
  6. Teach your team members to keep the interaction flowing in a similar way.
  7. Actively point out connections between different people’s contributions.

Why would this really lead to better team work? And how would you actually put the tips into practice? You find concrete answers and hands-on examples in another blog called “schmooze or loose”.

Social glue is important but not everything. Let me call the other needed element “mental glue”. Since virtual meetings use fewer channels of communication than face-to-face meetings, participants need more explicit clarity and redundancy. Check out my upcoming blog “Silence in space – how to make virtual team meetings more interactive” to learn, how you can provide clarity and redundancy.

If you start implementing the practices described in my podcasts, your team meetings will gradually change. People will be more comfortable with each other, developing mutual commitment. They will also gain clearer pictures about their roles and have clearer ideas how they can contribute. After a while, you all can truly benefit from the diversity of ideas in your virtual team.

Also find my offers for team coaching for virtual teams here https://www.drtheresiatauber.de/moderation-workshops-fuer-teams/workshops-fuer-virtuelle-teams/