4 Things to Consider Before Expanding a Virtual Team

The workplace has evolved, from cubicles to open floor plans, from open floor plans to virtual communities. 

Telematics is the new commute.

In the past, it used to be a deal-breaker if the workers with the skills you needed were located halfway across the globe.

Today, however, all you need is the right IT structure and some foresight to create a top-notch virtual team.

As the current pandemic continues to escalate, most businesses keen on survival have already switched to digital solutions, such as social networks, software, and virtual platforms to help them manage their remotely located, home-bound employees. 

Still, you can do more. 

For all those who have been thinking of ways to use this “new normal” to their benefit and grow their business rather than stagnating, we're going to zoom in on some things to consider before expanding a virtual team

Here are some steps you should take for a smooth transition, so that you can integrate a multinational team that works across multiple time zones into your business operations seamlessly.

Make sure the candidate fits in with the company culture

Making sure your new hire is a good fit for their new team and your company culture is no small matter, even more so if the candidate is from a significantly different background. 

Fitting into a new workplace is a growing process for the new employee and can present a learning curve for the company, particularly as your workforce starts to get more multicultural. 

In the selection process, take the time to explain your company culture in detail. Be clear on your values and goals, as well as what kind of community and interaction you would like to nurture. 

The clarity of communication is critical when you’re managing a remote team. 

Your employee will be less able to pick up those cues from everyday interactions with coworkers as they would at the office.

Additionally, depending on how varied a background you're hiring from, you may need to add specifically designed segments to your onboarding processes to help international team members who come from a generally different cultural space get more comfortable.

Consider time zone differences

This particular factor may not influence all businesses equally, as certain positions will allow for plenty of flexibility in work schedules.

However, if your niche or the position you’re hiring for explicitly demands a person to work in the same time zone or on the same schedule as you and your local team, this may prove to be a considerable issue if the person with the right skillset lives far away.

Talk to your potential colleague about this issue exhaustively to find a solution that agrees with both parties. 

If at all possible, try to keep your remote coworker on a relatively normal business schedule and make sure not to demand meetings that are in the middle of the night for them. 

Also, if they are working with multiple branches around the globe, avoid splitting their workday into morning and night shifts within the same day.

Large multinational corporations with offices around the world have the advantage of being able to allocate virtual team members to a branch more suited to their circadian rhythms. 

If, on the other hand, you’re a small or mid-sized business without branches in multiple time zones, you might have to opt for candidates who are geographically nearer.

In any case, this is something you will have to settle with your employee beforehand. 

If your potential candidate doesn’t have a problem with being a night owl or working at dawn, you shouldn’t either.

Just make sure you’re transparent about the demands of the job and discuss their ability to adhere to your schedule openly, and you will be able to ensure optimal productivity

Provide them with the necessary equipment

The right tools are as necessary as expertise. 

Make sure your employee has all of the equipment needed to do their job properly, but don’t assume they have it in their possession

They might have been provided with particular pieces of equipment by their previous employer and had to return it, or had it at their disposal in the office. 

If that’s the case, it will be your duty to provide it for them. 

In case they lack some or all of the equipment, consider your options. Can the branch closest to them provide it? 

Is it easier to cover the costs of them acquiring it themselves locally, or ship it to them? If the equipment involves highly expensive or delicate machinery, can you ship it without damage?

If you are issuing equipment to them yourself, you will have to have a good overview of what you’re working with, what condition it is in, and in which stage of its life-cycle.

That way, you will be able to track the asset and manage the necessary maintenance remotely, while your employee will know what to expect.

For instance, you will be able to decide whether the equipment be returned for maintenance or outsourced to a third party available locally.

Meticulous asset managing and having data in order so you can accurately assess this crucial point in bringing someone from afar into your virtual team is a smart time investment that will save you a lot of headaches later. 

Check their experience in working remotely

Sometimes no experience is better than some, as your potential candidate might have had a bad remote working experience and is now coming in with biases towards digital commutes.  

However, take note; as all communication will be done online, you’ll need someone digitally literate enough not to fumble around with basic systems and platforms they’ll use daily

Nevertheless, just as each company has its own general company culture, so it has its own digital culture.

This means you will have to train the new employee to make sure they get proficient in navigating it.

In this sense, a lack of experience shouldn’t be too much of a hurdle, as you will be able to familiarize the employee with the finer points of working in a virtual environment with your team during the onboarding process.

If the new employee exhibits enthusiasm and a desire to learn, acquiring those skills will be a no-brainer.

Therefore, try not to discriminate amongst potential candidates based on their experience or lack thereof, as long as they exhibit a willingness to adapt.

Conclusion

There are certain core aspects of introducing a team member that you should consider when you’re developing your virtual team. 

Make sure they understand the company culture and share the core values of your business.

With remote teams, you will likely work with team members whose cultural background may be very different from your own, so make sure to take that into account as well. 

Consider the time zone difference and do your best to offer them a semblance of a regular workday. Think about whether you need them in the same time zone or not.

Asses if you can provide them with all the necessary equipment in working condition, and how you'll arrange the maintenance. 

Get clear on your potential new coworker‘s previous experiences in working remotely as well as their digital literacy, making sure they can keep up.

Remember that, at some point, we were all novices in the things we now call standard and help your new team member and your business expand, adapt and thrive.

About the author 

Jen McKenzie

Jen McKenzie is an independent business consultant from New York. She writes extensively on business, education and human resource topics. When Jennifer is not at her desk working, you can usually find her hiking or taking a road trip with her two dogs. You can reach Jennifer @jenmcknzie

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