The Digital Glue Podcast

EP: 12 - Virtually Alone: Team Building

February 02, 2021 Episode 12
The Digital Glue Podcast
EP: 12 - Virtually Alone: Team Building
Chapters
The Digital Glue Podcast
EP: 12 - Virtually Alone: Team Building
Feb 02, 2021 Episode 12

“Keep a team chatroom open. There is nothing more important in a group remote project than casual communication. Not just official emails and work updates, but the ability to sit back and chat." 

Welcome to Episode 12: Virtually Alone: Team Building 

Working from home became a collective “norm” in 2020. And, if you were fortunate enough to stay safe at home during the pandemic, you may have found yourself in the new position of a work-from-home lifestyle. 

Now some of us have been doing the virtual thing for years, by choice, and there wasn’t much of a difference in our work universe when 2020 turned the world upside down. But whether we were new or old to the work-from-home movement, we all have things in common. We have frustrations and fears, we have less people to talk to, fewer, if any, people to run things by when projects got tough, and we all had to adapt and create processes for ourselves to stay healthy, mentally and physically.

Working from home is amazing, it is gratifying to build a business from the ground up. But it’s on us to make sure not to fall victim to the pitfalls of working from home and staying healthy. So, building a team of virtual co-workers can ensure you will never feel alone.

Here's what we will be untangling in this episode ...

  • How to maintain your health while working from home
  • 7 sources of frustration when working remotely
  • The many benefits of building a virtual team
  • How to make your work from home space perfect for you!

 

Are you ready?

Pop in your awesome earbuds and let's dive in!

Show Notes Transcript

“Keep a team chatroom open. There is nothing more important in a group remote project than casual communication. Not just official emails and work updates, but the ability to sit back and chat." 

Welcome to Episode 12: Virtually Alone: Team Building 

Working from home became a collective “norm” in 2020. And, if you were fortunate enough to stay safe at home during the pandemic, you may have found yourself in the new position of a work-from-home lifestyle. 

Now some of us have been doing the virtual thing for years, by choice, and there wasn’t much of a difference in our work universe when 2020 turned the world upside down. But whether we were new or old to the work-from-home movement, we all have things in common. We have frustrations and fears, we have less people to talk to, fewer, if any, people to run things by when projects got tough, and we all had to adapt and create processes for ourselves to stay healthy, mentally and physically.

Working from home is amazing, it is gratifying to build a business from the ground up. But it’s on us to make sure not to fall victim to the pitfalls of working from home and staying healthy. So, building a team of virtual co-workers can ensure you will never feel alone.

Here's what we will be untangling in this episode ...

  • How to maintain your health while working from home
  • 7 sources of frustration when working remotely
  • The many benefits of building a virtual team
  • How to make your work from home space perfect for you!

 

Are you ready?

Pop in your awesome earbuds and let's dive in!

Working from home became a collective “norm” in 2020. And, if you were fortunate enough to stay safe at home during the pandemic, you may have found yourself in the new position of a work-from-home lifestyle. 

Now some of us have been doing the virtual thing for years, by choice, and there wasn’t much of a difference in our work universe when 2020 turned the world upside down. But whether we are new or old to the work-from-home movement, we all have things in common. We have frustrations and fears, we have less people to talk to, fewer, if any, people to run things by when projects got tough, and we all had to adapt and create processes for ourselves to stay healthy, mentally and physically.

So, how can we strive to stay healthy, be happier than ever before in our work life, and never have that feeling that the grass could be greener on the other side?

Working from home is amazing! It is gratifying to build a business from the ground up and to be your own boss. But it’s on us to make sure not to fall victim to the pitfalls. So, if you create a nurturing and supportive work environment for yourself, and build a team of virtual co-workers, you will never feel alone.

Because honestly … sometimes working from home tends to get lonely. Things can get repetitive, and things can get quiet and maybe even a little sad. Especially if you are an extrovert. You would have had to make some pretty big efforts to keep that positivity flowing and the work popping out like the stream of awesomeness that you normally are in the office.

Well, folks … 

Building a virtual team can solve many of these problems. You are not dealing with matters alone, you have collaborators and friends, and much talent-specific help when the workload becomes too much. 

We all want to create the “perfect” working environment for ourselves while we maintain a solo office space, and how we connect to team members and build that network is vital. Even though some of us may have chosen to be a permanent work-from-home player, this is not the case for all. But the idea remains the same.

So, let’s just dive right on into what may cause some of the frustrations you may be feeling as you navigate into the work from home lifestyle, and how a virtual team could help …

 

Top of the list is ISOLATION.

Working virtually means you tend to lose the built-in camaraderie found in the traditional workplace. When your commute consists of walking from the kitchen to the home office, you probably do not have people on site to interact with throughout the day, unless you have pets … anyone else out there obsessed with their fur babies? I know I am not alone in this. I love their company. BUT … this can require quite an adjustment especially for people who love people! 

You cannot just erase the feeling of isolation by calling friends or former co-workers on the phone at any given time in your day. I mean, you can, but then your work will not get done in a timely fashion or will take twice as long as it should. You will lose any productivity you might have gained by working virtually. So, what can we do? 

Develop contacts in your field through networking groups and, as business-related questions come up, reach out to them for advice based on their experience. And as we talked about last week … it pays off in oh so many areas to build a virtual team. 

They become your new co-workers, your time and energy savers and your friends. They become the people you go to discuss projects, to build on new ideas and brainstorm together and sometimes even to vent. 

This kind of support is essential. And these amazing humans can be that for you. Your team becomes your new work family. 

Another thing I personally tend to do to break the humdrum feeling of isolation is to give a friend a call during breaks, scheduled breaks. A little bit of a friendly voice on the other end of the line can instantly give you a boost of all the happy hormones you need to finish off your day strong. Or sometimes I even connect with a client via a phone call. I do have a few clients who prefer to answer questions or exchange information by phone. And when I speak with them, I usually feel way more energized – especially now that I have the details, I was looking for in order to move forward in whatever awesome project we’re working on!

And … that is when I recognize that I needed to hear a voice other than my own!

Which brings me to this quote that I truly adore by David Rabin …

“Keep a team chatroom open. There is nothing more important in a group remote project than casual communication. Not just official emails and work updates, but the ability to sit back and chat." 

 

And with that being said … 

Next up is TIME MANAGEMENT

Whether you are focusing on client work or taking some time to work on your own business goals, time management skills can literally make or break you! 

This is truer for virtual workers than for those in an office because when you are virtual, there is no one around to see if you are staying on task or not. It is all up to you! You are the boss (which is gloriously amazing!!!) but you must be disciplined. 

Now when we have client work and dreams of growing our own business, this is where things can get tricky …

You need a solid priority list, some manageable timeline goals, and lots of determination to stay on task. I like to regularly schedule time to work on building my business – something new I implemented for Virtually Untangled just last year actually. Otherwise, I would spend almost every minute buried in client work. And it is a massive priority to me to make my own dreams come true too – just as I am busy helping my clients realize and achieve theirs. 

So, my advice is this … and I cannot shout this loud enough … STICK TO YOUR SCHEDULE! If you are having trouble determining priorities, ask those in your virtual network if anyone could spend some time coaching you on that. And going back to the virtual team thing … they can help in this area. 

I know Zoom’ing is the “new norm” and some may be getting tired of spending all day on-screen talking instead of getting the projects they want done. However, team Zoom calls never let me down. I can go to my team and ask for their input in all things business, and sometimes even personal. We help keep each other on task and on time by being always accountable to each other. 

Another thing I want to stress is that even if you feel you “work better under pressure,” procrastination is not your friend! Unforeseen situations can pop up at any given time and prevent your completion of a task. So, try to schedule your deliverables with some wiggle room … just in case. 

And again, this is where building a virtual team can make these lists an actual reality. Delegation and collaboration … sweeter words have never been spoken, trust me! 

Organization plays a huge part in this as well. But by organization, I do not just mean colour-coded binders and pens. I mean it’s time to be intentional about the way you organize. Personally, I am very intentional in the way I organize my time. I plan. I schedule. I block out time on my calendar for everything I need to do, including meetings and recurring tasks. This way, I know, on any given day, what I will be working on that day -- and every day that week. Sometimes even further into the month – or year. 

Being organized means you not only have a plan, you follow it. And that requires focus and self-discipline. What is the point of planning if you do not follow your plan? 

Being organized also means having a dedicated office space in your home. That space should be equipped with everything you need and nothing you do not need. No clutter! Sure, sometimes you may want a change of scenery. Go to a coffee shop or a library with your computer or tablet as working in a different location from time to time can stimulate your mind. But you still need a home base, a space that is used for nothing else. 

 

Okay, the next one is a major one when you are working from home. Especially if you are new to the lifestyle, it can be super tricky to navigate … DISTRACTIONS

There are dangers of slacking off, of doing home chores instead of work, childcare, pet care, unexpected phone calls, laundry… the list is literally endless. My secret sauce to fending off distractions is again, time management. 

For example, I recommend taking scheduled breaks. And yes, a true break of even 15 minutes, will improve your concentration during your focused work periods. If you know you have a break coming up, you can plan to feed the cat or take the dog for a short walk during that time. Swap out your laundry from washer to dryer. Grab a snack. That way these things serve as a momentary and welcome change of scenery rather than a distraction that throws you off track.

And once again, as we’ve talked about many, MANY times before, turn off all notifications when you need to stay on track to complete work. 

My virtual team knows if they do not hear back from me right away it’s because I am deep in the virtual zone with a task that needs my full attention. 

But we’re always mindful to keep each other posted when we need this space. 

So, let your phone go to voicemail unless there is that one all-important call you were waiting for. When you are on task with a deadline, be kind to yourself and shut out the noise until you are done. And then turn those notifications back on and deal with each ping and ring that comes your way. It’s YOUR workday, and YOU ARE the boss, so create the environment that works best for you.

 

The next thing that can get quite challenging is TIME ZONE DIFFERENCES

As someone who lives and works in one of the “middle” North American time zones, I have dealt with this frustration often. It takes some getting used to. And most people working virtually will run into at least the occasional problem caused by this. Yes … Sometimes the time difference is only an hour or two. But if you are in North America and working with someone in Australia, for example, the difference can put a huge strain on your ability to work together.

So, here’s how I have dealt with this in the past …

First, I created a printable chart showing which time zone each of my clients are based in with the time difference in a negative or plus format. Then I did the same regarding my team – you know that super-duper amazing virtual team I keep telling you about. 

The more clients you have, the harder it will become, eventually, to remember each one’s time zone. Keep this chart pinned to your wall or somewhere nearby so you can see it at a glance without having to search for it.

Second, make it a habit to clarify, in pretty much every conversation you have with a client or team member, which time zone you are talking about. Make that every time you talk or email about setting a deadline or meeting. 

Part of communicating effectively includes eliminating uncertainties. No one wants to hang up the phone and later think, “I wonder if she meant 5 pm her time or my time?”

Finally, if you are working with someone who will never have office hours that overlap with yours, you may have to make the effort to speak with them during your off hours. Save this solution for those times when you cannot wait until the next day for a response by email.

Okay, this next one is a huge one … 

Especially as people scrambled to get comfortable working from home last year. Everything was unfamiliar and so very irritating, am I right? What could make things harder? To some (not us) the dreaded LAND OF TECHNOLOGY.

Technology is great when it works like you think it should, but that’s hardly ever the case. While the frustrations of dealing with technology issues occur in the traditional office too, the difference is you likely do not have an “IT” support person to call when you are working virtually. 

I can actually hear the Ghostbusters theme song right now: “Who You Gonna Call?”

As a side note, I am one of the lucky ones as my other half; Troy is an IT guru. And one of my honorary untanglers, Shannon, has an IT genius for a husband, and they both have offered several times to help one of our team members who were in a tight bind.

Seriously people, build a virtual team … you are so not alone when you do this.

Okay, I digress.

It is a fact of life that technology will fail once in a while. Some days/weeks more than others. You cannot predict when it will happen. But what you CAN count on though, is that technology will fail at the most inconvenient times, usually when you are facing a project deadline or preparing for a video conference. 

Haven’t we all been there? 

So, how can we fight these technology demons?

First, try to become as familiar as possible with each new platform or app you start using. If the company’s website offers tutorials, schedule some time to review them. If you have questions, make a point of searching YouTube for instructional videos. If YouTube does not have what you are looking for (which is highly unlikely), try searching the internet as a whole … yes, Google it. I have found many life-saving technology tips that way!

Second, if you do not have a team member with a handy dandy spouse, establish a relationship with a technology guru who also works virtually. And, if you happen to know  anyone who fits that description, return to your networking group and share the referral (with the guru’s permission of course). And if not, don’t be shy, just ask for referrals. 

You are NOT the only entrepreneur with this need, so you should not have to figure this out on your own. Remember: do not hesitate to use the resources that are available right at your fingertips. They’re there for a reason! (And more than likely put there by you intentionally.)

 

And that brings me right into my next point … 

USING THE PROPER TOOLS. 

If you followed my blog, you know by now that I seriously love my tools. I love them so much I constantly recommend them to others. I even have a resources page on my website called “The Vault” devoted to them. 

I have tools for working virtually categorized as tools for myself and tools for collaboration. For example, for Virtually Untangled I use Wave Accounting to generate estimates, invoices, send receipts and to accept payment by credit card. 

I with my team and nearly 99% of our clients, use Asana to keep track of notes, ideas, projects and timelines, future ideas and dream goals and yes … even design files, Word docs and screenshots. So, if you like being super organized, Asana is invaluable. 

For working with virtual teams, I love Zoom for video and web conferencing and diving into Slack and Loom for team communication. 

I’m sure by now you see where I am going with this! 

Having the proper tools right at your fingertips in order to accomplish your work effectively is essential to living and working in a virtual lifestyle. There is truly way more than we need in the market right now, and with the work from home movement exploding as we speak, expect there to be many more. 

So, try a few out and find the ones that work best for you and your team. And remember not to settle on anything less than what’s comfortable to you.

 

Last and most certainly not least on my list of virtual pitfalls is … BEING STATIONARY … for hours upon end.

Regardless of what kind of business you have, if you are working virtually you probably spend a lot of time seated at your desk, computer, on the couch with your laptop or tablet, or drafting table. In a traditional office, you likely would have to walk farther to a printer, coffee pot, water cooler, restroom or cafeteria than you do when working from a home office. Covering shorter distances is a time-saver, but the result is when you work virtually you will probably not move around as much as you should. Too much sedentary work is a proven health risk. Our solution over here is scheduled exercise during the day. It serves so many purposes, moves our body, clears our minds, offers a change of scenery, and gives us a boost of endorphins to face the rest of your day.

Short but sweet … get off your butt and move!

 

Now I am certainly guilty of the next one … WORKING TOO MUCH

This by far has been my biggest struggle as an entrepreneur. Having your office in your home makes it way too convenient to pop back in and work for just a few minutes … then just a few more, later in the evening. 

Those minutes can turn into hours quite quickly. Trust me, I know this! 

There is always more work to do and it will encroach on your personal life in an unhealthy way if you let it … especially if you live alone. 

Of course, working long hours will be necessary once in a while, but the problem arises when it becomes a habit. So, some boundaries need to be formed. 

Your first line of defense is your schedule! Plan an activity for the time immediately after work. If you are disciplined enough, this activity could be something you do on your own like yoga, taking a walk or running errands. And if you need to implement the buddy system to get yourself out of the home office, then make plans to cook dinner with your other half or go out and meet a friend. Your team can help with this too! You can set up a system where you encourage each other to take breaks and not answer messages and emails after you have clocked out. 

Really now … Is there nothing this land of virtual teams cannot do?!

And just one more thing before I head off into my own land of working virtually -- yet not alone -- and I cannot stress enough from experience …

When you are a part of a virtual team you will have the support and encouragement you need. It takes some getting used to, the whole not doing things on your own all the time, but the possible challenges that working from home can bring are so much easier to manage with this special group of talented individuals that will always have your back. People you are privileged to call colleagues and friends.

And I promise you, even though you are working remotely, you are truly never alone.