8 Ways to Inspire a Virtual Team

Thanks to technology, the traditional workplace has become a relic of the past. We no longer need to hire qualified individuals who are in the proximity of our business. We can now tap into a global talent pool to hire the best person available for the job. The downside? Working with remote workers can be a challenge. Besides hurdles like time zones, you also have to consider that your team of virtual, outsourced individuals have multiple gigs and schedules that don’t always click with yours.

Maybe most importantly, though, having remote team members means that you can’t always pop-in and check on them or give them advice in-person whenever there’s a problem or concern.

If you implement these eight tactics, you’ll have no problem inspiring all your teams everyday.

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Build relationships before, during and after working on a project

Whenever I work with someone new remotely, I take the time to have a phone call or video conference with them. The reason? It gets us acquainted with each other and by sharing a little bit of our backgrounds and personalities, makes for a stronger working relationship since we realize that we’re working with an actual individual and not some nameless, faceless entity.

Even after this introduction, you still want to touch base with your virtual team members and have a conversation with them that doesn’t involve work. Again, it’s a proven way to build a strong working relationship. Thanks to Skype, Facetime and Hangouts, to name a few, communicating with people remotely has never been easier.

You may want to consider having different persons from each part of your team travel to work in the other office at times – and especially on an important project. Plan a get-together, or happy hour while the “guest” employee is onsite. The exchange of teams back and forth connects your teams in a tangible way.

Related: 5 Best Practices for Startups With Virtual Teams

Communication is key

Speaking of communication, always keep in mind that’s the cornerstone of your relationship with you and your virtual team. Since you’re not running into each other at the office, you have to make up for that by having different channels of communication open so that you can catch up up either formally or informally. For example, emails, texts and tools like Skype are great, but maybe add a chat room so that it always feels that you and your team are connected. Sometimes it’s beneficial for the boss to stay out of the chat room and let just the employees dominate that medium – especially with virtual teams.

Additionally, you need to select the right communication medium. Sometimes an email just won’t describe a complex project as well as a phone call, conference, or screen share. Also, make sure that you give team members access to documents and spreadsheets so that you can collaborate as a team.

Finally, don’t leave your workers out of the loop. Include them in any company newsletters and all meetings, and provide important updates regarding your company so that they feel as if they’re a part of the team.

Treat them with respect

Just because your remote team members aren’t in the same office space as you are doesn’t mean that they’re beneath you or any of your local team members. As mentioned earlier, that means including them in newsletters, meetings and updates. More importantly, you want to have all pay and benefits equal all around, and pay your virtual and remote teams on the same schedule for their services.

Always be understanding and flexible when running into issues that prevent the separate teams from completing a project on time that they are working together on.

Acknowledge and reward hard work

Who doesn’t enjoy being acknowledged for a job well done? Even if it’s a simple pat-on-the-back or just telling your team members how great a job they’ve been doing is a simple, yet effective tactic in motivating team members – both locally and remotely.

I’ve found it best to always treat all team members the same if possible, but you can sometimes take it a step further and reward your remote workers whenever they’ve gone above and beyond. I’ve personally sent bonuses, for example an extra $50, to team members who have been crushing it on a consistent basis.

Give them the ball

In the beginning, you probably have to mentor and guide your team members closely. After they’ve been with you for a while, you can let go of the reins a bit and have them take ownership of a project or task. For example, I have writers who have worked with me for years. At this point, I can simply send them an article title and know that they can take the project from there and I don’t need to do another thing. It’s done.

This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but trust me, it is a big deal. It can motivate team members to do their best because it shows that you trust them to handle an assignment on their own without having someone holding their hand.

Work around energy, not hours

It’s proven that the traditional eight hour workday isn’t effective. And, with remote workers residing in various time zones, you can’t expect everyone to be working 9-to-5 Monday through Friday just because that’s when you’re in the office.

As Gregory Ciotti says for Help Scout, don’t force team members to work a specified number of hours. Instead, give employees the flexibility to work when they’re energized, because “better work gets done when you’re rested, and trying to pace yourself (without breaks) throughout the day will lead to lower reproductive output.”

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Have the right tools in place

Having the right tools in place keeps your team organized and productive. The right tools also make collaboration and managing team members run more smoothly. When your organization runs like a well-oiled machine, your team members can understand and complete projects in a timely and undisturbed manner.

While there are thousands of tools that can simplify lives of your virtual or remote workers, here’s a handful of my personal favorites as well as my own tool:

  • Basecamp allows you to schedule meetings, track assignments, and store documents one convenient location.
  • GoToMeeting is one of the most popular, and efficient, online meeting tools. It also comes equipped with screen sharing capabilities.
  • Slack is the extremely buzzworthy startup that has making one-on-one conversations with your team a breeze.
  • Google Drive is ideal for email, sharing documents, and creating calendars.

Be grateful

When’s the last time that someone sincerely thanked you for all of your hard work? I bet that felt pretty amazing, right? We’re used to a receiving a quick thanks, but getting a genuine, “thank you” is one of the easiest, and most effective, ways to motivate your team members.

Since you may not be able to say “thanks” to all of your team in person, you can still tell the team “thank you” all at the same time when you are on your video connection meeting. You may want to hand out a small gift to those present and mention that you have the small gift already on its way to your extended, virtual and outsourced teams. Also, a quick heartfelt email, card, or call to those who are not there to have the constant kudos you deliver to those on site goes a long way to show your appreciation.

Originally published April 12, 2016.

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