Virtual team building is a task with its own set of hurdles and triumphs. Defining goals, roles, and a good rhythm is hard enough when you interact face-to-face. However, virtual teams have even bigger hurdles to jump with a difference of time zones, countries, and oceans between members.

If you are leading a virtual team or are planning to, here are four tips to help make your communication smoother and more effective during your virtual team building process.

1. Set the virtual team tone

As the leader for your virtual team, the tone you use in meetings and emails sets the tone for the rest of the team. Make sure that you use a warm, approachable tone. Julia Young, Vice President of Facilitate.com says that being “well prepared for team meetings will result in a positive, calm demeanor and a good demonstration of active listening — all of which will have a lasting positive impact on your team.” Undermining the team with short, snippy remarks serves only to defeat the productivity you are trying to increase.

2.Inclusion is vital

In order to feel a part of a team, people need to feel included. Maintaining company-wide meetings as well as one-on-one meetings with your team members is the first step in making everyone feel included. Other ways to build cohesion into a team is to celebrate individual member achievements, or group accomplishments, by announcing them in team meetings.  You can also thank them profusely on any open forum boards the team is using to communicate.

3.Informal conversation is necessary

Naturally, we are social creatures. Informal conversation is a way for us to get to know each other beyond the roles defined by work. Virtual team building can include simple things. There should be a virtual water cooler for your team to gather around where they are free to discuss matters beyond the topic of work. You can encourage the team to post by typing out questions for the team to answer like “Who is the best super hero?” or “What important event happened today?” or “What goals do you want to have accomplished in ten years?” Make sure the conversations aren’t all business all the time.

4.Be available

It is your job to be there for your team. According to Professor of Managing People in Organizations at IESE Business School, Sebastian Reiche, this is the most important tip. Virtual team members can sometimes feel isolated – sometimes spending up to ten hours a day by themselves. Stay in regular contact with your team and don’t make it all about work. Try to ask them about their day, mood, or even social life. Make sure you can be contacted through multiple channels. If you do get left a message, try to respond as quickly as possible. You should never show absence to your team.

There are a number of virtual team building activities you can take advantage of as team lead. You can host a webinar where each member of your team is given one of Odyssey Teams Helping Hands Team Building ProgramOdyssey Team’s Helping Hands. They will be able to give advice to one another during the construction of the LN-4 prosthetic hand. You can also team build with Bingo. Mail everyone a bingo card and call out number throughout the day. Team members can then email everyone else “Bingo” in the headline when they win. A final way to bring teams together is to mail them each a gift, or card, and have them all open them at the same time on a video conference.

Virtual team building is becoming more and more common. Learning how to interact with them on a positive, personal level will make sure they continue working towards the common goal of a better company.