Driving Innovation in Fully Virtual Teams

May 25, 2023

Our mission

Author: Gloria Qiao

Driving Innovation through Diversity in Fully Virtual Teams

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, our professional environment has undergone a significant transformation. Remote work, once a sporadic luxury or an experiment in progressive companies, has swiftly become the new norm. Questions we once asked, such as "Can I work from home?" or "How many days can I work remotely?" have been flipped on their head. Today, we find ourselves asking, "Do I need to be in the office at all?" or "How often do I really need to be physically present at work?"

This change has brought with it freedoms and flexibilities that we were never able to imagine in the past. For some of us, it's presented the opportunity to work from anywhere, allowing us to fulfill lifelong dreams of traveling the world while remaining productive in our professional roles. However, this shift also came with its own set of challenges, particularly for those of us who are utmost extroverts (I am actually not one, believe it or not) and thrive on social interaction and collaboration. The absence of a shared physical workspace means we miss out on the impromptu brainstorming sessions by the whiteboard, the casual coffee chats, or the bonding moments during a game of ping-pong — all of which often serve as the cradle of innovative ideas.

At Trusli, we've navigated this paradigm shift since our inception. As an innovative tech startup, we've always operated in a fully virtual mode, harnessing the power of technology to leverage diverse talent from across the U.S. and the globe. This model has brought us a slew of benefits, from flexibility and productivity to economic efficiency. Yet, it's not without its challenges. The lack of physical proximity means we have to be more intentional in fostering relationships and facilitating effective communication within our teams. So, how do we drive innovation and foster collaboration within a fully virtual, diverse team? Here are some strategies we've found to be effective.

1. Non-Work Virtual Check-ins

Despite the physical separation, it's still possible, and vital, to connect on a human level. This is why we've implemented regular non-work virtual check-ins. These are casual meetings where we put work discussions aside and engage as individuals. We share about our backgrounds, hobbies, families, and more, to the extent one cares to share. It's an opportunity to get to know each other beyond professional roles. It might seem simple, but these sessions have proven invaluable in building trust and understanding within our team, which ultimately fosters a more harmonious and productive work environment.

2. Regular In-Person Meetings and Activities

While technology has done wonders for our ability to work remotely, it can't fully replace the value of in-person interaction. As restrictions and logistics allow, we've made it a priority to meet physically. Just recently, I had the delightful opportunity to meet our engineering team in Asia in person. We shared a meal, spent a day at an amusement park, and even included some of our family members. It was a priceless experience, transforming digital representations on a screen into living, breathing humans with their own dreams, hopes, and challenges. In parallel, we had a team outing in the U.S. where we stayed at a big house, drank beer, and played games. We have similar activities in the pipeline, including team outings that go beyond mere socialization. These outings will also serve as brainstorming sessions, where we can openly discuss our company's vision, future projects, and innovative strategies.

3. More Communication, Less Assumption

Working remotely requires a different approach to communication. When you're working side-by-side with someone, there's a level of rapport and understanding that develops over time. This often allows for more direct, less-explained communication. However, with remote teams, we've learned the importance of clear, contextual, and empathetic communication. We can't make assumptions about what our team members know or understand. Instead, we've found it beneficial to provide ample context, background information, and reasoning in our discussions.  Each communication must be clear, considerate, and contain enough context to prevent misunderstandings. Over time, as we build stronger relationships, our communication will naturally become more direct and efficient.

In our DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) journey, we recognize that these strategies are just the beginning. Diversity fosters innovation, and we're committed to nurturing an environment that celebrates diversity and promotes open communication. Our goal is not just to work together but to grow together, learning from our collective experiences and perspectives to drive our shared success.

So here's the bottom line, when you're dealing with a fully virtual team like ours at Trusli, it's all about nurturing that human connection, and keeping diversity and innovation alive. We've got to make time for a casual Zoom chat about life outside of work, or even better, get everyone together for some real-life fun when we can. Clear, thoughtful communication is key to making sure we're all on the same page. And let's not forget, our differences in backgrounds, experiences, and ideas, that's our secret sauce for innovation. It's the heartbeat of our DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) efforts. We're not just colleagues, we're a family, learning from each other and growing together, no matter where we are in the world. And that's how we keep pushing the boundaries, keep coming up with fresh ideas and keep Trusli moving forward.