Virtual Team: Tips on Keeping Team Members Engaged

Written by Natalie Koski

Working from Home Advantages

Working from home can be nerve-wracking for organizations that have always worked in an office. However, there are advantages to working from home. Team members are more likely to be more productive, be less stressed, have a better work/life balance, and miss fewer workdays.

Talk Through Challenges and Distractions

Team members have a lot on their minds about how they’re going to get work done while also taking care of their families and themselves. Therefore, take the time to talk through challenges and distractions and let them know it’s okay if they can’t give 100% right now or if there is noise in the background. Set a time to talk about common challenges and distractions faced while working from home and additional ones team members are facing right now. Brainstorm solutions with your team and assist them to implement the solutions. One major action you take as a leader right now is to be flexible with working hours and normalize interruptions.

Discuss Best Practices

For many team members, this is their first time working from home and they may be feeling anxious about it. Some best practices to discuss with your team are: creating separate spaces for working, eating, relaxing, etc.; setting up workspace near natural light; taking regular breaks throughout the day; limiting weekly work hours to 40-50 hours to reduce burnout; and exercising each day (replace commute with a walk!).

Over-communicate x2

Be in constant communication with your team members so you know how each member’s work is progressing and how they’re doing personally. 93% of communication is nonverbal. Therefore, to continue to strength relationships, keep cameras on during video calls and transition from voice calls to video (the next section has video software for you to research). Schedule additional team meetings to review work and 1:1s with team members often. Furthermore, encourage team members to schedule time to talk with each other.

During times of stress, we tend to revert to our default habits and one of those habits is how we present information to others. Therefore, be intentional on presenting information in different ways, not just in your preference. Lastly, establish a meeting rhythm so your team knows what to expect at each meeting.

Tools & Ideas to Stay Connected

Just because you are not in the office together, doesn’t mean you can’t work collaboratively and stay connected with each other. Some tools to help you and your team stay productive and connected are: Microsoft Teams, Microsoft SharePoint, Google Drive, Google Jamboard, and Zoom.

Microsoft Teams is a collaborative workspace in which team members can chat each other, video or audio call each other, plan meetings and tasks, and work on projects together.

SharePoint is a platform in which team members can save documents that everyone can see and edit, which makes collaboration on projects easier.

Google Drive is another platform in which team members can save documents everyone to access and edit.
Google Jamboard is an online whiteboard that allows team members to draw out ideas with each other.

Zoom is a video platform that can be used to get several team members together to have meetings, talk about projects or just to connect with each other.

These are just a few examples and not an exhaustive list of tools you can use.

In addition to these tools being used for work, you can use them to stay connected with your team in a more fun, relaxed setting. Some suggestions you could do are virtual: happy hours, book clubs and meet ups/social hours.

Be an Empathetic Leader

One thing your team members are going to remember during this time is how you treated them; how they were treated could be a factor in their decision to stay with your organization or to leave. Below are tips to become a more empathetic leader.

  • Team members are humans first: take care of them
  • Lean into trust with your team- They’re doing their best right now
  • Strive to be understanding if people seem to be less productive
  • Listen and offer support
  • Train yourself and your team on new technology
  • Keep morale up
  • Be flexible