How to Lead A Virtual TeamPublié le 19 March 2020
How to lead a virtual team is a question many office managers and business leaders are asking themselves right now. Even when employees are separated, team leaders and managers still have an important role to the play.
The image of the office as a place where all employees of a company work together under the same roof at the same time is growing increasingly outdated. With the widespread adoption of technology and digital workflows throughout businesses of all types, the need for a physical office is increasingly being called into question. A recent study found that 63% of companies have remote workers as part of their regular staff, meaning employees who are not physically in the office and complete their work virtually, and this number is on the rise. This is why we named it one of the top HR trends of 2020.
There are many benefits to utilizing virtual employees and virtual teams, such as the ability to find the best candidates from around the world, and the number of companies employing remote workers will only increase. It is important to acknowledge, however, that managing a virtual team presents different types of challenges when compared to managing traditional in-office workers. While it still involves placing a strong emphasis on communication, collaboration, scheduling and structure, the fact that a virtual team of employees can be in different cities, time zones and even countries makes for unique management requirements. All of these things must be considered when deciding how to lead a virtual team.
Here are 5 key factors to keep in mind when leading a virtual team:
- Clear Communication
- Schedule and Structure
- Avoid Micromanaging
- Treat it like a Real Office
- Have the Right Tools
Communication is vitally important in all businesses and work environments. It is imperative that company leaders and managers set clear goals and expectations. Team members must be fully able and prepared to communicate regularly in order to discuss their work progress and any challenges they have encountered. Despite the fact that the office environment allows for all employees to simply get up and talk with each other, a recent survey found that 73% of communication specialists consider the lack of information sharing in offices to be a serious problem.
When implementing a virtual team of employees, the opportunity for communication mishaps increases dramatically. Leaders of virtual teams must use all the communication tools at their disposal to ensure an orderly flow of information to all team members. There are a number of apps and software programs designed to facilitate communication between remote employees, such as Slack, Discord, WhatsApp, Zoom, and more. Each company must find the method that works best for their team.
A virtual office should take advantage of available tools to conduct important meetings between remote workers. Skype, Google Hangouts and similar programs allow for simple and effective video conferencing. Through the use of these telecommunication tools, it is easy to conduct meetings between remote workers and share important updates. Once an appropriate tool has been selected, managers must ensure that daily communication between team members continues to happen. This involves reaching out to team members to check on the status of projects, inquiring about any issues and making sure that employees are connecting with one another.
Schedule and Structure
Having a set schedule and organizational structure helps every type of office stay on track, including virtual offices. Every project has milestones that must be hit at certain times in order for it to be completed successfully, and these points must be laid out beforehand for all employees to see. When managing virtual employees in different time zones, it requires some extra effort to ensure a smooth workflow. This is when the organizational structure of a virtual team also comes into play.
If one team member lives in London while another resides in Seattle, a schedule that would force the Seattle employee to complete an initial phase of a project before the London employee can begin their work would not be productive. It is important to make sure that the organizational structure of a virtual team makes common sense. This way it will be conducive to creating quality work that is completed according to schedule.
Micromanaging is always bad. It’s bad for productivity, it’s bad for company culture and it’s bad for employees. This makes it all the more frustrating that almost 8 out of 10 workers report having to deal with a micromanager for a leader. When acting as the supervisor or manager of a virtual team, with members separated by geography and time, attempting to oversee every aspect of each person’s work is impossible.
When assembling remote workers, managers need to be confident in their ability to proceed independently, with a limited amount of oversight. By establishing a company culture of trust, collaboration and accountability, supervisors will have enough confidence in their team to allow them to proceed without the need for constant supervision. The workers will then produce better results and keep the company on track to achieve their business goals.
Treat a Virtual Office like a Real One
Despite the fact that a virtual team may rarely, if ever, meet in person, it does not mean that the standard rules and acceptable behaviours of offices do not apply. It is still very important for every coworker to treat each other with respect and courtesy at all times. The same HR rules that apply to existing offices should apply to virtual offices as well.
An organization with a virtual office must still establish clear rules regarding conduct and behavior, with defined consequences if they are broken. The fact that coworkers may not be physically in the same space with each other does in no way mean that proper workplace conduct is not necessary.
Have the Right Tools
As with any project, a virtual team needs to have the right tools in order to be successful and productive. There are a number of programs specifically designed to allow work and projects to be shared throughout several offices. Project management software programs, including Jira, Bugzilla, Helix, Google Docs and more, create platforms that can easily be accessible by remote workers. With the capability for file-sharing and real-time updates, it ensures that a virtual office stays on track with every project.
With the proliferation of digital tech into all types of industries and sectors, it has never been easier to establish virtual teams or allow your employees to work remotely. Company leaders and managers need to take the time to familiarize themselves with how to lead a virtual team, for the benefit of their employees and the company.
Taking advantage of project management software, telecommunication apps and other tech innovations, will allow virtual teams to communicate, create schedules and share work just as easily as they would if they were occupying the same physical office. As long as proper team management practices are in place, it will allow their employees to effectively work remotely as part of a dedicated virtual team.