The expanding global and digital marketplace has made it possible for professionals to virtually work together no matter where they are in the world. It's simple, efficient and cheap, but the lack of face-to-face time can also have a negative effect on your connection with your team, especially if you haven't already developed a core understanding of one another.
To get a better understanding of the challenges that may be faced when working on a project virtually, we spoke to Penelope Trunk, co-founder of Brazen Careerist who decided to move to Wisconsin even though her company takes place in Washington, D.C. Trunk continues to blog about working issues and trends from the Midwest.
Here's are three main challenges that arise when working on a project virtually—and how you can overcome them:
1. Lack of intimacy. A recent post at the Harvard Business Review says that in the absence of personal contact, people can get more brusque and less conscious of other people's needs. For example, a coworker may not think twice about e-mailing a colleague who works remotely with a last-minute request for time-sensitive information, whereas if they were working side-by-side with that person, they'd be more considerate and try harder to get the request in earlier.
"There's an intimacy with face-to-face," Trunk says. "Even five minutes of face time can make up for months and months of communicating online."
Since you don't have a "face-to-face relationship" with your team members, make more of an effort to clearly convey what you want in your digital communication or risk wasting too much time resolving misinterpretations and misunderstandings.
2. Not enough communication. Whether your team decides to split up the workload or work closely throughout the project, you need to constantly communicate with one another.
"I think the people that are most successful are available most of the day," Trunk says. "They’re talking to people nonstop and they have Google chat up all day. This communication is crucial, so don't just wait to e-mail each other. You need constant communication."
It's difficult for people to see how you're spending your time when you're not right in front of them. To make sure they understand the value your work is adding, initiate communication—and do it often.
3. Lack of immediate feedback. Among people that interact mostly digitally, the lack of feedback can lead to a lack of productivity as workers are left feeling disconnected and unsure of the next steps.
You should be available to provide suggestions to your team members immediately, so that effective changes can be made and clarification can be dealt with in a timely manner.
This means that "you should expect to work in other people’s time zones," Trunk says. "Also, you need to put all documents in a shared place that everyone has access to."
By taking the extra steps to bring your virtual team together, and keep them communicating and on the same page, you and your team members will enjoy a much more satisfying and enjoyable project experience.
Read more tips and advice for virtual workforces.
Max Nisen contributed to this story.