A few years ago, virtual team meetings were common only for IT firms and startups. But COVID-19 has changed our world, and today most businesses choose to hold virtual meetings instead of face-to-face ones. The problem is that not all employers have adapted to the changes and have become accustomed to managing virtual teams. Many managers are still struggling to boost the effectiveness of online communication and improve their team’s productivity. So how do we get the most out of virtual team meetings?
Most companies use Zoom and Webex. These video conferencing tools are effective, and they are definitely worth your attention. However, if your team will be working on a sophisticated remote project, consider other options and choose software that perfectly meets your need. Just don’t forget that the software must have an intuitive user interface and be compatible with the devices of your team members. Also, to avoid any technical issues, you should provide virtual teams with guidelines on how to install and use the software.
Zoom, as well as other videoconferencing software, allows users to decide whether they want to use their cameras or not. Quite often, employees choose to turn off the video. And that’s a problem. The use of video is beneficial – it enhances non-verbal communication, like facial expressions, hand gestures, and body posture. When employees see each other (even on a tiny screen), the conversation feels more familiar and natural. Therefore, if you want to make virtual team meetings more effective, encourage team members to turn on video. Explain to them why it’s important and how it benefits teamwork.
Another great thing about using video is that it helps employees stay productive while working from home. When they know they need to turn on the video, they make an extra effort to get ready for the meeting. Instead of wearing comfy pajamas all day, they get up from their bed, dress up, and clean the room.
Even when they aren’t preparing for video, people report that getting dressed in business clothes helps them feel more productive because it psychologically signals to them they are in work mode. When their work day is done, they can change back into casual gear, which signals internally to them the switch to personal time. These actions send messages to the brain about being productive in their work and play.
An agenda is a must for virtual team meetings. If you don’t create an agenda and send it out ahead of time, participants will be unprepared, and the meeting itself will be a waste of the team’s time. To write an effective agenda, you should complete the following steps by writing a draft agenda showing:
Rule of thumb is to hold virtual meetings within business hours on business days. Since your team members work remotely, they have rather blurred boundaries between personal and professional life. If you run meetings outside business hours, you will break those boundaries completely – creating burnouts and reduced productivity.
If your team is geographically dispersed, you should be even more careful in choosing the time for meetings. You should aim to find that “perfect time slot” that will fit everyone’s schedule – especially if members of your team are in different time zones. Team members should have a pretty good excuse if they can’t make the proposed time.
Since virtual team members don’t have an opportunity to meet each other in person and enjoy water cooler talks, they are likely to be tempted during the meeting to discuss topics unrelated to work. As a team leader, you are responsible for keeping everyone on track. You need to get everyone to follow the pre-written agenda and focus on work. Dorian Martin, an editor at TrustMyPaper, says interpersonal communication in the virtual workplace is important:
Encourage your team members to connect on social media out of work hours. Offer to create a private group for them on Facebook or a chat in a messenger. Do your best to support interpersonal communication in order to improve employee satisfaction, motivation, and collaboration.
Once the meeting is over, you should write a meeting summary and email it to all participants. You need to reiterate what was decided upon and outline the next steps. Due to technical and other issues, some of the participants may miss some important information or overlook an urgent task, so it’s a wise idea to document the decisions taken during the meeting and recap them to team members. Here is an example of how meeting recaps could look like:
Good meeting today, guys!
Here are the agreed tasks from the meeting:
The biggest challenge of virtual team management is a lack of engagement. When employees work remotely, they feel isolated and disconnected from the team. This problem may negatively affect the success of the project. To counter this, you can design a solution such as digital trivia games, or business knowledge or humorous quizzes in which they help to the devise questions (and the answers!) that can bring remote employees together. Such games provide employees with an interactive, sharing experience that helps companies to strengthen team bonds and boost morale. Every organization currently experiencing reduced employee engagement should try out these types of virtual team building activities. It’s a quick way to make remote employees feel like one big family and get teamwork back on track.
Now you know some of the fundamentals of managing virtual teams. So don’t hesitate to follow the guidance. Take the first steps to improve your employees’ engagement, and boost their productivity.
Nicole Garrison is a content strategist, writer, and contributor on a number of platforms for marketing specialists. She is a dedicated and experienced author who pays particular attention to quality research. In her free time, Nicole is a passionate runner and a curious beekeeper. She wrote this article especially for cuttingedgepr.com.
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