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Telecommuting Tips: Building Rapport on Virtual Teams

Workplace trends show that telecommuting is the future of work, but separated by miles, virtual teams struggle to develop working relationships. Without conversational moments by the break room microwave, or a cubicle neighbor to borrow a highlighter, how do virtual teams build rapport`

Telecommuting Tips: Becoming More Successful & Trustworthy

Virtual teams are beneficial and even critical to some businesses. To be more successful with telecommuting, virtual teams must make an effort to build rapport, while leveraging collaboration solutions for face-to-face communication.

Here are 8 tips to consider for more successful telecommuting. These can be applied during a meeting, and outside of meetings. Enjoy!

  1. Show presence.

    Pay attention, throw in your two cents and nod your head to show you’re listening. Smiling, making eye contact and leaning forward help others feel heard and understood.

  2. Raise your hand.

    Volunteer to give feedback, explain why you disagree or elaborate on why you think someone’s idea rocks. Your responses are opportunities to display honesty and sincerity.

  3. Get personal.

    Fill out your online profiles everywhere and keep them updated. Your teammates can’t see the photos on your desk, so instead, share them where you connect and pay attention to others’ profile updates to start conversations. If your team needs a push to get more personal, be the leader. Turn your camera around before online meetings to show the weather or introduce a pet.

  4. Don’t underestimate the value of small talk.

    Embrace “awkward small talk” when you join the meeting early to find common ground. Mindfully listen and observe chit chat to figure out what your teammates value, what motivates them and what grinds their gears.

  5. Meet on your own.

    Take the initiative and call impromptu meetings. Use these “virtual water cooler conversations” to show gratitude, ask questions, share expertise or immediately address problems.

  6. Wear your emojis on your sleeve.

    Instant messaging and emails are still great tools for ongoing communication—and emoticons can help fill the void of humanity. Believe it or not, these silly symbols help express tone, convey meaning and show personality.

  7. Be accessible, no matter how you communicate.

    Be prompt to reply, and if you’re on the go, use mobile collaboration tools.

  8. Or explain why you’re not.

    If you can’t be available, explain your schedule or work style to colleagues. Offer a compromise and let them have a say on standing times for regular check-ins.

Virtual team leaders also help build rapport by being an example of these best practices and by choosing technology that makes sharing and collaboration simple and reliable

The Productivity of Team Rapport

So, why is it so important that virtual teammates trust one another? Team rapport creates harmonious working relationships where empathy, sympathy and trust thrive, and it produces real benefits to your productivity at work.

With a mutual understanding, teams will increase information sharing, more effectively communicate (reducing redundancies and misinterpreted messages), support each other’s ideas and be willing to problem-solve together.

The “willing” part is especially important because that motivation is the difference between a teammate that contributes the bare minimum to group problem-solving and one that takes the trouble to share more of their time and resources for a common goal.

Besides, who would you feel more productive working with: strangers or allies? Plus, setbacks and obstacles are just easier to face when your teammates can crack a joke about it with you.

The Challenges of Virtual Team Bonding

Establishing rapport and trust is one of the second biggest challenges to virtual workers. About 75 percent of respondents in this survey named this a top challenge, next to related obstacles like the inability to read non-verbal cues and an absence of collegiality.

Even when virtual teams meet, the report found that 79 percent of respondents don’t have enough time to build relationships. Participation, engagement and collaboration take a backseat to distractions in meetings.

Easy-to-use web conferencing and user-friendly team workspaces remove major obstacles to virtual team rapport. Learn about the best collaboration solutions in the industry at PGi now.

About Ashley Speagle

Ashley Speagle is a Florida-born, Georgia-raised communications specialist, couch movie critic, dream interpreter, acrophobic adventure seeker, outdoors enthusiast, and easy-going introvert.

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