Tips for virtual team members

How can you be a more effective virtual team member?

Scroll down to review these tips to become a better member of a global virtual team.

Trust is critical to the success of any team.

Build trust

Trust can be difficult to establish, a challenge to maintain, and damaged by cultural misunderstandings.

How can you build trust with your teammates?

  • Learn about your colleagues. Express an interest in them.
  • Communicate with your teammates outside of team meetings.
  • Share your background, skills, and even a bit of personal information.
  • Communicate your expectations clearly and deliver on your commitments.
  • Follow your team’s charter and its behavior guidelines.
  • Remain flexible and open-minded.
Participate in your virtual team meetings.

Make your online meetings more productive

If you're the host...

Join your virtual meetings early—particularly if you are the meeting host—to ensure that your technology is working correctly.

Upload your meeting materials and set up poll questions in advance, before others arrive.

Greet the participants as they join and engage in small talk to build relationships—just as you would in a face-to-face meeting.

Send your meeting invitations for the top of the hour, but in your agenda, schedule it to start five minutes after the hour. That gives all participants time to log in.

If you're a participant...

Login early and participate in the relationship building small-talk.

Review materials in advance, and participate in polls and chats.

For web and audio conference calls, join your web conference first, then have your conferencing service call you. That way your web and audio presence online will be synchronized, and you won’t show up as a both participant and an audio guest.

If you do dial in separately, be sure to synchronize your web and audio online presence.

Overcome language issues

How can you as a team member overcome language issues?

During a conference call or video conference, you can help other understand you:

  • Speak slowly.
  • Use simpler words and sentences (for example, avoid the passive voice which is more complex).
  • Enunciate.
  • Avoid jargon.
  • Avoid references to local pop culture (for example, referring to local television characters).
  • Avoid references to sports that others may not be familiar with (for example, “We need to hit this one out of the ballpark.”).
  • Define initialisms and acronyms. Don’t assume everyone knows that they mean.
  • Provide information in writing.

Deal with accents

Where accents are an issue, how can you ensure clear communication?

  • Acknowledge everyone’s accent and issues the team might face up front.
  • Establish an environment where it is safe to ask for clarification when you do not understand what someone has said.
  • Try to reduce your strong accent if you have one, and tune you ear to other’s accents.
  • Provide detailed information in writing.

Make yourself heard

Make yourself heard when you attend a conference call:

  • Mute your phone or microphone when you are not speaking.
  • Attend from a quiet room. Those set up for conference calls are soundproof and reduce echo.
  • Use a headset.
  • Avoid speakerphones (they sometimes echo, pick up every noise, or don’t pick up voices clearly)
  • Avoid mobile phones that may experience “drops” in your conversation.

Watch, listen, and learn

Learn about your colleague’s cultures and actively watch and listen for their cultural cues.

Adapt your approach when necessary.

Allow time for silence—some cultures use silence to reflect, others must fill the silence.

Verify understanding, both verbally and in writing, at the end of the meetings and conversations.

Use technology wisely

Do you know how to mute everyone on your call? Do you know how to turn off those annoying “beeps” as participants join or leave a call?

Learn how to use your audio, web, and video conferencing tools. Attend training or read the user’s guide. Teach others how to use the tools, and share your best practice tips.

Carve out a workspace

Whether you have an actual office or just a corner in your bedroom, dedicate a space to "work.”

Treat it like your office at work. When you're done with work today, leave it and check back in tomorrow.

Do you have a dedicated workspace at home?

Minimize interruptions

Set ”visitation” rules with those you live with. For example: When the door is closed, I’m working. Please don’t interrupt me.

That goes for pets too! No one likes a dog yapping in the background during a conference call.

Consider posting an “On the air” sign on your door during conference calls. Few respect a “Do not disturb” sign—but if they might be heard or appear on camera, they’ll stay away.

Is your workspace free from interruptions?

Keep your background clutter free

What do your colleagues see in the background when they hold a video conference with you?

No one wants to see your cluttered bookshelf, unmade bed, or dirty laundry in the background.

For video conferences, choose a well-lighted location with a simple background. Consider using a portable video conferencing screen.

Avoid bright windows or lights in the background. They can cause your face to be too dark.

Look at the camera

Do other see you looking off to the side during a video conference?

Establish rapport with your colleagues by sitting up straight and looking directly in the camera during a video conference. Add a smiley sticker next to it as a reminder.

Position your computer screen and camera at eye level, and place you colleague's video window (or meeting notes) directly under the camera. That way, you maintain eye contact throughout the conference.

When using a notebook computer or tablet, be careful not to point it upward at your face. We don’t want to look up your nose, or see your distracting ceiling fan.

So, what will you do differently to be a better global virtual team member?

Download the "Top tips for virtual teams" ebook and add it to your tool kit. The ebook includes tips for both managers and team members.

Are you a virtual team manager?

Created By
Daniel Jones
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