Teamwork Online Best Practices

Sven Latzel
Mar 15 · 5 min read

To form a team of engaged employees or partners is a rewarding challenge. The benefits of working remotely are obvious. Less traveling and thereby a lower footprint and lower invest and less effort for the organization because no physical space is needed.

But there are also risks. The chance for isolation is always present. The need for digital tools and a stable internet connection are high.

Based on our experiences here some tips to benefit from the pros and avoid the cons.

Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

Culture

Working in a team can be a bliss. In order to make that happen it needs a culture that supports that. Especially in a virtual group, this is utmost important, because there are fewer ways of interaction and with this connection possible.

Bond, bond, bond

First of all, trust is needed. Trust is the result of understanding each other. In order o understand each other we need to know each other. Especially our vulnerabilities are very important in that process, but nothing to begin with.

Organize bonding sessions where you talk about each other and not the work. Use certain questions and team practices to go deeper and deeper over time. Don’t force people, invite them.

This should just be an inspiration. If you have more questions around it, come to one of our free meetups. You can register at http://www.virtual-team-work.com

Care, care, care

Beside bonding, a constant caring helps also a lot in terms of feeling safe and the possibilities of self-development. Caring shouldn’t be something only one or two persons are caring about. It should be a distributed responsibility. To achieve that, I really like the Stewart model of Enspiral (https://www.esnpiral.org). Everybody has a Stewart and is a Stewart for another member. You meet you Stewart regularly and the Stewart listens to your sorrows, challenges, tensions and so on.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Virtual Space

Use the right digital tools

There are tons of tools out there to meet, organize and co-create together remotely. To find the right ones can take a lot of time. My personal favorites at the moment are the following ones:

Online Conferences

For online meetings, the most reliable and feature-rich toll I know so far is Zoom (https://www.zoom.us). I used it with people from all around the globe with meetings up to 20 and more people without any problem. It is easy to start and it has outstanding features like Break Out Rooms, where you can send participants in smaller online meeting rooms for a certain time.

Co-Creation / Online Whiteboard

Online Whiteboards is a very important cornerstone of my work. May it to work together on certain canvases, drawing together or having a central kanban board.

After testing around 10 tools in this area my tool of choice is Miro (former Reamtimeboard, https://www.miro.com). It is very stable. Has some great navigation functionalities and intuitive user experience.

Data Management

Now we get to an application that really blew my mind. As an application consultant for the most part of my professional life, I created various solution to manage data in lists. I assume a lot of us know how limiting spreadsheets are for more complex scenarios, but also how expensive it is to develop a completely new application.

Now there is an inexpensive and flexible solution tot hat. It is called Airtable (https://www.airtable.com). It is an online tool where you can create tables and relate them to each other. With views like calendar, cards and kanban, you can set up your own apps in minutes. I will write a more detailed article about ist capabilities in another article but check it out, it is great!

Real-time Chat

In this area, I have no clear favorite right now. There are two tools competing form y own top 1 position. It is Slack and Microsoft Teams. Slack is very easy to access and has a funky UI, but Teams has a great integration with SharePoint and Online Office to work on files. I think this area has also the potential for another more detailed article 😊

Asynchronous Decision Making

This is perhaps an area not thought of at the moment so much, but it is very powerful. Instead of having discussions around a certain topic in Slack, where you won’t find it in time again, except you bookmark it, with a more forum like a tool, this can easily be done.

The best one around making decisions for me is Loomio (https://www.loomio.com). It offers a variety of different polls nicely integrated into the discussions in a thread around a topic.

Adapt to the lowest bandwidth

Perhaps that obvious for most of you, but still worth mentioning. If you see the bandwidth of one is more of the participants in an online meeting I slow, adapt. Turn of the video, recommend to dial in via phone.

Don’t live with crappy audio. It is one of the most exhausting parts of online meetings. Bad audio is like a constant noise, it just takes energy.

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Physical Space

Background

It may sound like a no brainer, but it is important. Check what is visible behind you in the camera. Avoid distracting things like moving or blinking objects. Make sure nothing too personal is laying around, like your panties etc. 😉

Best background is something calm, like a wall, or something static where single details are not standing out so much, like a whole kitchen scene etc.

Noise

Another obvious but sometimes forgotten aspect is the background noises. If you can avoid them, do so. Look for a quiet place, close the windows, shut down notifications. If you can’t have it silent, make sure to always mute your microphone when you’re not talking. In general, it is always a good idea to mute the microphone.

Final thoughts

I see a lot of potential for us working in the virtual realm but still feeling connected and by that achieving great things. I also see a lot of positive consequences for our climate and environment. I dream of a world where we don’t have to drive to work anymore, instead work and remote and more efficient in front of the computer and then having more time to spend time with our friends and families at home and for example with cooking our own food again 😉

Get in touch with us at https://www.virtual-team-work.com/

Sven Latzel

Written by

I’m dedicated to invent, explore, collect and use principles and tools around the new ways of working together. May it be on site or in virtual teams.