The concept of working from home is far from a novel idea. In the old days, craftsmen and artisans like smiths, bakers, and tailors operated from home, with many of them maintaining a dedicated workroom where they could focus on getting things done.

However, the start of the Industrial Revolution required employees to start gathering in factories to carry out their work with equipment and in teams.

From then on, people have gotten used to the thought of staying in the same room or office so that they can easily coordinate with each other. This is despite all of the advancements in technology that allow employees to collaborate regardless of each member’s location and time zone.

This year, however, has forced working professionals to re-examine the boundaries that have been set between personal and professional spaces. Indeed, these trying times have become an opportunity to explore available tools and see how they can keep employees productive even if they can’t congregate in their offices. As a result, a lot of teams around the world have resorted to connecting virtually. While remote work comes with its advantages, this type of setup can bog down the usual communication processes and keep teams from reaching their full potential.

In a time when virtual meetings and work-from-home setups have become the norm, how can you maintain peak productivity? What can you do to ensure that your team members can still bounce ideas off each other and collaborate effectively? Below, we offer five tips that can help you foster a dynamic working environment in your virtual office.

Establish Goals for the Team and Its Members

One way of ensuring that your team members are all on the same page is by setting a team goal. Even if you are physically apart, knowing your vision for your team (and the company, as a whole) should help all your members focus on the task at hand.

You’re likely working with a group of people with particular strengths and specialisations, and each of them may have a different approach as to how a task can be accomplished. If your members are aware of what your end goal is, however, then they’ll have an easier time consolidating their action plans and coming up with simplified processes that will help you achieve the result that you’re aiming for.

Once you’ve set a goal and determined a plan of action, don’t forget to keep track of your progress. After each milestone, check in with your team. Evaluate how each phase of the project was carried out, then identify and address any issues and challenges that may have impeded your progress.

Communicate Clearly and Make a Habit of It

One of the pain points of working apart from your teammates is that it becomes much harder to communicate with one another. Right at the start, your team should establish a habit of communicating clearly and regularly with each other throughout the day. For example, you can require team members to check their messages and inboxes at specific times of the day. You can also require weekly meetings to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding specific projects and goals.

Take note of the communication tools and programs that are available to you and find the best use for them. Do you have an official online communication software like Microsoft Teams, and are all your members adept at using this program? What type of information should be best relayed by email or video conference? Do you have a digital space where you can discuss non-work related topics? These are just some of the questions that you should ask while you’re deciding on your usual means of communication with the team.

Use Productivity Tools Designed for Collaborative Work

Shared workspaces and productivity tools are essential to a virtual team. By having access to these tools, your team members can more quickly determine what tasks they have to accomplish as well as coordinate with others regarding the status of any project.

The technology that you use doesn’t have to be top-of-the-line, but it does have to be robust and reliable enough so as not to cause any delays in your progress and processes. Ask your team members to make sure that their assignment statuses are up to date at the end of every workday.

Create a Space for Socialisation and Celebrations

Informal interactions serve an important role in ensuring team cohesion, especially now that your teammates are working remotely. Having a virtual ‘break out’ room can help your team members combat the feeling of isolation, especially if they happen to live alone. Make an effort to ask how everyone’s doing, what they’re busying themselves with, and the challenges that they face every day. Doing so can be your way of looking after the wellbeing of your teammates and making your interactions more fun and memorable.

Your team members may be working apart, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t work together efficiently. Follow these tips and you’ll be able to foster a healthy virtual working environment for your office-based and home-based team members.

Is your company looking for an online course to take advantage of all the features of Microsoft Teams? Then check out our course on how to work smart with Microsoft Teams here.