Time zones shouldn’t get in the way of creating and keeping a strong team

As a team grows into new locations and markets, business leaders are faced with the challenge of keeping everyone connected and driving toward the same goal. Quickly, leaders see that it’s important to create strategies to build virtual teams.
It’s a puzzle that Rashmi Melgiri, the cofounder and CEO of CoverWallet, has been putting together as the online insurance platform has grown to more than 300 people across four time zones. Virtual teams have been growing steadily over the past decade, boosted by the ability of fast and reliable video-conferencing tools. In fact, two out of every three full-time workers in the U.S. work remotely at some point, according to a 2019 State of Remote Work survey by Owl Labs.

With a team dispersed across the globe, leaders need a new set of effective processes to set them up for success. Many companies still struggle with how remote work affects their employees and their bottom line.

What is a virtual team?
A virtual team is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a group of coworkers in different physical locations. As companies expand into new locations and markets, they don’t always choose to have their workers together in a single office. There are plenty of advantages to working virtually: businesses can recruit from anywhere, retain valued employees if they move, and expand into new markets with local teams.
Virtual teams aren’t just appealing to employers. A full 99 percent of remote workers surveyed by social media management company, Buffer, said they’d like to continue working remotely at some point during their careers, as reported in Buffer’s State of Remote Work.

Four strategies to build an effective virtual team

Here’s three strategies on how to keep your team aligned when they work remotely.

1. Recognize your point person
Designate a go-to person at each location. That person isn’t necessarily the manager for everyone in that satellite office, but they drive the culture at that location and are responsible for understanding the vibe of the team there.
It provides clarity, you know who to go to with your questions about that particular office setup. This point person often has a full-time job of their own, so it’s important to balance their role promoting effective virtual teamwork with their other priorities.

2. Let them see you
With as many teleconferencing tools that we have, there’s no replacement for an in-person visit. You should value site visits and organizing quarterly off-site meetings, where everyone on the team gathers in the same place for a day or two to collaborate on business challenges. That bonding exercise often leaves team members feeling re-energized when they head back to their home bases. We understand sometimes this isn’t possible to do on a regular basis, so at the very least, try adding in a virtual happy hour to take off the edge.

3. Make time for personal connections
When meeting via Zoom, it’s so tempting to jump right into the agenda and get down to business. But make sure you find the time to ask your virtual teammates about their lives outside the office.
Spend time talking about things that are going on in your life. That’s usually what happens when you’re walking to go get coffee or going for a walk around the building, and that part often gets missed over video. We stress this point because it’s one of the things people miss most when working in an office.

4. When in doubt, use Coworking Spaces
Remote teams can do well at home or at the coffee shop but with important meetings and staying focused, these locations aren’t always suitable or professional enough to handle them. This is why most businesses have been drawn to coworking spaces to either create a satellite office for a team or have their employees use a dedicated desk for their own work. Either way, it’s convenient and cost saving compared to paying for the additional office space, supplies, internet, electricity, and all of the other utilities.

In closing
There really are so many benefits to having remote teams as we’ve mentioned and there is more possibility of retention especially when someone needs to move. With these few tips, keeping the connection to live through your teams is manageable and doable.

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