Managing Virtual Teams to Stay Connected & Productive Remotely

Today’s work landscape looks very different from even a few years ago. The traditional office setup has given way to a new era of remote work. Green Apple transitioned into a remote office when the pandemic hit in 2020, and we have thrived as a virtual team. Our core team members currently live in Nashville, Tennessee and Charlotte, North Carolina. We have a large group of freelancers who we lovingly refer to as “The Orchard” and the majority of them live outside of our home base in Nashville, including a few in other countries outside of the U.S.

Despite the distance that separates us, we’ve found ways to stay connected. This blog post highlights some of the practices we’ve put in place that not only keep our team cohesive but allow us to flourish in an evolving work environment.

Tools for Productivity and Connection

We use several tools that are critical to helping us communicate seamlessly while also organizing our workflow and processes. Basecamp is a great collaboration tool that includes several essential communication features. Features we find helpful in Basecamp include message boards, to-do lists, file storage, scheduling, and real-time chat. We use BC to streamline workflows, track projects, and communicate with each other regarding specific projects. 

We find it most helpful to have tools that allow our team to collaborate in real-time, and Google Workspace is great for this. We use Google Drive for blog writing, Google Sheets for social content, and Gmail to communicate with our team and our clients. Google Workspace tools make it possible for us to work together with a colleague or a client even if we’re not near them. To keep the memes and gifs flowing, we keep in touch on a team Discord, and our Content Marketing Specialist recently began experimenting with Airtable for social media planning and deployment.

Zoom is our go-to video conferencing tool and we use it daily. While remote work offers incredible flexibility, it can be so helpful to meet for the occasional check in meeting to ensure our team is on track. The platform offers several membership plans tailored to different user needs so you can choose what will work best for your team and budget.

Twice-a-Week Huddles

Keeping your team connected and communicating is crucial when working remotely. The core team at Green Apple meets twice a week on Zoom for an hour to check in and strategize about the days, weeks, and months to come for our clients. We typically start off each call with some personal catch-up and stories, then dive into business. It’s not unusual for someone to toss out a “thank you” to a fellow team member or give kudos for a job well done. Our twice a week Zoom meetings also provide us with an opportunity to check in with each other to ensure everyone is feeling balanced and supported in their role. (By the way: if you’ve been feeling like your Zoom meetings run too long or feel disorganized, we gathered a few tips to help make them even more effective.)

In-Person Connection

Since most of us work and live in Nashville, we also schedule times to work together in person. We have a corporate membership at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, a dynamic, collaborative space where we can gather together in person. Whether it’s meeting up with the whole team or a quick face-to-face with just a few of us, having a designated place where we can work side by side is incredibly helpful. 

Our team also volunteers together! We’ve built a connection to our community through our volunteer partnership with Thistle Farms, an organization that supports women in need of housing, employment, and support. Our volunteer sessions there have also helped strengthen our bond as a virtual team. CEO Samantha Pyle also recently implemented Volunteer Time Off. VTO incentivizes giving back to the community by setting aside time and financial compensation for working at local nonprofits. When coupled with a company’s mission to create a thoughtful work environment, VTO can boost an organization’s reputation and culture. It’s certainly made an impact on all of us at Green Apple and continues to serve as a great bonding experience for our team.

Developing and Evolving As A Team

Green Apple’s partnership approach allows us to adapt our services for clients as their businesses evolve, and we’ve taken the same approach with our team. As the work landscape continues to change, we will continue to evolve alongside it. Being part of a virtual team provides all of us with an opportunity to redefine what it means to be cohesive and productive in the digital age. Remote work doesn’t have to be a barrier to success, it just needs the right strategies and tools in place. If you want a strong and connected team to audit your website, social media presence, or marketing approach, reach out to us. We’ll develop a bespoke strategy to highlight your brand and help grow your audience. 

3 Ways to Improve Zoom Meetings with Your Clients

If quarantine had a popularity contest, Zoom would have reigned supreme—and to think there was once a time when this company was not a household name! Zoom meetings have allowed companies to remain as “business-as-usual” as possible during the uncertain times of the past year. Most importantly, Zoom has allowed us to maintain a personal connection to our client base, which is pivotal to healthy business collaborations.  Although Zoom has been a lifesaver for businesses and families alike throughout the pandemic, unfortunately, it is still only a substitute for face-to-face communication; there are still many obstacles you must consciously work to overcome in order to achieve successful communication. As a respected business leader, it is our duty to overcome any communication barriers and ensure that our client interactions are of top-notch quality. In this article, we discuss three ways in which you can improve the quality of your Zoom meetings with clients.

1. Familiarize Yourself with Customizable Options

As with any new technology that you integrate into your daily business operations, there is a slight learning curve while familiarizing yourself with Zoom and all of its settings. It is certainly of no help that over the last year, as its popularity skyrocketed, numerous changes have been made to this application. Due to these constantly changing features, it’s even more vital for you to ensure that your team is familiar with the default settings and how to appropriately customize them.  One feature we feel is especially important to client communication is to turn on the “Always Display Names” setting, so that you or your clients are never second guessing names. We’ve also all heard of that urban legend where something embarrassing happens in the background of a coworker’s Zoom meeting, so protect yourself from this unfortunate mishap by customizing your background to something simple (and safe!). Another feature we highly recommend is the “Waiting Room.” Use this feature to gather yourself and prepare rather than immediately being thrown into a client meeting. 

2. Organize Your Zoom Experience

Conducting a high-stakes client meeting via Zoom can feel overwhelming and unnatural, even a year later. Fortunately, there are measures you can take to minimize this stress. Take time to prepare prior to meetings in the following ways:
  • Adjust your settings to automatically record and save meetings
  • Have an agenda handy (and distribute to other meeting participants beforehand)
  • Adjust privacy settings prior to meetings for peace of mind
  • Distribute the meeting link and ID prior to the day of the meeting
  • Select the “Hide Non-Video Participants” setting so that you can direct your focus
By following these suggestions, you will enter your client meetings feeling prepared and confident; and in doing so, you will ensure that you get the most out of your client communications.

3. Encourage Participation

At this point, we all have Zoom-meeting fatigue, which is why it’s more important than ever to engage with clients and encourage them to participate in virtual meetings. A great way to encourage participation is to direct meeting attendees to use the “Reaction” and “Chat” features. Because time is of the essence during virtual meetings, these features allow for interactions between individuals while not disrupting the flow of the original agenda. The chat feature allows additional notes and resources to be shared with ease and referenced at a later date.  Above all, the goal to keep in mind while considering virtual meeting participation is that your job is to encourage rather than intimidate. Speak with energy and convey to your clients that their ideas matter and that you are genuinely interested in collaboration rather than a lecture.  Are you looking for a strategic, full-service marketing firm centrally located in Nashville? Contact Green Apple Strategy today to schedule a consultation. Our team is happy to sit down with you to discuss your goals and how we can help you achieve each and every one of them.

3 Ways to Improve Your Team’s Zoom Meetings

Despite unexpected roadblocks, businesses across the globe have evolved to find a new normal. Even across wildly different industries, teams have adopted innovative technologies to help us operate as a digital workplaceZoom. Video conferencing has become second nature, as it’s now a tool that many use daily. Though we’ve gotten used to consistent Zoom calls and remote-work etiquette, we are ready to move beyond the basics. So, let’s take our Zoom skills to the next level. In this post, we will discuss three ways to improve your team’s virtual meetings. 

Design your Virtual Meeting

Think of your meeting as a playevery cast member has a role to play, no matter how big or how small, to ensure that the meaning is clearly conveyed. All cast members rely on one another to fulfill these specific roles to make certain the whole thing goes off without a hitch. What should your cast look like? Several key roles include the following:
  • The Moderator—It’s important that a team member keeps things moving along, ensuring that all important agenda topics are addressed.
  • The Facilitator—The planner, the person to ensure that all key team members are included and all schedules are coordinated to optimize the meeting time.
  • The Notekeeper and Timekeeper—It goes without saying these are important roles. Meeting notes should always be readily available for long-term reference.
  • The “Yoda”—Every good play has its fair share of quirky characters! The Harvard Business Review recommends appointing a person to “cut to the chase” or “acknowledge the elephant in the room.” This will ensure an amount of candor that is vital to meeting productivity.

Meld the Personal with the Professional

Prior to the pandemic era, most professionals might have mentioned small-talk or chit-chat as one of the least favorable parts of a business meeting. We get it. It might have felt a little out of place to hear Dave from IT talk about his new stir fry recipe or Michelle from HR’s kids’ Halloween costumes. But, we are living in a different world where isolation has become pervasive and work productivity and team morale have taken a hit. Humans are intensely social beings, and it doesn’t serve us well to primarily communicate with a screen rather than faces. We often struggle to re-calibrate our communication methods. Many have also reported feeling a lack of purpose and accountability without a physical workspace and coworkers. Therefore, initial meeting chit-chat has now become a life-buoy of sorts, a micro-equivalent of a team retreat. Try including a quick personal/professional check-in at the beginning of your Zoom meetings to help overcome isolation and build camaraderie. 

Get Comfortable (But, Not Too Comfortable)

So, maybe we were willing to overlook the poor lighting, weird camera angles, and background-Zoom-bloopers within the first few months of our new virtual workspace; but now, we are seasoned Zoomers, and it’s time to show it. If you’re anything like us, there was definitely an initial thrill of discreetly wearing sweatpants during the usual team meetings. However, with quarantine-fatigue running rampant, dressing for a face-to-face work environment has been shown to steadily increase productivity and motivation for virtual employees.  Here are some additional tips to improve your appearance and increase your motivation:
  • Turn on your camera whenever possible.
  • Test any technical issues 15 minutes prior to the start of the meeting.
  • Review the agenda prior to the meeting, taking personal speaking notes.
  • Dress and conduct your facial expressions as though the meeting were face to face.
Are you looking to better connect and engage with your customers in this new virtual age? Contact Green Apple Strategy today to schedule a consultation.