According to recent reports, approximately 42 percent of the labor force in the United States is currently working from home full-time.
Is this the case for you and the people you manage? If this is new to you, you may be dealing with some challenges related to leadership and staying connected to your team.
For those who are struggling with managing virtual teams, as well as those who just want to level up their management skills, keep reading. Outlined below are eight effective and actionable tips that will help you adjust to the new normal and manage your virtual team.
1. Use software to stay aligned and in communication
When you’re working remotely, the tools you use to manage your team’s productivity and goal-setting become even more important. One of the best tools to consider utilizing is Weekdone.
The Weekdone uses the OKR (short for Objectives and Key Results) framework to help teams set clear quarterly goals (or Objectives) and identify specific metrics (Key Results) to determine whether or not those goals have been met. It also offers robust status reporting features and is designed with the PPP (Plans, Progress, Problems) strategy in mind, which makes Weekly Check-ins and 1:1 meetings a breeze.
When you utilize software like Weekdone, it’s easy for you to track your team members’ progress. You can also check-in to see how they are progressing on their plans at any time and provide guidance to help them solve problems quickly.
2. Be flexible
Flexibility is essential to team managers who work in any setting. Your ability to go with the flow and loosen the reins on your team members is especially important when you’re managing virtually, though.
Consider allowing flexibility in your employees’ work hours, for example. Ask yourself if you really need everyone to be sitting at their desks at 9 AM. Is there a little wiggle room to accommodate those who are also homeschooling children?
Remember, flexibility in hours worked can actually increase productivity. If you allow your team members to start working after they’ve taken care of other commitments, for example, they’ll have an easier time focusing on their projects and will be less distracted and prone to time-wasting.
3. But make sure work hours overlap
A little flexibility can go a long way when it comes to making virtual work easier and more sustainable for you and your team. Being flexible doesn’t have to mean letting your employees come and go as they please, though.
Depending on the type of work you do, this might not be realistic. If you work in customer service, for example, someone needs to be around to answer calls from customers.
If you need workers to adhere to a set schedule but still want to provide flexibility, consider having everyone sign up for specific shifts that align with their needs, preferences, and other responsibilities.
After everyone has signed up, review the schedule to ensure work hours overlap. That way, one person isn’t on their own for hours at a time trying to solve problems without input from you or their colleagues.
4. Be accommodating with meeting times
In the same vein of being flexible with your employees, try to be as accommodating as possible when scheduling team meetings.
This includes taking into account different time zones. If you’re located on the east coast but you have employees who are working on the west coast, for example, it wouldn’t be very fair to schedule a meeting at 7 AM your time (and 4 AM their time), would it?
Think about team members’ individual schedules, too. Do you supervise lots of people who have kids? If so, a meeting first thing in the morning on a Monday could make their lives a lot more stressful.
Talk to everyone on your team about the best time to conduct meetings. Then, do what you can to accommodate as many people’s needs and schedules as possible.
5. Check-in often
One of the primary benefits of working remotely is the absence of distractions that can pop up in the office (coworkers stopping by to chat, phones ringing, loud conversations on the other end of the floor, etc.). On the flip side, though, it can also be easy to get lost in your own world and forget to check-in with your team.
Failure to conduct regular check-ins can leave your team feeling lost and disconnected from you, as well as their co-workers. To avoid running into this problem, schedule regular check-ins throughout the day, as well as a Weekly Check-in to make sure your plans are aligned with your quarterly goals.
Consider setting “office hours” for yourself, too. Designate a specific period of time each day when team members can reach out to you via chat or video call to ask questions or address problems.
6. Set clear expectations
Clear expectations help to eliminate confusion, minimize errors, and make it easier for your team members to do their jobs well. Remote work and lots of virtual communication (especially in the form of email and chat messages) can muddy the waters and lead to a lack of clarity, though.
To avoid this issue, be extra diligent about setting clear expectations for your team. When you’re writing an email or conducting a video meeting, double-check that you’ve laid out exactly what you want to see from workers moving forward.
Invite your team to ask questions, too. Let them know that you’re happy to provide clarification and won’t get frustrated or be judgmental if they need extra guidance.
7. Foster a positive virtual culture
It’s possible to foster a positive, healthy company culture even when everyone is working from home.
Being flexible and accommodating goes a long way toward making work a safe and productive place for everyone on your team. There are other steps you can take, though, including the following:
- Creating a designated team chat for casual, “water cooler” conversation (and joining in so workers know it’s okay to use it)
- Providing lots of praise and encouragement, both in meetings and during 1:1 check-ins
- Continuing to celebrate special events, such as birthdays
- Hold virtual team building events
- Reaching out to team members and letting them know you’re there to listen or help them work through potential challenges
8. Screen new team members with care
If you’re in the position of having to bring new people onto your team while working remotely, be sure to screen them with the challenges of virtual work in mind.
For example, talk to candidates about where they’ll be working. Ask about what their schedule looks like and whether or not they have a quiet place to work each day.
Take these factors into account to determine whether or not this virtual job is a good fit for them.
Simplify managing virtual teams today
Managing virtual teams isn’t easy, especially when you and your team members are all new to working from home. However, if you keep these tips in mind, you can minimize the learning curve associated with remote work and help your employees continue to reach their goals.