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The kHUB Curator Team members have each been assigned a BoK section to own. This includes seeking, editing and sharing content related to that section. The curators are also sharing their perspective of various sub-sections of their chapter and contributing personal examples, experience, or related articles corresponding to the subject matter.
Chapter 6 Insights – Culture, Teams & Leadership
7 Lessons from Virtual Team Meetings During the Pandemic
Virtual team meetings have become a regular occurrence during the pandemic. This may usher in a significant change in how businesses operate in the future. Online tools and platforms have made the transition to remote work relatively easy. Most teleworkers (65%) who at least sometimes use remote technologies such as video conferencing or instant messaging say these online tools are a good substitute for in-person contact. (4) Although virtual team meetings present some challenges, they also have some benefits that may last far after the pandemic is over.
The PDMA Body of Knowledge Chapter 6 lists the steps to do virtual meetings well (5):
- Initiation and Structure: Make sure you have the right people and right team structure. As with all teams, people matter. Having the right mix of technical and social skills can make all the difference.
- Communications: since people are in different locations and may be anywhere in the world, communications matters. Make sure that meetings are held when participants can attend. Make sure people over communicate and use the tools available to keep the team abreast of activities and problems.
- Meetings: Virtual meetings need to have a rigorous format. The day/time may need to change to make sure people can attend. Have an agenda and try to stick to the meeting timeframe.
- Knowledge Management: A cloud-based system like Microsoft Teams and Slack may be useful in keeping all information available for all team members.
- Leadership: The team leader needs to have the basic technical and social skills. But also, the team leader needs to be more aware of problems for remote team members. Listen to your team, understand their issues and resolve issues quickly.
The pandemic has accelerated the work at home trend and the acceptance of virtual teams. What has this taught us about how to help make virtual teams successful?
- Provide water cooler time. In person team members can get together spontaneously as they walk around the office, stop at the water cooler, eat lunch, etc. This informal interaction can be very important in some innovation environments. Being outside the physical office changes this dynamic. It is difficult to replicate hallway conversations virtually but scheduling short debriefs on customer meetings, project progress reports, Zoom coffee break time, etc. may be useful in giving time for informal sharing.
- Use the best tools for your environment. During the pandemic organizations depended more on cloud tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Drive and video conferencing tools like Zoom and Google Meet. Because of the pandemic, tools were often chosen quickly without much thought to choosing the best tools. Going forward, review your tool sets and see if they are the best for your remote work. These tools do not totally compensate for in person meetings or walking around but do a good job of enabling sharing of information and supporting teamwork among remote team members.
- Look at quality not quantity. Team leaders may be nervous if they cannot see the work being done. Check in frequently but focus on the goals, accomplishments, problems and why this project is important rather than when and how people work.
- Focus on the people issues. It is difficult for some people to interact and be social in a virtual meeting. The team leader can use ice breakers to help here. Also, ask for participation. Foster inclusion by making the team know that everyone matters. Keep up the motivation. According to a Pew survey, 42% of workers ages 18 to 49 say motivation to do the job has been difficult for them while working at home. (4)
- Provide feedback Allocate time to talk to individual team members about their progress and what would help them be more successful as part of the team.
- Help with the work – life balance. Being “virtual” often translates into being available 24x7. In particular, teleworking work at home parents are working longer hours and having a hard time getting their work done without interruptions. (4) Things like childcare and separate working spaces and equipment may help here.
- Watch for Zoom fatigue. Although online tools can be very important, look for balance here in how often and how long meetings are and how long people are in front of a computer screen.
Working outside the office has been more successful than many companies have thought possible. More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, employers, particularly tech companies like Microsoft, Twitter, Square, Spotify, Shopify and Amazon, are increasingly adopting extended work-from-home policies. Will your company follow this trend?
About the Author
Rose Klimovich is Visiting Professor of Marketing and Management at Manhattan College in New York. She is also a Digital Marketing and Strategy consultant to small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Formerly, as the Vice President – Product Management and Product Marketing for Telx, Rose Klimovich created the Telx business strategy and developed the investment plan for new products and services in areas including colocation, cloud, Ethernet, and video conferencing. Rose’s team supported vertical markets including Financial Services, Media and Service Providers.
Prior to this, Rose was the Vice President of Business Strategy for AT&T, responsible for strategy development and investment decisions in new markets and technologies. Rose has more than 20 years of experience and achievement in designing, scaling and managing Internet, VPN and data businesses. Rose led AT&T to the #1 share position in VPN and to a leadership position in Internet Services.
Rose has an MBA and a BS in Math/Economics from Carnegie-Mellon University. Rose is Joint Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Women’s Venture Fund.