Working outside the office is now the new norm, which means the “office” is now a digital workplace. Instead of conference rooms, break rooms and adjoining cubicles, virtual teams now use video conferencing, social media and instant messaging to manage workflows, communicate and build better teamwork. However, now that your virtual team has so many tools at your disposal, how do you choose the best one for what you need?
Say you read a great article to share: do you email it and CC the entire team, wait for your next online meeting to mention it, IM the link to one person or post it to a discussion in your team workspace? Don’t just fall into old habits or blindly pick and choose. Think strategically about how you connect.
To navigate the options and build better habits for virtual team building, follow this flowchart as a starting point for figuring out where you talk about work and where you talk about the show you’re binge watching:
Here are six common tools for communication and virtual team building and tips for when to use them or opt for a better way:
- Social Media: Using social media to communicate with teammates isn’t the fastest way to get things done, but it is an ideal medium to get to know your virtual team outside of work. Think of it as your virtual zone for water-cooler chat—a place where you can share every funny emoji and GIF you find without clogging up the more work-oriented communication pipelines.
- Team Workspace: This type of cloud-based team collaboration software makes it easy for virtual teams to share files, questions, ideas and updates with the entire team without worrying about time zones or disruptions to everyone’s workflow. Since your updates appear in everyone’s activity streams, it’s a great ongoing method to keep everyone in the loop.
- Email: This standby communication tool is a quick, easy way to send comments and attachments, too, but if you’re going back and forth too long or including more than one person, email threads get messy and confusing. Go to the inbox for communication that’s less likely to require a roundtrip ticket and that only includes one or two people.
- Video: Video conferencing is a must if you want immediate feedback and you need a face and a voice to communicate your point (i.e., bad news or serious requests), but keep in mind that it’s also a great solution for formal status updates, impromptu meetings and face-to-face team bonding. In fact, video
conferences should be part of your introduction process for every new virtual teammate you bring aboard.
- Instant Message: Instant messaging applications are quickly becoming the worker’s new email—a go-to tool for everything from project updates to links to funny videos. However, remember that not every team bonding moment or project update belongs here. By relying too heavily on IMs, you miss the connection of video or visiting someone’s personal social profile, and it’s too easy to exclude the rest of the team from work-related conversations.
- Phone Call: If you don’t need to share links or files and you’re on the go, nothing beats the speediness and connection of picking up a phone and hearing your teammate’s voice. In an era of text and instant messaging, the human connection of old-fashioned phone calls still have a firm place in virtual team building.
Of course, because every team has a unique culture and group personality, you may use team workspaces for virtual stand-up meetings or opt for email over social media to send personal messages. Create your own communication plan, and find out why it’s one of the best virtual team building activities you can do today at PGi’s blog.
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