Developing Your Talent

Tips for Staying Connected With Your Virtual Team

By JC Heinen on April 17, 2013

In most cases, the challenge of a virtual workforce is less a matter of productivity; but one of creativity. Face-to-face communication and collaboration are the wellspring of creativity.  Without any creative force, new product development, improved processes, and breakthrough solutions will fail to materialize.

In the memo heard around the world, Yahoo!’s CEO Marissa Meyer announced a new corporate policy bringing virtual employees back into the office. Whether one agrees or disagrees, her edict has undoubtedly created a tsunami of opinions in the U.S., where one in five employees work virtually. While some view the policy as a draconian (and ironic) assault on technical workers who were the forerunners of the virtual worker movement, others respect her bold leadership as she gets down to the tough task of turning around a stagnant business.

Among the outcry, opinions ranged from “a new way to downsize” to “managers didn’t know how to direct a virtual team.” Still, there are some valid reasons for circling the wagons during a crisis. In her Forbes article, “Back into the Office! 3 Reasons Marissa Mayer Has Made a Smart Move,” Margie Warrell outlines just a few of the advantages of an on-site workforce, including the importance of connecting one-on-one. As Warrell writes, “We should never underestimate the value in the often relatively brief, seemingly insignificant, conversations that happen informally by the water cooler or coffee machine. Any one of them can lead to a moment of insight or opportunity to build new synergy around a common goal.”

Virtual teams work when leaders themselves get creative. When leading virtually, ensure productivity and creativity don’t suffer by taking the following steps:

  • Increase communication with virtual workers through regular live group meetings unrestricted by a rigid agenda.
  • Encourage team members to pull back from the overuse of email and instead engage colleagues in telephone conversations.
  • Use technology to connect via web conference sessions or the use of Skype.
  • Promote collaboration through cloud technology.
  • Offer the best of both worlds: splitting time between office and virtual.

Whether working in an office or working virtually, it’s our connectedness that drives productivity and creativity.  That can happen anytime, anywhere.


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