Once an intimidating potential solution for a global economic crisis, remote work has thoroughly established itself in the modern workforce. Many people have found remote work beneficial for their work-life balance, creativity, and productivity. Many analysts even claim that primarily virtual teams and digital communication have provided businesses a more cost-efficient workforce.
For many businesses, it may be as simple as that. A remote workforce has allowed for a more flexible and free work schedule, which for many, can promote creativity and optimism in their professional roles. Remote work also eliminates the need for a daily commute and the overhead associated with running a business with a co-located team. Still, virtual teams face their own unique challenges in creating cohesion and promoting collaboration without face-to-face social interaction with one another. We’ve considered the pros and cons of each type of professional team and how to decide which is best for your business.
The Costs of Remote Teamwork
Thanks to modern communication technologies, remote work eliminates many of the expenses associated with running a traditional co-working space for any business. These include location and building costs, energy, internet and phone costs, and the costs to restock the breakroom and resupply both office supplies and coffee. Many businesses, once they learned to navigate managing a virtual team, have embraced it for this reason.
But many entrepreneurs and corporate managers still struggle to manage a remote team that is now spread across a significant geographic distance. It can be difficult to coordinate project development across the country or the globe with asynchronous communication among team members who live in different time zones, or have different schedules. Sometimes, that lack of synchronous communication across teams can reduce productivity, ultimately affecting a business's bottom line.
Remote work also taxes our creative collaborative efforts as well. In-person dialogue includes an abundance of body language and other communicative cues that help us better understand each other. Because verbal and written interaction often convey only the basics of the message we are trying to send, it can slow collaboration. Without behavioral cues, the ambiguity of language can also create confusion or missed information with a phone call or email alone. Geographically distant teams also miss opportunities for informal communication throughout the day and unplanned interactions that help them process obstacles within their social network.
The average person spends more time working than any other daily activity, and a lot of that time may be spent interacting, collaborating, and communicating with colleagues. Team interaction is crucial for facilitating innovation in business processes and concepts, and creative collaboration with a team that can communicate well is a huge asset for business leaders.
Team building can help promote better problem solving, smoother and more diverse project collaboration, and an environment that encourages creative thought and action. Teams limited in their interactions or communication skills might have difficulty building the mutual trust and culture of respect that businesses can benefit from.
The quality of team interaction can help determine a remote worker's sense of fulfillment and enjoyment in their role or damage those. While we tend to judge our productivity levels based on outputs and collaboration, some suggest that collaboration in the virtual world is not happening with the nuance and depth than it does in a co-located work setting. Without employee engagement and positive interaction that your team needs, they’re unlikely to produce the creative problem solving and interpersonal trust that your business needs to thrive.
A team that doesn’t trust one another and is uncertain about the company culture might be less likely to speak openly and contribute ideas to a group. Without trust and cohesion in your virtual workforce, they might individually doubt their ability, their management team’s ability, or whether their role is meaningful. Building relationships among your team is crucial if you want them to be able to engage decisively, assertively, and freely in group problem-solving.
Today’s workforce is very diverse in its skillset and backgrounds, both personally and professionally. It may not always be obvious what people bring to the table professionally unless you take the time to learn about your team, and they take the time to understand one another. Creating cross-functional teams requires team cohesion and employee engagement, potentially across many geographical locations. It requires different types of interactions, including group meetings, one-on-one collaboration and informal interaction.
Poor team cohesion may mean redundancy in workload efforts, lost time, and lost collaboration and creative thinking opportunities. Lack of trust, respect or active listening in the organizational culture can discourage valuable employees from contributing, even when they have great ideas. This type of work culture can repeatedly limit a business leader’s potential solutions to those coming from only the most dominant contributors. It can also have an impact on team performance.
Effective collaboration begins with strong communication and trusting, positive relationships within your team. Positive interactions can help to foster strong working relationships, a social network within the business, increased collaboration and balanced teams. These type of interactions include virtual meetings, email correspondence, and working groups, which replaced in-person interactions for more than 42 percent of the workforce in 2020.
They may also include social events and other types of interactions that can expand employees' social networks within the company. Positive interactions of all types help contribute to more harmonious and productive project teams, with greater diversity of workers and knowledge. Positive work relationships, including in informal networks can empower employees to troubleshoot and quickly solve challenges within the company.
If your team is struggling to collaborate effectively due to missed information, miscommunications, or because they’re navigating new relationships virtually for the first time, there are ways to help. However, they all require that you understand who is working for you. This includes their strengths, weaknesses, professional interests, skill sets, and what about their role most fulfills them.
Many employees prefer the autonomy of remote work, which allows them to establish their own tempo and work-life balance. If you want to support the more creative outputs that result from remote work but worry about productivity, you could set specific check-in deadlines and pair your remote workers with a more senior mentor to collaborate with. Let them determine their own check-in schedule and communication style, or supplement them with weekly virtual team meetings.
Weekly or bi-weekly team calls with your entire staff, or each section of your staff is a really great way to promote more in-depth social engagement with your remote team. Weekly team meetings can help facilitate team building, collaboration, and creative troubleshooting or brainstorming within your team. They’re also a great opportunity for employers to actively listen to collaborative efforts and learn about the social relationships, strengths,, and weaknesses among their workforces to create cross-functional teams.
Some companies have even begun using weekly meetings to facilitate the informal networking of employees with virtual coworking meetings or social events. They could include a weekly virtual happy hour or other competitive team events and social activities. They might also include regular engagement and interaction through social media, like asking your team of writers to comment with their favorite recently read book, writing style, or researching music. These types of virtual team-building exercises help your team build deeper, more meaningful, and more collaborative relationships.
However you approach virtual team building, it should result in more open and collaborative interactions and more nuanced working and social relationships among your employees. Building these positive relationships requires subtle messaging cues that some people miss during digital communications. Things like eye contact, facial expressions, and body language can be missed aspects of a conversation that would typically convey a lot of information.
If you notice your team is having difficulty communicating virtually, this could spell trouble for collaboration and creative thinking down the road. Sometimes, teams need the connection of in-person interaction to better understand each other. Face-to-face interaction is much more effective than virtual interaction at helping people engage with one another and learn about their perspectives, circumstances, and professional experiences. Periodic in-person meetings with your team or team leader can also help you better understand them and their needs.
Many entrepreneurs, like many remote employees, are enjoying the benefits of a virtual workforce. Making the transition to managing a now-virtual team might require resilience and flexibility in the learning process, but assessing and reassessing your team’s cohesion can help you decide whether you need periodic, in-person check-ins.
Businesses in the Clark, NJ area can now benefit from short-term or periodic office space rentals to facilitate team building, even for the virtual workforce. Office Evolution of Clark, NJ is a centrally located office building and co-working space for the hybrid business. We offer flexible meeting room rentals for events, including team-building events and the much-needed weekly, biweekly, or monthly staff meetings.
Whether your virtual team is struggling to build strong relationships, or you’re new to remote employee management and want to check on your team’s progress, short-term meeting room rentals and coworking spaces can help. Our spaces offer you and your team the corporate culture atmosphere and a beautifully designed space to stimulate creativity and communication. They’re also fully equipped and ready for your team, with Wifi and amenities like free, fresh coffee.
Written by: Office Evolution Clark
Office Evolution has more than 70 locations open, 140 units sold in markets across the country and is poised for further growth as the demand for affordable and safe, workspace close-to-home continues to rise.