As technology continues to evolve, many companies are becoming flexible in their workplace structures and allowing employees to work remotely. This creates a unique set of challenges but there are many tips and tricks that can help managers set their virtual teams up for success.
Tips to Successfully Manage a Virtual Team
Establish an on-boarding process for your remote team. It can be difficult to cultivate rapport with a team that is not working together in a traditional office setting. When employees are in the same physical work-space, it is very easy to introduce new team members to their colleagues with a group activity, such as a team lunch. It is important that the on-boarding process for remote teams includes a similar means of introduction. This can easily be accomplished by setting up 15-30 minute video conferences between the new team member and their colleagues.
Establish clear expectations. Setting expectations is the key to success! As with any team, your employees will thrive when they have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. Be sure that you set clear expectations for response times to emails and phone calls, submission of reports or other data, and how, when, and through what medium they should communicate with managers, colleagues and clients.
Encourage communication throughout the day. Lack of communication can leave remote workers feeling forgotten. Working from home can already feel like being on an island, as spontaneous conversations about personal and professional life are less likely to happen organically. This can cause team members to feel unmotivated, decreasing productivity and morale. Online messaging apps can encourage your team to chat as they would if they bumped into each other in the office and can help foster a bond, thus making the team stronger.
Establish goals to promote productivity. Not being able to physically see if someone is actually working can be a challenge for leaders. Even if you have complete confidence and trust in your team, it is not always easy to have an inside view of their productivity. Setting 30, 60, and 90 day goals with specific tasks can help you and your team members stay on task. Weekly meetings – both as a group and individually – can indicate when someone may need help with a project or address productivity issues before they get out of hand.
Be available and approachable. Managers of virtual teams tend to have a workflow that is compromised of sprints throughout the day with several breaks in-between. This type of workflow helps reduce the risk of burnout when working with teams in multiple time zones. When your team is not able to see if your door is open, they may be less inclined to regularly check-in. Reinforce the fact that, while you may have an unusual workflow based on how global your team is, they are encouraged to come to you with questions or issues. Explain that if they call or send a message when you are on a break, you will get back to them as soon as you are able.
Leading virtual teams can be extremely rewarding and cost effective! Taking the above steps will help your team feel connected and encourage productivity from their remote offices.
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