How to Lead a Virtual Workspace that People Actually Enjoy Working For

Why do we even need virtual teams?


Hybrid work is here to stay. This seems to be the general consensus in the aftermath of the Covid 19 lockdowns. The transition back to the pre-Covid norms of in-person work is not a smooth one, with many individuals finding better life-work balance, less commuting stress and more professional flexibility while working at home. Planned workforces are now accounting for a workforce with hybrid workers making up over 50% of employees, 22% of workers being fully remote and only 23% of workers being in office or on-site full time. As more and more people are favouring remote work over in-person work, creating and working within virtual teams is becoming a staple part of most organisations. With this in mind it is essential to keep up with this demand or risk falling behind. In this blog we will discuss the necessity of creating and maintaining relationships within a virtual team, through communication and trust. Without these strong relationships, virtual teams will be ineffective and unpleasant to work in.

It is important to reflect on your own leading style, are you catering for your team? Are you catering for the changes brought about by the rise of virtual workspaces? Do your team members enjoy working with you? It is imperative to make changes in the way we lead and work in order to keep up with our changing working environments.


Sticking to the three C’s


Teams that don’t get on, don’t work.
In order for teams to be productive and effective they must exist within a workplace that they enjoy. Creating a cooperative, positive, and motivational workspace can be difficult. This is made even more complicated with the rise in virtual workspaces, due to the lack of proximity and face-to-face meetings. Therefore, we propose a formula to stick to in order to create and maintain a productive team, the three C’s. Which are:


1. Creating strong relationships within a team.


Perhaps the most essential factor in leading a successful virtual team, is the existence of strong relationships within the team. It is a leader’s role to encourage these relationships and both initiate and strengthen team cohesion. A virtual leader must find the common ground shared by the group and build strong relationships upon it. This serves to solidify the bond between team members as well as instilling trust in the team amongst its members. Obviously, with virtual teams, this can prove somewhat challenging due to the lack of office culture and in-person interaction. In an online workspace you won’t run into someone on your way to the photocopier or while you make a cup of tea in the office kitchen. This is why it is important to compensate these in-person interactions with alternatives that are suitable for a virtual setting. For example, hosting celebrations for birthdays, promotions, debuts etc. online if they cannot be done in-person. Hosting virtual coffee breaks to allow team members to talk casually and get to know each other. Additionally, virtual leaders making “care calls” with individual members as a way to check in on them and get to know them better. Building strong relationships within a team creates a more productive, positive, and efficient working environment. It can be difficult to achieve virtually, however, it is not impossible. One of the most effective ways to build and maintain these relationships is through consistent, positive communication.


2. Communication is key.


Communication is the driving force behind an efficient workplace. Communication, and the exchange of personal information, has been found to greatly benefit teams. Communication not only creates the foundations for a strong team, but also allows for the sharing of information, effective planning and general “check-in’s”. However, consistent, effective communication is far more difficult to uphold in a virtual workplace. Therefore, virtual leaders should have a good understanding of face-to-face communication techniques and how they can be modified to suit a virtual environment. Leaders should also be able to motivate their team to engage in continuous communication, of both a professional and personal nature. This will increase team cohesion and motivation, build trust, and improve teams’ overall performance. Leaders must understand that there will be a period of adjustment, bumps in the road. It is therefore important that the leader not only encourages communication within the team, but also communicates candidly with the team. Decision making should be a transparent process in which the rest of the team should be encouraged to participate. Doing this can make the formation of strong relationships a faster process, as well as making it easier to discuss and bring about workplace plans and strategies. Strong team relationships built on positive communication can offer stability within a virtual workspace, as well as improving the overall performance of a virtual team.


3. Cultivating a culture of trust.


One of the main goals of positive communication within the workplace is to build strong trusting relationships. Virtual teams are generally made up of individuals who have never worked together before, so it is therefore imperative that an effort is made to ensure the development of trusting relationships. Trust is seen as a critical condition for the cohesiveness and success of a team in a virtual setting especially. Leaders can encourage trust within their team by setting clear and mutual expectations, improving coherence, and motivating team members to improve team performance. Trust is much more essential in a virtual setting as the team members are more dependent on the leader to define and sustain the organisation and team culture. Therefore, it is important that the leader makes an effort to build trust within the team. In order to do this, the leader can pay attention to how team members connect and respond to each other. As well as how they are maintaining any shared tasks they may have. Trust determines whether or not team members will ask each other for help, share feedback with each other, and discuss issues or conflicts. Therefore, the more trusting a team is of one another, the more effective they will be in their work.

The three C’s can be used as a framework from which to design a team, or as a frame of reference for reflection on current teams. Reflecting on the three C’s, do you think that you are prioritising your team and the relationships within it? Are you communicating clearly and regularly with your team? Are you making an effort to encourage trust between all team members? And how can you implement these factors into the way that you work?

Written by Sorcha Smith

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