If you find yourself suddenly struggling to manage your team virtually, you’re not alone. Working remotely was already a trend starting to take hold across many industries as technology improved and Millenials and the emerging Gen Z members of the workforce sought to improve their work/life balance. Then the pandemic pushed this “trend” forward at warp speed and, suddenly, the luxury of working from home became a necessity.
As the pandemic progressed, the ability to work with virtual teams suddenly went from a novel skill on your resume to your number one frantic Google search – “how to effectively manage a virtual team”, “how to manage conflict in virtual teams,” and “managing virtually” all shot up drastically in the keyword rankings practically overnight.
This reflects a very real struggle for managers across the country as they learn to adjust their managerial styles to the new norm. Virtual teams can be a challenge at the best of times. It’s difficult to create a sense of company culture remotely and dealing with new technology, different time zones, tracking software, and motivating your team from afar (not to mention the pandemic!) certainly doesn’t help.
But studies show that work from home is here to stay. The Workforce 2020 survey found that 83% of executives plan to increase the use of intermittent employees and consultants over the next three years. That means that the managers who will succeed in the future are those who are able to produce results no matter where their team is located. So take advantage of this opportunity to adapt and grow as a manager while you’re still ahead of the curve!
Luckily, the experts at iProv are here to help. We were working remotely long before the pandemic struck, so we’re uniquely positioned to address how to manage virtual teams effectively. Check out these Dos and Don’ts as we explore the best way to manage virtual teams without losing your cool—or your team!
Do Define Your Work Systems
Different people have different ways of working. In the past, in-person training and the social conditioning of your company culture ensured that most employees were doing things at relatively efficient and similar paces. But with no comparison—and sometimes, no one to easily or discreetly ask—remote employees are often left to figure out how to do things on their own.
This can result in inefficient work systems and a slower pace of work. As a manager, you can cut this off at the pass by laying out clear processes, setting work standards, and making your expectations known. Creating replicable work systems allows your employees to gauge their own effectiveness. Knowing how long specific tasks should take and what the outcome should look like results in fewer questions and fewer feelings of frustration and confusion.
Standardizing your workflows—while still allowing flexibility for creative tasks!–helps keep employees on task and engaged in their work.
Do Establish Multiple Communication Channels
Different people are most comfortable communicating in a variety of ways. One way to ensure that you have your finger on your team’s pulse, even when you’re not physically near, is to encourage people to communicate with you in whatever format is easiest for them. Slack, IM, email, text, Asana, Zoom, Google Meets…the list goes on. Choose the formats that work for you and for your team members and establish known parameters around their use.
Just make sure that everyone understands which tools and platforms are to be used for which type of communication. For instance, email may be how you make official work requests while Slack may be for more informal communications. Or maybe texting is only acceptable in emergencies—like an employee that informs you that they’re calling in sick. Whatever works for your team, just make sure that your communication is consistent and clear.
Don’t Fall Into the Anti-Trust Trap
When you’re used to physically seeing your team working in front of you, it can be very easy to feel like they’re not working as hard now that they’re out of sight. With a new team or in new circumstances, it’s natural to check in regularly and make sure that everyone is on task and settling in. As you develop a cadence and your team shows you they can be trusted to complete their work at their usual level of quality, it will be easier to loosen the reigns and take a step back.
No matter how tempting it is, you should steer clear of surveillance techniques and surprise check-ins as much as possible. Numerous studies have shown that the more surveilled and mistrusted employees feel, the less productive they become. In fact, employees who know they are being monitored electronically consistently report having less sense of control and ownership over their work. And if they have no investment in the work, there is suddenly a steep decline in motivation which ultimately cuts into your team’s productivity and results.
Remember, you hired these people for a reason. If you trusted them to do their jobs before, there is no reason to assume differently now. And if you find that you have an employee who is underperforming or taking advantage, deal with it appropriately and firmly. If you must, let them go and hire someone who is willing to put in the work. Don’t let one person color your view of all of your employees and don’t waste your time obsessing over how and when they are working. As long as the quality of work doesn’t suffer, it really doesn’t matter.
Don’t Forget to Prioritize Team Cohesion
The isolation of working from home can make it harder for your team to work together on group projects. There’s so many factors that can affect your team’s ability to interact and collaborate. From weak internet connections to home distractions, it can be difficult to keep a team on the same page.
Making it easier on your team to collaborate virtually is easier said than done, but it isn’t impossible. Schedule outside events, celebrate employee birthdays, or have a virtual happy hour! Continually finding new ways to interact with your coworkers in a personal, while still professional can help them feel more comfortable reaching out to collaborate on work together. Try giving your team more opportunities to get to know one another; you might be surprised by their increased productivity.
We get it. When you’re first learning how to manage virtual teams, the learning curve can be steep. But generally speaking, as long as you’re keeping the lines of communication open, staying flexible, and engaging your employees as much as possible, you’ll find your new managerial groove in no time! Remember, even when the places change, the people and the job stay the same.
For more tips on effective management and leadership, contact iProv! We specialize in helping companies grow their organizational strategies through internal and external marketing campaigns. Engage your audience, your employees, and your industry’s thought leaders with one of our customized plans.