There is no doubt that the landscape of work has drastically changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. We are no longer confined to mandatory commutes and in-person water cooler chats. Globally, a significant portion of the workforce thrives in the virtual arena, collaborating effortlessly across continents and time zones.

In fact, it is estimated that a third of Americans who can work from home do so daily. What’s more, by 2030, digital jobs are expected to increase by around 25% to over 90 million across the globe.

While remote work offers many benefits, such as increased productivity and employee satisfaction, managing virtual teams effectively presents unique challenges. In the absence of physical interaction, how can you foster team spirit? In a decentralized environment, how can communication and productivity be maintained?

Because remote work is here to stay, it is imperative to equip yourself with the tools and strategies necessary to manage a virtual team effectively. And, that’s exactly what the following blog post will cover.

Building the Foundation: Recruitment and Onboarding

Research by CareerBuilder shows that hiring the wrong employee costs $17,000 on average. However, you may end up paying even more for high-level positions as those numbers increase with the position.

Employee turnover, onboarding and training costs, and lost productivity are all related to these costs. In addition to wages and salaries, these costs include the time and effort it takes to find a replacement for a bad hire.

So, it is important to make the right decision the first time around when it comes to hiring. Yet how can hiring managers ensure they’re hiring the right people, especially for remote teams?

It’s all about the hiring edge.

With virtual teams, you can access a global talent pool. However, to find skilled people, no matter where you are, you must leverage online platforms such as LinkedIn and professional communities. You should prioritize candidates who have excellent communication skills, are self-motivated, and can work independently.

Moreover, hire people with remote work experience. They can also share their remote work experience with the rest of your team.

Setting the stage.

The onboarding process sets the tone for the virtual team experience once the right people are hired. In order to enhance communication and orient new hires to the culture and expectations of the organization, provide them with a comprehensive welcome package. This could include an employee handbook, a welcome letter, company swag, and gifts like professional headphones.

Take advantage of video conferencing to enhance transparency and streamline workflows, as well as investing in project management tools.

Tools and Tech: Equipping Your Team for Success

Technology is the lifeblood of a virtual team. After all, without it, remote work would not be possible. For this reason, invest in the right tools to empower your team and streamline processes:

  • Get more done with a calendar app. By providing a central platform for scheduling and communication, calendar apps can assist remote teams in improving coordination and flexibility. By viewing each other’s schedules and availability, team members can plan meetings, deadlines, and milestones more efficiently.
  • A project management powerhouse. Assign tasks, track progress, and foster collaboration using project management platforms like Asana and Trello.
  • The cloud is the way to go. Make sure everyone has access to the latest documents and files by using cloud storage solutions such as Google Drive or Dropbox.
  • Hubs for communication. Keep everyone connected with a communication platform like Slack or Microsoft Teams.
  • Take advantage of automation. By automating repetitive tasks, your team can spend more time on creative problem-solving and core activities.
  • Offer tech training. To ensure everyone can navigate your chosen tools effectively, make sure they have technical skills and knowledge.

A Foundation is Built on Communication

Successful teams, virtual or otherwise, rely heavily on effective communication. When communication protocols cannot be established face-to-face, though, clear communication protocols are imperative.

The following are some key strategies to consider:

  • Set expectations. It is important to clearly define communication protocols and expectations. It includes response times, preferred methods of communication, and etiquette for virtual meetings.
  • Don’t be afraid to be transparent. Keep everyone informed about company updates, project roadmaps, and individual goals regularly. You can communicate with all team members through a central platform where information is easily accessible.
  • Two-way flow. Ensure that dialogue is open. To put it another way, don’t just broadcast information; actively seek input and feedback from your team members
  • The spice of life is variety. Email is not the only way to communicate. For team meetings, project discussions, and even casual social interactions, use video conferencing tools like Zoom or Google Meet. You can also use instant messaging tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams to keep in touch and get quick updates
  • Learn how to give and receive feedback effectively. Provide clear and constructive feedback to both individuals and teams. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings to address concerns and offer guidance.
  • It is better to overcommunicate than to undercommunicate. Always err on the side of overcommunication. For example, set clear expectations, timelines, and parameters for the project. If team members have any questions, encourage them to ask them and seek clarification.
  • Context is everything. Whenever you request or delegate a task, ensure the context is clear. Explain the overall goal and how each piece contributes to that goal. This will prevent confusion, misunderstandings, and delays.

Building Trust and Camaraderie: Bridging the Distance

One of the biggest challenges in managing a remote team is building camaraderie and trust. However, there are a few ways to bridge the physical gap and build team spirit:

  • Set a good example. You should demonstrate the communication, work ethic, and flexibility you expect from your team members.
  • Engage in virtual team-building activities. Break the ice and build camaraderie by organizing online games, quizzes, or even virtual happy hours.
  • Be sure to celebrate milestones of all sizes. Recognize and celebrate individual and team accomplishments. Whether it’s a virtual toast or a bonus, it can go a long way.
  • Promote social interaction. During meetings, allow time for informal chit-chat. A virtual coffee break or a casual conversation around the water cooler might also be a good idea.
  • Encourage knowledge sharing. Using Slack channels, team members can share best practices, tips, and experiences. As a result, a collaborative environment is fostered and knowledge is transferred.
  • Develop a culture of empathy. Remember that your team works remotely and faces unique challenges. Be understanding and supportive to foster a positive working environment.
  • Make it personal (on a professional level). Find out what your team members are interested in and their hobbies. As a result, you gain a deeper understanding of your team and foster a sense of connection.

Empowering Your Team: Fostering Autonomy and Accountability

Micromanagement can be fatal to the morale of a virtual team. Luckily, here’s how you can strike the right balance between autonomy and accountability:

  • Establish project goals and deadlines. Each project should have SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound). Furthermore, you can track progress and ensure everyone is on the same page by using project management tools.
  • Be sure to verify before you trust. Schedule regular check-ins to monitor progress and address any roadblocks. This way, you don’t need to monitor your team like Big Brother.
  • Make flexible work schedules a priority. Virtual team members tend to thrive in environments with a lot of flexibility. A Flex+Strategy Group study found that workers with some flexibility feel more engaged and productive. Approximately 75% of employees believe work engagement and productivity increase with flexibility. To boost morale and productivity, consider offering flexible working schedules as long as deadlines are met.
  • Overlap work schedules. To facilitate communication and collaboration among team members, ensure there is sufficient overlap between team members’ schedules.
  • Take advantage of asynchronous communication. There are times when collaboration doesn’t require real-time interaction. As such, ensure that team members are granted asynchronous communication tools so they can contribute on their own time.
  • Put money into professional development. Make sure your team has opportunities to learn and grow. For example, encourage them to attend online courses, workshops, and conferences relevant to their skill set.

Performance Management: Measuring Success in the Virtual Sphere

In a virtual environment, performance management requires a different approach. As a starting point, here are a few suggestions:

  • Don’t focus on activities — but on outcomes. You should evaluate your team members according to the results they achieve rather than their work hours.
  • It is essential to receive regular feedback. You can help your team members improve by providing them with regular constructive feedback. To gather feedback, use online tools such as surveys and feedback forms.
  • Reimagining performance reviews. Regularly review performance via video conference and address areas for improvement, as well as goals achieved.
  • Recognizing each other. It is important for team members to recognize and appreciate one another’s contributions. By doing this, everyone feels a sense of community and performs at their peak.

Conclusion: The Future of Work is Virtual

It’s clear that the virtual work landscape is here to stay. Your virtual team can achieve remarkable things by embracing effective communication, leveraging technology, and cultivating strong teamwork.

When managing a virtual team, remember to leverage the power of technology and human connection, not try to recreate the traditional office environment


How often should I communicate with my virtual team?

There is no substitute for regular communication. It is essential to stay connected and informed by checking in daily, holding weekly team meetings, and holding one-on-one meetings.

How can I avoid misunderstandings caused by a lack of face-to-face interaction?

Communicate clearly and concisely, emphasizing context whenever possible. Use video conferencing for important discussions to pick up on nonverbal cues. Make sure you are listening actively and asking clarifying questions as well.

Whenever you communicate across time zones, you should also consider cultural sensitivities.

How can I keep my virtual team motivated and engaged?

Individual and team accomplishments should be acknowledged and appreciated regularly. Create a sense of connection with virtual team-building activities and social media.

Is it possible to build a strong team culture virtually?

Collaboration, open communication, and sharing of knowledge are encouraged. To build rapport, organize virtual events and celebrations.

How can I ensure my virtual team members are on track and meeting deadlines?

Always make sure your goals and expectations are clear. You should also use project management tools to keep track of tasks and remind you of deadlines. To monitor progress and resolve any roadblocks, make sure you check in regularly.

Image Credit: Anna Shvets; Pexels