Transitions are tough! Whether personal or professional, making any change comes with bumps and learning curves, but big changes? That can really shake things up. “Virtual teams” aren’t technically a brand-new concept yet, but they’re still a far cry from the brick and mortar establishments of yesteryear. The idea of being part of a virtual team can be exciting and the perks are obvious: More flexibility, you might get to work from the couch in your yoga pants, no commute, and in some cases you can even write-off a portion of your rent or mortgage as office space.
But what about the challenges? There are plenty of those, too! Fortunately, having the right tools can make managing and being part of a virtual team a lot easier. Here are some of the top, must-have tools for virtual teams to ensure that there are no communication gaps, unnecessary struggles, or hardships coming your way:
1.Top-notch cloud providers
Unfortunately, there’s no one size fits all cloud storage solution out there (if there were, we would all be on the same one!). Having safe, secure cloud storage where you can share, download, upload and edit documents anywhere in the world is an absolute must for virtual teams. Many times, free options (like Google Drive) offer more than enough security. There’s a cap on the storage amount and it’s not suitable for uber-sensitive industries like banking, but for many businesses it’s a fantastic option.
2.Knowing when to outsource
Whether it’sfor a developer, web content writer, graphic designer, HR services or anything else you’re company needs, outsourcing can be the most cost-effective and efficient solution. Don’t buy into the old school myths about outsourcing—it’s come a long way.
“Outsourcing has become more effective, especially for software development. The first wave of platforms and marketplaces for software outsourcing offered a Craigslist-style service. People would post projects, choose from hundreds of applicants, and then manage them on their own, taking all the risk,” says Alexey Semeney, CEO of DevTeamSpace. “These days new platforms are emerging. You can hire vetted, professional dev teams all at once. You can even bring in a personal project manager who can manage projects from start to finish. You can also use online dashboards that provide notifications directly from the developers. In the future, virtual reality may even allow you to literally see remote developers in your own office.”
Before any of that can happen though, you will need to do your research and make sure outsourcing a specific role is best for your business.
3.Video conferencing solutions
Again, the options are many and you’ll need to undertake some recon work to find the best fit for you. Whether it’s Go To Meetings, Gmail’s video call services, Skype, Facetime or one of the many video conferences sites or apps out there, having a reliable video conferencing service is vital. Just because your team is virtual doesn’t mean getting together “face to face” won’t be necessary. Plus, it helps everyone feel the camaraderie!
4.Convenient invoicing systems
In some cases, especially with larger businesses, you might have invoicing and payment services just like brick and mortar establishments with direct deposit and/or mailed checks. However, as we move towards being an e-cash society, employees and employers alike are looking for other options. Check out Freshbooks, Venmo, or even set up every employee with a personal Square account!
5.Encouraging employee “off mode”
One of the biggest perils of working from anywhere is that, technically, you can be working and on call all the time! This is dangerous not only to every person’s individual health, but also to company morale overall. Luckily, there are apps that force you off of work mode so you can better balance work and life. Try out apps like Offtime which lets you filter which communication you receive (like work emails) or Flipd where you can lock your phone for a certain amount of time (and it’s very, very tough to undo!).
6.Instant messaging apps.
If you’ve ever felt that strike of fear when you saw your boss trying to chat with you on your personal email, you know how tough it can be to navigate these waters. In many instances, having a work-only instant messaging systems is the best way to let team members communicate quickly and succinctly. However, it’s paramount that you keep these apps separate from your personal life. Set up work groups in Whats App so team members anywhere in the world can connect, or try Viber or even PlayStation Messages!
Just like any other type of environment, communication is key. Managing virtual teams can be riddled with obstacles at times, but with the right tools you can make magic happen.