How to be a Great Virtual Team Player

By: Laurel Farrer

At some point in our professional careers, we’ve all had that co-worker. You know the one… seeing their name next to yours on the shift list makes you groan, or watching their profile icon switch from “offline” to “active” makes your stomach turn. They’re difficult to communicate with, they slow down efficiency, and their habits are abrasive and irritating.

How to manage that problem-causing employee will be a different article. This time we’re taking the “the only person you can control is yourself” approach by discussing what you can do to prevent becoming that nauseating coworker for someone else, and earn your teamwork patch from others, distributed style.

In addition to minding your remote work manners, here are a few habits to develop that your coworkers will appreciate:


Limit Distractions.

Remote work can be isolating. There’s no sugar coating that fact. So, it often feels really exciting when all your peeps are online at the same time. It’s as close to “together” as you’ll feel until your next company retreat, and the temptation to hang out with everyone and pass the time with cat photos and Game of Thrones updates can be strong. But this is a professional environment, so if you don’t want to be blocked before you can type “LOL,” try to limit interaction so that y’all can get some work done. Remember to filter your messages, so you’re only pinging and messaging teammates when necessary. If you’re filling up your team’s channel feed or blowing up your boss’s phone with notifications, it’s the virtual equivalent of tapping them on the shoulder incessantly. Be friendly, engaging, and collaborative, but when it’s time for deep work, give your coworkers some space.    


Mum’s the Word.

Consider the sensitivity of information before sharing with others. Yes, distributed companies are notoriously transparent, as they should be, but sharing private information at the wrong time or to the wrong person can put a wrench in multiple workflow pipelines. Nobody likes a gossip or a leak. All team members need to be able to trust each other to care for the company and all of its projects and property together. This can be tricky to do in a virtual environment since digital lines can so easily blur. Make sure to protect the hard work and unified culture of your team by confirming clearance levels of company news and properly securing your virtual office.


Critique, Don’t Criticize.

We rely on people around us to offer advice from a perspective that we can’t see. Providing constructive feedback on each other’s work is a crucial way to enhance and develop our work. When you’re the one providing the feedback, remember to be sensitive and constructive in your comments to ensure that this is a positive, inspiring experience for your team members. Be honest, be specific, be fair, explain your reasoning, and always keep in mind that your comments will probably be read, not heard. Beware that asynchronous communication can very easily be misunderstood and misinterpreted. Try to always give the benefit of the doubt. If one of your written messages is misunderstood and things start to go awry, never hesitate to jump on a phone or video call to quickly sort things out.

How do you improve collaboration and getting work done on your distributed team? Anything you would add to our list? Tweet us @yonder_io with your words of advice!