Long-distance relationships (LDR) are not a challenge exclusive to people romantically involved with each other. It is also a difficult challenge that every virtual team face. Virtual team members who live halfway across the globe suffer from the sense of “isolation” from the other members. It is a known fact to everyone that for a remote team, the internet is the only way to quench the need for interaction and connectedness.

Even so, throwing in the time and cultural differences into the mix, the sense of “togetherness” can still be very challenging for any virtual team. But remember that the word ‘challenging’ is not synonymous to the word ‘impossible’. It is possible to knit the team together and promote teamwork even within the confines of the internet. Here are some of the ways:

  1. Find helpful tools.

There are many effective collaboration tools online that any team can use ( a lot of which are free). And it is usually the job of the head of the team to choose which tools are appropriate for team communication. Choosing the right tools will help build strong connections, thus making it easier to build teamwork.

  1. Slow down.

According to Corporate Education Group, it is healthy for the team to slow down to speed up. To slow down means to focus, set expectations, create processes that will allow the team to interact, and ensure that appropriate tools are in place.  The slowing down process allows the team to determine which areas of the virtual communication process needs to be worked on. It clears out potential issues that the team could eventually come across.

  1. Communicate.

Extend communication beyond the work-related topics. Get more personal. Check how everybody’s day is going.  Get to know each member, and learn about their interests. It is important to keep communication lines open, not only for the sole purpose of working on the project, but also to promote camaraderie.

Appropriately share your thoughts and in return, learn how to listen as well. Let the team bond through the exchange of information. The goal is to promote teamwork, and teamwork is easier to achieve when members are not total strangers to each other.  

  1. Play.

The easiest way to get rid of the “stranger” atmosphere in a virtual office is through a bunch of laughs. It is important to work, but a few minutes of play will not hurt. Social Communications Company cited a few different games that a virtual team could play before diving into the pool of work that needs to be done.

The team could organize a dance party, celebrate holidays together (online), wear costumes and hats on some days, or play talk tag and virtual charades. The length of the games depend on the team, but no matter how long they last, the games will guarantee that a smile is painted on every member’s face  as they head to serious work.

  1. Build trust.

It is hard for members of the team to work in isolation, but more so when they don’t trust the people they are working with. It’s important to create an online environment where everybody knows and trust each other. By doing so, it becomes easier for everybody to share their thoughts and work together towards achieving the goal.

Working in virtual offices are common practice in many industries, especially in business process outsourcing. Obstacles and challenges are to be expected, but they are not without solutions. Building interpersonal connections is part of human nature, and also the foundation of teamwork. With the right tools, processes, and people in place, it is only a matter of time before teamwork is enforced.

The key is to never let the team go on from project to project without bonding with each other. In a virtual office setting, it is easy to feel isolated to the point that the workers feel like robots. It is important to make every member of the team feel human for them to connect and work together to get the best results.