Are you feeling frustrated trying to communicate virtually with your coworkers? How do you manage virtually, and how do you connect with your team?
The pandemic changed the workplace from cubicles and meeting rooms to kitchen tables and video calls. In addition to figuring out the etiquette of this new working world and how to improve your production, knowing how to work together virtually has become a necessary skill.
We Have a Course for That
UNC Greensboro has an online course that teaches methods for communicating and collaborating as a team when working in a variety of locations. The Working in Virtual Teams course is part of the online Bachelor of Science in Integrated Professional Studies (BIPS) program.
The course’s three main goals are for students to learn how to:
- Collaborate on a virtual team
- Resolve any challenges while working on a virtual team
- Work and communicate effectively with team members in remote locations
Set Up Projects for Success
The course’s project management approach helps with communication, which is important to help virtual teams stay on track and deal with challenges that arise. As teams set up a project, they assign roles and create a plan so they know the work that needs to be done, who’s doing it, and when it needs to be finished.
“That helps with communication, and good communication is key to the success in all areas of life, work and personal,” says course instructor Teresa Shorter.
A group project provides hands-on experience as students research and find the best tools used by virtual teams, in categories such as centralized shared data storage, collaborative writing tools, video conferencing, and web conferencing. They submit an analysis and make a recommendation based on their findings.
Just like working in an office has its challenges, virtual teams face their own set of obstacles.
Shorter provides helpful techniques for overcoming them:
- Communication is key. It helps teams build a rapport, and Shorter recommends teams meet via video or web conferencing at the beginning of a project. “Even if they don’t use that later on, they need to put a face to a name and humanize the people on their team,” she says.
- Handle conflict professionally when it does arise. Shorter says it’s important to provide constructive feedback, be an active listener, and talk about an issue and not a person.
- Keep projects on track with project management techniques. A project plan or task list can help team members stay organized and on task.
- Scheduling regular communication can help build rapport. Some students may feel isolated and like they’re not part of the team. People who aren’t comfortable initiating conversations may talk if a meeting is already scheduled.
- Video conferencing helps people connect. “Sometimes they realize how much better it is to do it that way, especially if they’re the type that might feel isolation or might read stuff into someone’s chat or email,” Shorter says.
- Set up a workspace with set boundaries to avoid distractions while working from home, whether family, a to-do list, or a comfy chair and TV. “Not only does it help with distractions, but it’s also easier to disconnect when you’re not working. You’re not always on,” Shorter says.
Skills with Broad Appeal
Working in virtual teams isn’t a skill limited to business students. Shorter has seen students in a variety of fields in this course — from medical support staff, teachers, and financial services to sales, food service, and the ministry.
“I think the appeal to this is broad,” she says. “It’s not just business-type students taking it. It’s people with different interests.”
We offer many other exciting BIPS courses for you to explore. Fill out the form to download a free program brochure.