The death of email seems to be near. The ritual of having to go back to our inbox to search for a file, download it, and save it in the right folder will end soon. The endless conference calls, where we share information will soon be over. Collaboration tools help us have meaningful meetings and suppress the time we spend using email. The challenge is to find the right collaboration tool for our organizational needs.

What are collaboration tools?

Online collaboration tools are application software designed to help people involved in common tasks achieve goals.

What happens when you use the right tools?

  • Your team spends less time in email.
  • Your team spends less time in meetings.
  • The overall productivity increases.
  • The employee satisfaction is higher.

Why should we stop using email and move to a collaboration tool?

Email vs. online collaboration tools:

What is the difference between online collaboration tools and email?

  • Task-based communication: you create a task in the tool and all the materials, deadlines, and messages regarding the task are attached to it so it is easier to find the right information. All of the communication is structured under tasks and gets archived when the task is completed or canceled.
  • Ability to set dates and goals inside the same tool.
  • Gaming strategy: the team gets immediate satisfaction when a job is completed. The point is not to have the manager or team leader check the “completed” button or change the status. Let each team member do it. You will have a more motivated team.
  • You will have more time: according to a study by the International Data Corporation, if your team stopped using email for tasks that can be done with collaboration tools, they would have 28% of their time freed up, and they could use that time to work on the actual project.
  • More productivity.
    • Less confusion between who is on copy and who is not, when the email was sent, who sent it, etc. All the information is in one place for everybody to find it.
    • More transparency: we want our distributed teams to trust each other more. With online collaboration tools, the information is available to anyone you want, and they can access it at any time.
    • Finally a meaningful collaboration: distributed teams experience a more meaningful collaboration. Let’s face it: email is a way of communicating, not a way of collaborating.
    • More searchable: information will be more searchable because everything will be in one place, in the right folder, and under the right task.
    • More efficient ways to communicate that will take less time.

Meetings vs. online collaboration tools

When teams use the right online collaboration tools, they find new ways of reporting the progress other than in meetings; they find new ways of sharing information other than sitting down and listening to others at a time that might not be of their best convenience. With online collaboration tools, the information is available for team members to go find it when they want.

There are many kinds of online collaboration tools that will facilitate communication within the team. These tools will help the manager and team members keep track of progress so that everyone knows what still needs to be completed. Online collaboration tools help in this process by saving time and helping to document the process.

Benefits:

  • Fewer time problems: you don’t have to meet in order to transfer information to the person that will continue your job. Everything is easily documented.
  • Fewer distance problems: everybody can work together in one tool.
  • Fewer communication problems: the message is clearer because we all use the same channel.

Now you can use meeting to share relevant information, which cannot be shared otherwise, to empower the team, have fun, increase motivation, share achievements, celebrate deliveries, etc. Finally, meetings can become what they are supposed to be: social interactions that make distributed team relations smoother.

Useful tools:

Here is a list of some tools that we find useful. If you want us to help you find the right tool for your team, contact us. If you want to learn more about how to improve the communication within your team, take this course.

Social media collaboration tools:

socialcast.com, thoughtfarmer.com/ and yammer.com will help you stay in touch with your team.

Project management:

Wrike.com Offers nice reports for managers and a beautiful interface. Recommended for serious users!
Wrie-tasklist

Redbooth.com To manage tasks within a team. It is very user friendly and helps us stay organized!
redbooth

Trello.com: perfect for begginners, easy to see and straight to the point.

trello

If what you want is to have a feel of a real office in the virtual world, then you should start using sococo.com

 

Too many tools to choose from? Contact us and we will help you find the right tool for your team!


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First: the Company Culture

The company culture is the key to a successful virtual team. The company and their HR department needs to help their senior managers learn how to work with virtual teams, adapt their procedures and embrace new ways of communicating with employees. They should also be open to new procedures. For example, team activities that might not be needed on ordinary teams are a must on virtual teams and will successfully improve motivation and productivity.

Second: the HR Department

The Human Resources department needs to understand the characteristics that distributed team members need to have. Not everybody is made for working on a distributed team. The person that works virtually needs to:

  • Be autonomous by nature
  • Have a certain degree of self-motivation
  • Be a good communicator, at least in writing
  • Share or relate to the company’s mission and vision

Third: Managers, shift the mindsetseniormanagervirtualteam

More and better

The managers in virtual teams need to work more effectively, think more and have more energy. This doesn’t mean they will end up tired and burnt out. It is the opposite; the more they give, the more they will receive from the team and the more fulfillment they will get.
We recommend senior managers to:

Clarity

In order to boost productivity, the senior manager needs to take all the knowledge acquired over the course of her experience to think about what messages need to be communicated better with the team:

  • Clear objectives
  • Clear procedures
  • Clear expectations

“Super Communication”

To make messages clear, not only you need to have them in writing, but you need to repeat them several times and using different channels. A good manager will know when the right time is to give each message. In Managing Virtual Teams we call this “super communication” and when it happens, workers tend to reproduce the patterns they see in the manager and the entire organization works better.

Think motivation

If you have a motivated team, and you work constantly on keeping that motivation up, you will have fewer problems and when challenges happen, you will have a better response.

Technical Tools

On top of the technology and security needs that your project might have, we recommend all virtual and remote teams to use:

  • Video conferences as much as they can.
  • Online project management tools that show team objectives and achievements.
  • Social media sites that is private for your company.

If you have special needs we will be happy to assist you. Just contact us!

tips-for-senior-managers


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Consultations on managing virtual teams can offer you valuable tools for improving work conditions and the service your company provides.

We help you navigate the world of virtual teams

If you are a business or enterprise that employs virtual employees or remote teams, you’re probably encountering similar problems as many of our clients.

  • Virtual workers require both less and extra care. You don’t have to put a roof over them, and you don’t have to support them with a break room, but you do need to make sure that they are both motivated and doing a good job. MVT one-to-one consulting not only trains your managers and suggests workflows; it also plans and can even direct your team activities.
  • Communications among virtual teams can also be difficult to achieve on your own. MVT has experience designing and implementing workflows, management tools, and communication standards that make your business hum. Invite us to a one-to-one consulting so we can analyze your business.
  • Remote recruitment has its own caveats. If you aren’t putting yourself in a position to succeed in terms of human investment, you’ll struggle. MTV analyzes your processes from beginning to end in order to help you recruit better team members.
  • Training is important not only for new team members, but for old ones. If you need somebody to shadow your trainings, give tips of improvent to trainees and review your materials/methods, MVT one-to-one consulting is for you.
  • Tools and software are here to help us organize projects and communicate, but there are so many! We will help you find the best software for your needs and help you deploy them.

Schedule a free consultation with us!

virtual teamWhat kind of consultation should you look for?

The most convenient consultation with adhere to the following parameters:

  • Experience working in the virtual field and with virtual teams. It should be what is commonly referred to as "the voice of experience" in the field, in other words as much real life experience managing virtual teams, the better to guide people seeking consultation in this area.
  • Personalized and aimed at offering a service that answers the needs of the company seeking consultation.
  • Proactive and facilitates ideas and proposals to help improve your company, and translate into real, concrete actions that respond to the virtual team's current situation and the expectations that are set for it.
  • Current and answers the needs of today's rapidly changing virtual context, offering timely tools to prevent this affecting the virtual team.

When it comes to managing distributed teams, our values are founded on commitment, professionalism and empowerment, always employing transparency and common sense.

We offer you a team of specialists native of the online world that will show you the most effective tools for recruiting virtual teams, managing personnel and how to achieve your business objectives. Learn more about us here.

Get in touch with us to discuss your needs:


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teleworkIn the management of virtual teams and telework it is vital to have good technological tools to rely on, but even more important is to have strategies in place for dealing with human capital. All the strategies must be aimed at building up the team's skills and maintaining an exceptional organizational culture.

Why is it important to develop the human capital?

The human capital on a virtual team and in telework requires special care, since the absence of in-person relations increases the chances of things falling apart easily.

Turning to other companies with experience managing virtual teams is useful, because they can help your company make advances in this area and improve in aspects such as:

  • Achieving good results on your projects
  • Multicultural management
  • Humanizing the virtual medium
  • Organizing your team's responsibilities and functions
  • Improving the team's sense of belonging and identification with the company

Elements to Foster within a Virtual Team

  • Communication: Fostering all channels of communication with the company in both directions, and using a wide array of alternatives currently offered by technology.
  • Motivation: Strengthening and maintaining positive motivation within the team, and fostering the circle of positive emotional motivation.
  • Common objectives and goals: Establishing common objectives and goals and real actions for reaching them as a team.
  • Autonomy: Developing commitment and the ability to work responsibly without the need for external pressure.
  • Change Management: Developing the flexibility and ability to adapt to the changes and shifts that emerge frequently in the virtual world and in telework.
  • Time management: Promote organization and optimum work time usage with strategies that prevent stress and maintaining the team's health.

Sustainable Virtual Teams

The biggest challenge that comes up in virtual teams is how to keep teams sustainable with higher level of permanence. For this, it is essential to think of strategies that will build virtual teams with a strong human component, increasing their commitment to the company by making them identify with it.

Sustainable teams can be achieved by strengthening:

  • Human Potential: recognizing and strengthening human talent and abilities, and improving the role and abilities of each member on the team.
  • Leadership: building individual and collective leadership.
  • Empowerment: developing the talents and abilities of the team to reach common objectives.
  • Competence: improving the quality of work and service by maintaining constant critical thinking and self-reflection on the job.
  • Enterprise: encouraging innovative proposals and ideas on the team and translating them into real action.

tools-to-manage-virtual-teams


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virtual teamAn essential part of building a virtual team is to keep a human approach to the online medium, creating an environment of work excellence in this particular mode that enables the team to perform at its best.

When is the right time to build a virtual team?

The option of working online is a daily reality and has become the route many companies choose as a way of developing their business. They are companies that are interested in taking on innovative projects and ideas on a much broader platform than onsite, making it easier to access several geographic locations at one time.

Starting a virtual team is convenient when:

  • You want the most out of your expenditure and capital
  • Your team craves independence and flexibility at the same time.
  • Your projects can be managed offsite with the help of collaboration tools
  • You need an easier way to reach people in different geographic locations
  • You need a multicultural team
  • Your company is looking to go global and expand its services

Practical Steps

1. Strategic Planning: Before building a virtual team, you need to make sure the company's strategic planning is in place, as this will provide the backbone of your virtual work team. This means firmly establishing the company's:

  • Vision
  • Mission
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Common objectives and goals
  • Strategies and concrete actions for attaining the objectives and goals.

2. Getting the team ready: Once the strategic planning is in place, then you can go on to structuring other aspects that will be essential to the team and the company, like:

  • Setting up virtual tools: email, video conferencing, chat, etc. We can help you choose the right tools, contact us for a free consultation.
  • Defining and assigning responsibilities among the team members
  • Defining payment rates based on responsibilities
  • Selecting platforms for your recruitment process
  • Selecting a platform for hiring your virtual team and paying them
  • Preparing tools: Virtual reports, feedback forms, manuals, etc.

Some recommendations

Along with the requirements above, you can start building your virtual team, keeping in mind however from the onset:

  • To disseminate the company policies and dynamics to the new virtual team
  • Establishing basic ground rules for a good collaboration and work environment
  • Defining objectives by project and familiarizing the team with them to create strategies and viable actions.
  • Trainining team members in the field and specific duties they will be carrying out.
  • Track and help out the new people to make sure they are following directions properly and to improve the quality of their work.

start-building-a-team


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teleworkTelework and virtual work teams are exposed to a series of problems that often at times slow down work and keep the team from progressing properly. It is important to identify these issues in order to prevent them from affecting the work team and projects.

Telework issues:

Since it is a job that is not done on-site, relations are not as easy as communicating face to face. Telework takes on a distinct dynamic that entails certain risks that can affect work, like:

  • The cooling of interpersonal relations in the virtual work team
  • Communication problems: keeping the same meaning or information straight.
  • Lack of clarity in the instructions and objectives of the project.
  • No knowledge of the work of others
  • Lack of responsibility and autonomy
  • Disorder among multicultural teams

Consequences and what to avoid

These risks translate into effects that can be devastating to the virtual work team, and may even lead to affecting projects and the company if not handled properly. Consequences that can occur are:

  • Not achieving expected outcomes.
  • Falling short of objectives and goals
  • Loss of time and money
  • Tardiness in delivering completed work
  • Demotivation of the work team
  • Teams split up
  • Confusion about the instructions and duties

 palmi

Communication is arguably one of the most difficult aspects of business, especially with virtual employees and members spread across all of Indiana. Managing Virtual Teams (MVT) provided workable solutions that could be implemented right away for long term success. I went into the course hoping to grab a few tips and tricks but instead experienced a hands-on workshop that was tailored to my organization's needs. Not only was the course helpful, it was inspiring and gave me a new vision for my organization's communication future.

Megan West, Digital Communications Manager. Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI)

Do you want to take the same course as Megan? Click here and learn How to Promote Internal Communications in a Virtual Office

How to combat the risks and problems?

To combat the issues above, it is essential to create and implement an action and prevention plan to avoid these kinds of situations from arising within the virtual work place. Below is a series of recommendations to help overcome the challenges and move past them, with the confidence and certainty that our virtual work team will have the solid foundation it needs to weather any storm it comes across in teleworking. The most recommended tips are:

  • Humanize the virtual office.
  • Open reliable channels of communication on the virtual medium and teach your team how to use these channels for their own benefit.
  • Strengthen motivation and trust within the work team.
  • Find synergies among the members of the work team.
  • Strengthen autonomy and empowerment in the team.
  • Train and instruct the team so that everyone knows their duties, and to improve the quality of work.
  • Use reliable work reporting tools. If you are working with Millennials, make sure that those tools include a gamification aspect. Contact us and we will help you find the right tools for your team.
  • Conduct a feedback process to build on and improve the work of everyone.
  • Implement clear work conditions and arrangements tailored solely for your virtual team.
  • Hold virtual meetings and events that help incentivize teamwork.

combat-telework-issues


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virtual jobsEvery day there are more and more virtual workers, and the field of virtual jobs is constantly changing and growing. Its scope is so broad that a Visa or transportation are unnecessary, virtual workers are available from all different geographic locations and time zones. This makes the task of finding professionals of this kind much easier and accessible.

Virtual workers

The option of working via Internet is ever more expansive. Today, it is common for some companies to decide to up and shift its workers onto a virtual platform. Moreover, there are a great deal of people right now who are seeking out the virtual jobs option, offering their professional services via the Internet.

Some of the defining characteristics of virtual workers are:

  • Flexibility: schedule, duration, place and location.
  • Professionals: in all areas and from all cultures.
  • Payment: by the hour, by work volume or by completed objective.
  • Type of contract: freelancer in most of the cases.

Services offered

The areas of work and services covered in the virtual world is always growing. Among the most well known virtual jobs are:

  • Translation
  • Transcription
  • Creating and uploading content for websites
  • Customer Service and support
  • Online marketing: SEO, SEM and SMM strategies
  • Localization and optimization of web pages
  • Website design and programming
  • Article writing
  • Consulting and advising for virtual teams

Why use this kind of service?

The advantages and simplicity offered by work via Internet are:

  • Biggest talent pool: There is greater access to the population and to all types of professionals
  • Professional and multicultural teams: Having a diverse team comes with a wide array of talents and skills.
  • Savings: economically convenient for the company, workers and customers.
  • Different rates: there are services with different rates, what's important is to make sure of the quality you will receive.
  • Quality: Having a diverse and professional team means the quality of work can be characterized as excellent. This point varies according to the rate.
  • Future: Look for the virtual field to carry on with a wide network of opportunities.
  • Environment care: Working online contributes to looking out for the environment by doing away with paper printouts, and also by not using machinery or means of transportation that contaminate.

Things to consider when hiring online workers:

As in the on-site world, the virtual world carries some standards and guidelines that can help us find the best professionals and make them part of the work team. Some advisable points to keep in mind are:

  • Search: Specialized searchers that offer databases of professionals with a variety of characteristics and also help publicize the job opening.
  • Hiring and payment: Websites and platforms that aid in hiring a freelancer and payment for the job done.
  • Profile: Depending on the kind of worker that suits you best, you can select the profile that best fits the project (number of hours, profession, specialty, experience, language, etc.) no matter where the person is.
  • Type of project: From the outset it is important to define and clarify the type of virtual job: characteristics, duration, schedule intensity, objectives and requirements.
  • Conditions and arrangements: This point can help you lay down some basic rules with the virtual workers in order to maintain a good collaboration and ensure completion of the job.

types-of-virtual-jobs


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Virtual work teams face bigger challenges as compared to classic teams in areas such as communication, motivation and warmth of the relations. Let’s analyze the main advantages of virtual teams, challenges they face and how to beat the difficulties.

Challenges of Virtual Work Teams:

Although the advantages and benefits of distributed teams are many, virtual teams face some challenges that slow down back the work process. The most common challenges are:

  • Physical distance: As there is no face to face contact, cold relations are a risk for the work environment, so it is advisable to pay attention to the team and implement strategies that help to humanize the virtual media.
  • Time zone differences: You obviously cannot change these, so we advise you to rely on collaboration tools that can help you minimize the number of virtual meetings and actual time overlap between team members. Do you need help choosing the right collaboration tools for your team? Schedule a free consultation.
  • Communication: When you are working or managing a virtual team you will need to make sure that you are using the right communication channels at the right time, with the right message. Miscommunication or loss of information is the most common problem in the virtual world, your management skills must be in check and ready for this challenge.
  • Routine: Just like any other work, one of the main enemies of motivation is routine, and this poses a major risk especially in the virtual medium. Putting in long hours in front of a computer can lead to exhaustion, stress and a bunch of unmotivated employees. The team needs to have a constant source of positive motivation to keep this aspect from affecting its work.
  • Personal life and work life imbalance: As it involves work being done in the same physical space as where most people typically go about their personal lives, it is inevitable that work will be invasive in your personal life or vice versa. This means that maintaining harmony between work life and personal life is crucial to the success of virtual work.
  • Diverse multicultural teams: Virtual teams, more often than not, are made up of individual with different cultures, each of which has their own customs, values and work habits. This becomes a challenge as each person automatically follows their own way of working and interacting with others. Managers will need to learn to find common grounds between different team members.

 palmi

Communication is arguably one of the most difficult aspects of business, especially with virtual employees and members spread across all of Indiana. Managing Virtual Teams (MVT) provided workable solutions that could be implemented right away for long term success. I went into the course hoping to grab a few tips and tricks but instead experienced a hands-on workshop that was tailored to my organization's needs. Not only was the course helpful, it was inspiring and gave me a new vision for my organization's communication future.

Megan West, Digital Communications Manager. Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI)

Do you want to take the same course as Megan? Click here and learn How to Promote Internal Communications in a Virtual Office

Benefits of Virtual Work Teams:

Virtual teams enable better working conditions in terms of:

 

  • Flexible time: flexibility and autonomy applied to time management leaves everybody in charge of their own time, and lets them choose their work schedules.
  • Freedom to travel: With no need of a visa or transportation to a physical location, people can access their virtual office from basically anywhere in the world, giving them the freedom to choose their physical work space. Today we have many digital nomads who claim to be more productive in a virtual work setting as compared to being in an office. We know from experience that that is a fact!
  • Spend less money: By not having a physical location, the company and the team alike save money which would have been spent on facilities and on transport to and from the workplace.
  • More comfort: The privilege of working from home or wherever a person chooses affords them greater comfort, from small aspects like the manner of dressing, all the way up to the person's selection of a preferred workspace and schedule.
  • Better work-life balance: Although many tasks require doing while another non-virtual business is open, and thus with a fixed, set work schedule, there are others that grant flexibility. Virtual work offers people the flexibility they need to strike a good balance between their work lives and personal lives.
  • Digital work is greener:
    • Transportation: No need for public or private transportation to work. The worker is free to choose the most comfortable and appropriate place to work.
    • Paper: There are no documents to print. All communications take place online.

advantages-and-challenges-of-virtual-work-teams


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Technology has enabled people to gain access to different ways of interacting and working. Offsite work offers many advantages as well as challenges, but one thing is for sure, distributed teams are here to say.

Shared work space

Online work teams present a new way of rethinking the human being, with teams that work towards a common objective and still remain in different geographic locations and very possibly in different time zones. Yet these are people who inhabit a same virtual space, erasing all distance or need to move to a physical place in order to do work. Instead, they are only one click away from linking up and meeting for work.

Types of offsite work teams

  • Remote work: companies that have a main office but whose workers do their day to day work outside of the head offices. Usually, the majority of remote work is done off of the computer. Examples of remote work are salespeople or care providers.
    Remote work teams are normally victims of miscommunication between team members and Team Leaders come to us in search of tools and ideas to better coordinate their team and motivate employees who stop by the office few times a month. If your remote team needs some help, we recommend the workshop Teambuilding Tools and Ideas to Motivate your Virtual Team
  • Virtual work: people who work from home, a co-working space or who are digital nomads and do their work online. The most common examples are designers, programmers, writers and online marketers.
    Virtual teams tend to suffer from an overload of emails and the inability to hold meetings because of different time zones. If you want to improve your communication processes and depend less on meetings, we recommend the How to Promote Internal Communications in a Virtual Office Workshop

Tools that allow online working

The tools are there for you, but how you use them will either guarantee a smooth project or turn your processes into a nightmare. Contact us if you want to have a second opinion on the tools which you are currently using and want ideas about better collaboration tools.

8 tips to have a successful virtual team:

  • Hold a personalized initial meeting to clearly set out expectations and objectives.
  • Establish some basic guidelines for work and relations from the outset.
  • Establish common and realistic goals.
  • Maintain active communication at all levels and channels of the team.
  • Facilitate a feedback process that helps to improve work quality.
  • Implement motivation strategies that help to humanize the virtual medium and strengthen teamwork.
  • Hold virtual meetings with the whole team to strengthen cohesion and synergy.
  • Offer ergonomic guidance to look out for the health and well-being of the team.

online-work-teams-a-new-way-of-working

Watch this interview where our team talks with Collaboration Superpowers about the benefits, challenges and strategies to managing global teams:


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