Decreased costs, increased productivity and lower turnover rates are just a few factors leading to the rise in virtual teams, which are expected to make up 50% of the workforce this year, according to former Citrix Systems CEO Kirill Tatarinov.

While the benefits of virtual teams are undeniable, they do come with several unique challenges, perhaps the most ubiquitous of which is keeping virtual team members engaged.

One of the biggest barriers to remote team engagement is communication. In fact, in a 2018 survey by RW3 CultureWizard, 84% of respondents said they find it more challenging to communicate effectively virtually than in person. Another major roadblock is lack of collaboration. It’s essential that teams are aligned toward a common goal, which necessitates clarity around priorities and individual roles.

Ultimately, virtual team managers and virtual non-managers alike must be involved in a concerted effort to forge and maintain the essential connections that drive engagement. Here are some tips on how to do so.

Tips for Leading Virtual Teams

If you lead virtual teams, doing the following will increase engagement:

Pay attention to the virtual signals you’re sending — and receiving: In a virtual workplace, the lack of cues and signals like tone of voice increase the likelihood of misunderstandings. It’s important to ensure you are effectively delivering your message.

Include virtual teams in the headquarters’ culture: If your company is not fully remote and has a main office, it’s a good idea to find ways for your virtual team members to participate in and feel a part of the company culture.

Encourage remote employees to reach out to you and others: Lack of regular contact with co-workers is a leading cause of job dissatisfaction among virtual workers. Encourage team members to stay in touch with each other as well as with you.

Be highly organized: Clearly outlining expectations and timelines improves team collaboration.

Check in on a regular basis: Regular check-ins keep your virtual team members accountable and aware of project progress, successes and setbacks. They also give you the opportunity to find out how team members are feeling.

What Virtual Employees Can Do to Stay Connected

If you are a virtual employee, you can make working remotely a great experience by:

Staying in the moment: It’s important to be present instead of distracted during virtual communications. Even if your virtual teammates and manager can’t see you, they will likely pick up on whether or not you are fully engaged.

Communicating thoughtfully: Since open communication builds trust and improves productivity, it’s important to be forthcoming with challenges and opinions.

Choosing the right communication tools: Posing questions via email is often not as efficient as a quick phone call or video chat, both of which also provide an opportunity to make personal connections.

Not wasting time by giving free reign to your imagination: Whenever you find yourself feeling unsettled because of your perceptions, reach out for clarification rather than allowing your imagination to slow you down.

What strategies do you use to engage your virtual teams or to stay engaged while working remotely? Let us know by tweeting us @TrainingIndustr and @arielgroup!

Editor’s note: After publication, this article was updated to reflect the fact that Kirill Tatarinov is no longer CEO of Citrix.