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How do you run a business in a virtual world? In a normal year, your business faces challenges related to performance, collaboration, and management. The emergence of COVID-19 likely meant your business had to make some big, unexpected pivots this year.

The scramble for quick remedies is over, but the effects of these changes are now a part of the global workforce permanently. So what does the virtual workplace look like and how can you take advantage of these technologies?

New Virtual World and Workplace

The unprecedented shift to remote work across nearly all industries has not only created communication challenges, but it highlights and exacerbates the pitfalls in collaboration that were just as present in the office a year ago.

It is common now for employees who frequently collaborate to be located in different time zones, with different workspace and internet setups, and widely displaced work schedules. So what can you do to lead your business to success?

Practice Transparency to Increase Communication

First and foremost, re-establishing trust between the employer and the employee should be a top priority. With great flexibility comes great responsibility, but creating a rigorous or strict set of protocols or procedures can lead to resentment on the part of your team, many of whom didn’t ask for this situation any more than you did. And the first thing those resentful employees will do is pull back on their communication efforts.

Much of this trust can be built through transparency – if you are open and communicative with your team(s), they will be more willing to use those communication channels more frequently and effectively.

What does transparency look like? It means checking in with your team in less formal ways – some ways you can do that include creating short, weekly video calls with employees to really listen to their issues, and to provide feedback on the items that need to be addressed.

If you create these opportunities through less focused means, like a group or team chat or forum, you’ll likely get less valuable feedback, and some members may not participate in the forum discussions at all. With a video call, you are able to read body language and vocal cues to really hone in on those employees who are struggling with parts of their new virtual environment.

Promote Informal Conversations

It seems counterintuitive, but creating spaces with the sole purpose of facilitating informal interactions can also help boost virtual collaboration and communication.

Informal and spontaneous interactions are a vital piece of the work-life balance puzzle. There are many ways to do this. You can create video meetings to catch up on the current events in your coworkers’ lives – commiserate about the difficulties of working at home while your children are also doing online schooling, talk about seasonal plans or other current events.

Try hosting a virtual “happy hour” meeting, or even creating a “Q&A” forum, where you can post questions as prompts – say, every Friday – and allow your team members to discuss.

And don’t give up on the purposeful socials – while you can’t have a Christmas carry-in remotely, you can still find other engaging ways to celebrate milestones and holidays.

“These activities increase the ‘surface area’ of your interpersonal relationships at work and drive a faster rate of action,” according to an article by the MIT Sloan Management Review.

Make the Most of Your Technology

Collaboration tools can open new lines of communication, but they can also do so much more. Many tools like Webex and Microsoft Teams can help you build rich project- or team-based platforms where you can share data, multimedia files, videos, meeting notes, and more.

In-person project meetings use a host of technologies to help all team members see the big picture – financial forecasts and other data analytics, slideshow or video presentations, memos, Q&A sessions, brainstorming, and other creative exercises.

These things do not have to be reduced to long emails with lots of confusing attachments that you will send and hope everyone reads before the conference call. You can help your team create virtual ways to make the most of each individual’s abilities and contributions by training everyone on the vast functions of your collaboration tool and also by using these functions yourself.

The Virtual World is Yours – We Can Help You Optimize It

Meet Me In The Cloud is your go-to resource for white-glove support and training of collaboration services and tools.

Whether you need training and education, event assist, or other collaboration-based support and service, contact us today.