How to Solidify Your Virtual Team


The other day I was talking to a colleague of mine about how in 30 years we may all be freelancers. It’s kind of a scary thought, but there’s certainly an upswing of the sense that the current generation coming up is living drastically different than the one preceding it. Sure, it’s nothing drastic to say that, but the specifics are: More and more people are opting to work for themselves instead of opting for a salary. We’re a generation of investors, but in a company: in ourselves. (This isn’t just my instinct telling me this; there have been lots of stories on this elsewhere.)

I’ve heard people describe it as every action being a dart flicked in a different direction, not knowing where there’s a dartboard, or if there even is one.

There’s a lot of reasons for this, though the two biggest ones are layoffs and the general distrust of companies that comes after getting the axe. It’s the latter that I’ll be focusing in on here, and, again this isn’t just me making it up. There have been books written on the subject. In short: We tend only to trust our families implicitly and will distrust anyone else. There are ways to sidestep this or fast-track the trust, which is a must in any working situation. Especially one where everyone telecommutes.

The Harvard Business Review boils down some ways to accelerate the process. One of them is to have predictable communication patterns. It breeds reliability and dependability. Call it pinging, call it checking in, call it following up, but the main thing is to touch base in some way and in a consistent manner. I do it all the time as a freelancer myself, at some point in the day (usually the morning) with my bosses who I work with on a regular basis. In the instances I’m not able to do that -- I’m out of town, on assignment, or have some other urgent matter to attend to -- I always drop an email or let them know during our usual check-in that, hey, I’m gonna be deviating from the norm soon.

It’s common sense. But, again: Not everyone has the same common sense. And if you grew up distrusting your family, it’s going to be tougher to solidify that foundation of trust. Whether you grew up that way or not, though, these are good habits to employ. Read about the others over at the Harvard Business Review. 

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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