Your Guide to Building a Winning Virtual Team in 2021

Cassy Aite
May 14, 2021
Your Guide to Building a Winning Virtual Team in 2021

Gone are the days when you had to commute into an office and plan your life story around the city where your company is based. With in-person teams no longer a requirement, virtual teams are more popular than ever — and they can be a great way to help you secure talent, build faster, and grow your company.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about virtual teams. We’ll explore what they are, why they’re great, and how to build your very own virtual dream team.

What Is a Virtual Team?

A virtual team is exactly like any other team, apart from the fact that people aren’t all based in the same location. In a virtual team, your team members can be based anywhere — whether that’s down the road from your corporate office or halfway across the world.

Virtual teams, also known as remote or dispersed teams, rely on technology to make things happen. Instead of catching someone at their desk or scheduling a meeting in the conference room, communication often takes place through online chat messaging, video conferencing, and email.

There are lots of different types of virtual teams out there. In many companies, their virtual team structure is simply a remote-friendly version of a department team model — so your project management team or your development team work together in one digital space. In other organizations, teams will come together to work on specific projects, tasks, or initiatives — for example, members of your engineering team, project management team, and marketing team might work together on a new product launch.

Why Virtual Teams Make Sense

Virtual teams used to feel niche — like something that only existed in the tech world or where you needed to gather executives together in a large, worldwide organization. These days, more companies are understanding the benefits of virtual teams.

Here’s why virtual teams are a great idea for future-forward, innovative companies.

Better Access to Talent

With a virtual team, you’re free to hire the best people for the job — whether they’re based in a workspace in your same city or are in entirely different countries. Your virtual team members can join you from anywhere, which means you can handpick the best candidates.

Virtual teams give you the opportunity to bring the best talent to your company. You’re no longer limited by location, and if you work mostly asynchronously then different time zones aren’t an issue. In fact, they might even be a positive — you can build better coverage for support hours and collaborate faster with a distributed team across different working hours.

Low Overhead Costs

Renting office space can get expensive, and it’s a cost that only rises as you grow your team. Virtual teams give you the freedom to expand without worrying about huge outlays on workspace, office furniture, and decor. You might set up a fund for equipment, but it’s nothing compared to the cost of renting an office.

You still need to create a fun, supportive experience for your team members, but instead of spending money on the bare bones of a building, you can invest in something more impactful for your remote team. Introduce a monthly wellness stipend, or recreate a catered lunch and learn with the help of Hoppier.

Increase in Productivity

When you work together in an office, the workday seems to slip away from you. A quick trip to the kitchen to make coffee turns into an in-depth conversation that can interrupt your productivity. With a virtual team, these kinds of conversations don’t happen in real-time — so your team is free to focus on their tasks and work more productively.

Team communication for most remote employees doesn’t happen in real time, so they don’t have to switch from focused work to oohing and aahing over dog photos. Giving your team the space and freedom to focus and work in an environment that suits them best can do wonders for team performance. Plus, they can catch up on those pet photos in the Slack channel whenever they have time.

How To Build an Effective Virtual Team

Virtual team members jumping up in excitement in front of a yellow background

Setting your team up for remote working takes some, well, work. You can’t just hire people, throw them together, and expect your virtual team to shine. Here’s how to build a high-performing virtual team.

Hire the Right People

You don’t have a team without people, and for a virtual team, you need to make sure you have the right people onboard. The right remote team members can unite your team and help everyone feel like they’re part of something special.

Look for team members that match your company's values, goals, and sense of community. Seek out people who are great at effective communication and are excited about what you’re building or doing.

Add people to your team who work together well, but are also capable of independent work — you want people who thrive on responsibility and enjoy the freedom to do amazing work. Most of all, look for people who will work well with and enhance your existing team.

Create a Defined Structure

At an in-person workspace, there are usually easy ways to figure out the structure. Maybe you organize teams by department or role alongside their team leader, or there’s a separate office for your executive team. Those physical clues don’t exist in a remote team, so it’s essential that you create a defined structure for people’s roles and responsibilities.

Having a defined structure helps your team members stay focused, organized, and comfortable. They know what their role is, and what’s expected of the people around them. It’s also easier for people to build connections and make requests across departments if they know exactly who to speak to. Structure can also help your remote team members feel more secure and help them avoid the pressure of being asked to work on tasks that aren’t their speciality.

Have a Strong Onboarding Process

There’s no in-person welcome lunch or office walkthrough when you join a remote team, so creating an immersive onboarding process is a must for virtual teams. You want new members to feel like they’re part of the team, not just a name on a list.

Create a simple onboarding process that takes your new hires through your values, goals, and what it’s like to work at your company. Introduce them to the tools they’ll be using, your company structure, and what their role involves. Make this interactive using video calls with their new team, and find ways to make it fun — like hosting a virtual party to welcome them.

Invest in the Best Technology

A virtual team member works on a laptop in front of a blue background

You can get away with running subpar technology when you all work together in the same space — it’s easy to head to someone’s desk and figure things out. When you work remotely, you need your software and tools to enable focused work, collaboration, and communication.

Work with your team to decide on the best virtual team software, based on what helps you reach your goals. Figure out whether Google Meet or Zoom will be your go-to for video conferencing and virtual meetings, and whether Slack or Microsoft Teams is your messaging platform of choice.

If you really want to recreate the office experience, a virtual environment or event platform could be a fun addition. It’s all about finding the technology that makes things easier for your team so they can focus on what you hired them to do — all while enjoying their experience with you.

Create a Supportive Culture

Being a remote worker in a virtual team can get lonely — especially for workers who are going through a hard time. It’s harder to have those short coffee chats and pick-me-ups throughout the workday, or catch someone for a chat when you need one. Help your team members feel at home and supported by building a culture and work environment focused on wellbeing and community.

Look for ways to replace those face-to-face moments with virtual ones. Build a culture where people are welcome to DM their team leader if they need a quick call, or create a space for people to share their life updates — good and bad. A lot of that supportive, welcoming feeling comes with hiring kind and generous people, but you can help build the foundation with tools and a positive culture.

Make Relationships a Priority

Building a virtual team across different countries and time zones can make it harder for your people to get to know each other. Coworkers can’t meet for lunch or go out after work. With virtual teams, it’s harder to connect, so make relationship building a priority.

While they can feel forced, team building activities can help everyone come together. Set up a video call and add some interactive icebreakers to the agenda — like a show and tell, or two truths and a lie. And while you can’t head to the local bar on a Friday night, you can get together for a virtual happy hour. Create opportunities like these for people to get to know each other’s interests, passions, and quirks, and they’ll feel closer and work better as a team.

If you’re not sure how to make your team bonding activities exciting, check out our guide on the best virtual team building activities.

Bring Your Remote Team Together With Hoppier

One of the biggest challenges with virtual teams is recreating that close team feeling when you’re interacting through computer screens. When you can’t meet up in person, a little extra effort needs to go into creating a welcoming experience where collaboration and team bonding thrive.

It’s often the social events or hybrid work/social events that create the best opportunities for team members to bond. Lunch and learns, happy hours, and employee appreciation days are great moments to spark conversations, discuss ideas, and build friendships.

Hoppier can help you recreate these experiences in the virtual space. Host virtual events and make them more fun for your guests by providing a digital card that can be spent on food, drinks, or perks that help bring the event to life — no matter where your team member is based.

Easy to Set Up

A virtual credit card that can be used as a virtual team incentive

With Hoppier, you don’t need to worry about organizing local vendors to send out drinks, snacks, or meals to a big group of people. All you need to do is create an account, set up a program, and you’re ready to start distributing digital cards to your team. Your team can then order from local vendors — cutting out all the admin involved in sending gifts or catering worldwide.

Create a Personalized Experience

Some virtual events can lack flavor — especially if they’re nothing more than a video call. With Hoppier, you can add some personality to your virtual event with branded digital cards, selectable vendors, and easy to personalize messaging.

Vendors that are covered on the Hoppier virtual credit card

Customize your digital cards with your brand colors and logo, and give your program a memorable name and icon. Leave the vendor possibilities wide open, or curate a selected list for a more branded event experience. Send a memorable message alongside your digital card that makes the whole experience feel cohesive and welcoming.

Bring Your Team Closer Together

Hoppier gives you an easy way to bring your team together by making those social moments happen. With a digital card, your team members can schedule a coffee chat or lunch date over Zoom.

You can host a lunch and learn where your team members order their favorite takeout, or make your kickoff meeting better than ever by providing funds for coffee or cake. Reward your team with a Netflix watch party and use Hoppier to make sure they have all the snacks they need.

Hoppier is also great for sending corporate gifts — like employee appreciation gifts, birthday gifts, or even client welcome gifts. The opportunities to get creative and use Hoppier for relationship building are endless.

Create an Immersive Experience for Your Virtual Team

While there’s physical distance in a remote work team, your team members shouldn’t feel any less connected with each other or your company. The right tools, technology, culture, and people allow a virtual team to have that same close-knit feel.

Make your virtual events and team moments feel more memorable with the help of Hoppier. Create opportunities for your virtual team to catch up and get to know each other with drinks, snacks, and in-person perks. If you’re curious about how Hoppier can help you strengthen team relationships and host amazing virtual events, book a free demo with us today.

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