How to prepare your virtual teams for the long haul
The pandemic may have forced hundreds of businesses to convert from co-located teams to 100% virtual teams in a matter of days, but that was just temporary, right? That’s what many of us thought. For a while there, it was just about getting through the next couple of weeks and then months, but now, furlough has been extended again and it’s time to face reality. It looks like working as a virtual team is for the foreseeable future, and again, we are without a playbook for when things will return to normal.
So how do we do it? How do we accept the new reality and start preparing our virtual teams for the long haul?
Step 1: Identify the most critical team problems
At first many people were working remotely for the first time, and in a time of crisis. Most businesses focussed on "making do" until they could return to normal, but to prepare for the long haul, you need to review any issues you have and identify necessary changes.
What poses immediate, serious threats to team survival? Are the team’s objectives still relevant or at odds with reality? Is your team culture and cohesion as strong as it should be? Are team members struggling due to a lack of psychological safety?
Step 2: Address these issues
To ensure that your team members are working as productively as they do in the office and in line with the current reality, you need to immediately address the issues that you identify in step 1.
For example, if the biggest issue is that your team’s objectives or work are no longer relevant to the current reality, re-prioritise their work to something that matches the new overall goal of the business. If it’s cohesion that’s a problem, try mixing personal chat threads with business ones and run a quarterly non-work-related workshop where everyone can bond on a deeper level.
Step 3: Focus on long-term care
Step 3 is the most important step in preparing your virtual team for the long haul, as without it, issues will just arise again as people start to struggle. As we said previously, people are trying to work through this crisis so you need to focus on their long term care. You need to be thinking about how you can keep them healthy and avoid these relapses.
A few ways that you can switch on your long-term care mode is to:
Always give clear and concise goals and work briefs.
Help team members know their role within the team and how this relates to the overall business goal.
Foster psychological safety.
Hold regular one-on-ones with team members to make sure they are healthy and to prevent burning them out.
Communicate as much as possible and make sure that each individual knows what is expected of them.
Think ongoing attention and preventative care
To prepare your virtual teams for the long haul, you need to regularly check-in on the health of your team members. If you do this, then you can identify any issues or symptoms of a struggle early; both of which will help you to give them the attention and care that they need to prevent these from escalating into bigger issues down the line.
It really is that simple: identify issues, address these issues, and make a routine to provide the support needed to prevent these issues from arising again.