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How to manage your virtual team

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In an age when remote working is increasingly becoming the rule as opposed to the exception, it’s no longer uncommon for a business’ team to be spread out across cities, countries and even continents.

The power of the internet has meant the way companies are run and managed has changed enormously over the last few years. Whereas once upon a time, colleagues would gather around the water cooler to socialise and interact, the virtual world means workmates may never meet each other face-to-face – even though they collaborate on the same projects and meetings.

Business owners are now facing a whole host of new challenges that have arisen alongside the use of this new technology – and managing a team spread across large distances is certainly at the forefront. The important thing is to ensure that a human element remains, with managers needing to recognise there will be times when they need to deal with conflict issues, for example.

However, there are tools and techniques available to make this much easier and ensure that no matter what the geographical barriers are, everyone is still pulling in the same direction.

Keeping in touch

Of course, it goes without saying that communication is key. Just because colleagues are not in the same building, it doesn’t mean they can’t all participate in regular meetings. Conference calling is a great way to facilitate this and there are plenty of free pieces of software to facilitate the best time for everyone to dial in.

Doodle is a great example of a cost-free tool that synchronises every worker’s diary to determine the most suitable slot for an over-the-line brainstorming session. Once this has been organised, a chairperson can set up a call, share the pin for everyone to log in with and wait for the meeting to begin.

It’s important to make sure you still get everyone together at the same – if not greater – frequency as you would if they were all under one roof.

Google+ is another handy way of keeping staff connected, with its Hangouts feature perfect for hosting online seminars, allowing colleagues to share what they are seeing on their own computer screens to demonstrate ideas or new ways of working.

The advancement and adoption of cloud computing has also played a big part in assisting in the functioning of the virtual team, meaning co-workers can open the same documents and simultaneously work on them, even if they are on other sides of the world.

However, increased access also means greater security risks and sensitive information should be adequately protected. This could simply mean encrypting data you would rather not be shared so only verified personnel can open it, while another option to avoid potential breaches is to limit access via third-party plugins.

The benefits of having a virtual team are such that the numbers of companies with them are only going to increase as they enter the digital age. As this happens, it’s inevitable the way workforces operate will change as technology also evolves to keep up.

Posted by Andrew Issott