We all know that good relationships at work lead to more productive teams and a better working environment for everyone. It might not come naturally to everyone but it is relatively easy to do if you all work together. We spend a lot of time at the office so we’ve got plenty of opportunity to create those positive relationships. But how do you do it when your team aren’t around you?

Today, many employers offer the opportunity for employees to work remotely and flexibly. Staying in touch with your virtual team can be a challenge if you have not worked in a virtual way before.

Here are 5 ways that you can keep in contact with your colleagues, whether you are joining a virtual team or leading a virtual team for the first time.

1. Instant Messaging
Technology market research firm Radicati say that the market for instant messaging is expected to grow from over 3.2bn users this year to over 4.1bn by 2020, which is an increase annually of about 6%. Instant messaging is definitely something that employees will be using, and it makes sense for employers to provide ‘approved’ technology for them to do chat with.
Instant messaging apps go beyond text today and allow teams to do group chat, voice recording and sending of short voice messages, video chat, file sharing and more. These tools are available both for laptops and desktops and on mobile devices, making them the perfect way to keep everyone in touch wherever they are.

2. Photo Sharing
While you can quickly and easily share pictures on instant messaging apps, sometimes sharing photos in a more permanent way can be better for creating a sense of team when everyone works virtually.
You could:
• Create a company or team Flickr account and upload images of your colleagues working, projects you are working on or of client successes.
• Upload photos to your company’s Facebook page (this is also a good way of showing the more human side of your business and connecting with customers and clients).
• Share photos on your company intranet or collaboration tools.
As a minimum, consider how you can get your immediate virtual team to share photos of themselves. It can really help the team work more effectively and in a more trusting way if they know what their colleagues look like.

3. Conference Calls
Don’t overlook the humble conference call. As a way to get a group of people together on the phone at the same time for a conversation, conference calling is hard to beat. Add in a tool like Skype that gives you the option to turn on your webcam at the same time, and suddenly it’s almost like you are all in the same room.

OK, not quite!

However, a regular phone (or VOIP) check in with the team is an easy way to stay in touch. Make it part of your weekly routine so that everyone knows when they are expected to be available for the call.

4. Get Togethers
It’s really important to keep the lines of communication open in a virtual team and that the team trust one another to do their work. Social events are a good way to build trust and create the informal networks that help people communicate outside of formal meeting time. How do you do a social event when everyone is spread over the country? Or maybe even across the world?

It is possible but it takes some planning. For example:
• Organize a local sandwich shop to deliver lunch to all remote team members at the same time so you can all ‘meet’ for lunch.
• Watch a big sporting event with your instant messaging chat open next to you: talk to your team about the game as a virtual get together.
• Quizzes, games and puzzles are easy to do and don’t require everyone to participate at the same time. Make it part of the routine of the team that someone organizes a quiz once a month. Offer a small prize if you like.

5. Meet Face-to-Face
Last but not least, you can meet up in real life. It does require a budget because you’ll have to pay for travel and potentially overnight accommodation costs for the team, but the benefits of meeting in person can be huge. This is especially valuable if you are bringing together a new team for the first time or stepping into a role as a team leader for the first time.

Meeting your virtual team in person will quickly speed up creating that sense of ‘team’ that all managers are hoping for.

Even if you can’t meet everyone at the same time, look for opportunities to meet your colleagues in person whenever you are travelling to locations nearby.
However you stay in touch, being open with your communication and making the effort to check in with people will soon help you on the way to great working relationships.

Looking for a new role with flexibility or staff prepared to work in a flexible way? Get in touch with us as we can help you find the perfect fit.

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