Published on 25.03.2022
By Marina Ilari
Many companies have adapted to a virtual work environment during the current global pandemic out of necessity. However, this article demonstrates that a virtual team structure creates many advantages for companies, namely access to talent, balance and flexibility for employees, and major cost savings. As a company that works with fully remote teams and achieved significant growth over the last two years, I will provide some tangible ideas and tips to ensure a remote work structure becomes sustainable, an integral part of your corporate culture, and a point of attraction for talent and clients alike.
Open and clear communication in a virtual team is vital, and a lot of focus should be put there. You will need to create different approaches to communicating with the entire company, specific teams, and individual employees. Working in a remote environment can be both overwhelming and isolating. Purposeful and strategic communication is necessary to ensure that you are promoting transparency.
Think about forms of communication into three different categories: static, dynamic, and visual. Static is email; an email is a relatively slow means of correspondence used to share a little or a lot of information. Dynamic tools are platforms like Slack and GChat; they allow for quick bursts of information. And Visual are tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams with video capability. No one wants to spend 8 hours a day using any one of these tools. Think about how you mix these different communication mediums and be cautious of some burnout.
Tip: Listen to what your team prefers and provide flexibility. We have teams that work together in a Skype call for hours, because it makes them feel like they’re together in an office. This doesn’t work for other teams. Find what works for the dynamics of your team!
When working virtually you might want to consider decentralizing information. Previously, confidential information was associated with hierarchical ranks and a position of power, but today when working with collaborative teams it is important that the entire team has all the necessary information to be able to have a global vision of the short, medium, and long-term objectives of the company. I recommend having most company documents in a shared drive with your employees, for easy access. That doesn’t mean that everyone has access to everything, but rather that each role has access to everything they need. Certain documents have higher levels of need-to-know information, such as human resource documents, technology related documents, the documentation of your quality management system, etc.
Tip: Something to keep in mind when working remotely is that you need to prioritize information to be shared so that you avoid overloading your employees. Share it, but give it priority. One note of caution, especially as small businesses grow, is to avoid the tendency and risk for ‘tribal knowledge’ to exist but then be lost or manipulated. Make sure you have everything documented in writing.
From a practical business perspective, recruiting and onboarding is an expensive component of a budget, so it is critical that once you find the right talent that you keep it to 1) offer the best experience both internally and externally and 2) build industry and client reputation.
It’s hard to keep the company culture alive when working virtually, so you need to be very purposeful about it. Make sure you share the company’s history and its vision and mission: publish it, reinforce it, and live it in all the work that you do.
Something we do at our company is an annual company-wide work climate survey. This is an anonymous survey where people can freely express how they feel. We use the Great Place to Work model survey. Out of this survey, we garner great ideas. For example, through the survey, we generated the idea of an internal newsletter where people can learn about a colleague’s life outside of work: sharing pictures, recommendations, and even memes and jokes!
Tip: Consider how to give employees more flexibility with working hours. This mentality ends up being positive for both sides. It allows employees to work with objectives that they have to meet instead of reporting strict hours.
As a leader of a virtual team, you should focus on inspiring your team and not controlling it. Remember that your team members get in your boat because they are motivated by your idea, they are motivated by your project, and they genuinely want to work with you, not because you control them to keep schedules and do their job. Be that inspiration for your team and you will lead a successful remote workforce!
Marina Ilari, CT is an ATA certified English>Spanish translator with over 16 years of experience in the translation industry. She has worked as a translator, editor, and quality assurance specialist for many companies around the world with a special focus on creative translations and video game localization. She is the chief executive officer of Terra Translations and co-host of the podcast about translation, En Pantuflas. Contact: [email protected].