10 Ways to challenge and manage virtual teams
It’s no secret that remote working is on the rise. It was popular before the pandemic and it’s even more common now. According to a study by Owl Labs, the number of people working from home has increased by 173% since 2005, and that number is growing since the outbreak of COVID-19. In 2019, 80% of people reported that they wanted to work from home.
Some businesses have embraced remote working and have processes in place to ensure that both remote and office employees are productive and supported.
But not all business owners are as prepared for the sudden shift. If you fall into this category, don’t worry, there are lots of ways you can make the transition to remote working smoother.
Use these tips to create a company environment that supports virtual teams
1. Less task-focused, more goal focused
With virtual teams, the key is to skip the micro-management and focus on the larger picture, like the goals your team is trying to achieve. If you try to keep up with every individual task that your remote employees are focused on, you will lose steam quickly. Focus on the end goal and track milestones throughout the week to stay on task.
2. Video conferencing
Video conferencing demands more accountability from you and your employees. Phone catch-ups are good for in between, but for a more genuine connection, meeting face-to-face is more effective. Look into platforms like Zoom or Skype to jump on the video conference bandwagon.
3. Regular check-ins
Schedule weekly check-ins to touch base with remote employees and stick to it. This gives both of you the opportunity to debrief on projects and update each other on housekeeping items.
4. Use good technology
Especially since you’ll be conducting more video conferences, make the investment in solid technology that can support office and remote employees. You don’t want remote employees falling behind because they can’t log into the VPN. Nor do you want video conferencing to start with ten minutes of tech issues every time. Do some research and find the right option for you.
5. Multiple modes of communication
You will notice a theme in this post: communicate. Your remote employees should have more than one way to get in touch with you. They might email you for high-level project ideas and housekeeping stuff, call you to hash out details, and direct message you for quick questions. You need to have all of these modes of communication available to properly manage remote teams.
6. Establish a routine for remote and office employees
Create the same set of standards for office and remote employees. For example: Everyone attends the Monday morning call and the mid-week video conference. If remote employees email you project status updates every other day, so should office employees. Setting a set of standards that everyone follows will make it feel less like two distinct groups of people: the office folks and the remote folks.
7. Utilize a project management system
If you haven’t invested in one yet, onboarding a project management system can be a game-changer when managing virtual teams. Everyone in your company can use it, not just remote teams, and it will track all the initiatives throughout the business. This will help keep anyone who is not in the office organized and focused on both high-level goals and individual tasks.
8. Overlap working hours
Even if your employees are in different time zones, set their schedules up so that you have at least some overlap in your days. It is important that your employees are available for each other during working hours. To make that easier, you may need to shift working hours to account for different time zones.
9. Don’t forget informal interactions
Make time for catching up on each other’s lives. Remote employees don’t get the benefit of saying a quick hello when they get into the office and recapping the weekend with colleagues. But this kind of chat builds camaraderie, so save time for it in your catch-ups.
10. Give leadership opportunities
To keep remote folks engaged and productive, give them opportunities to take on some leadership. If they have a specific skill that they can share with other employees, let them step into that role. Or, allow them to lead part of a meeting where they update the team about their portion of a project. Giving all your employees ownership where their expertise lies will help boost morale and job satisfaction.
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