Remote Team Management: 9 Tips on How to Manage Your Virtual Team Successfully15 May 2020
Remote working, virtual teams, flexible working. These are all terms that were becoming increasingly used in business up to 2020, in fact, the number of people working from home had been steadily increasing year on year. According to the Annual Population Survey, in 2019 approximately 5.1% of people worked mainly from home and a massive 26.1% ever worked at home...and then COVID-19 hit.
At the start of 2020 the COVID-19 virus spread throughout the UK and a national lockdown came into force at the end of March. The number of people working from home reached a high of 39% in mid-June (as reported by the Office for National Statistics} and Remote working, Working From Home, Zoom Meetings and Teams all became very common terms.
As a manager, it is necessary to adapt to these changes in business and get up to speed with ways to manage your team remotely and the benefits that it can bring.
Managers of real-world teams often worry about managing virtual teams as it is still a relatively new phenomenon.
Though this year we have been forced into this scenario, where managers and team leaders have had to almost instantly switch to managing their team via Zoom or alike.
Two of the most common concerns are the impact it will have on output and knowing that remote workers are performing to the best of their abilities.
In this article, we are going to look at ways we, as team leaders, can stay in touch with our team and keep them feeling very much like a team. So without further ado here are:
Communication is such an important tool for effective team management, whether you’re managing a team remotely or in the office.
Many people shy away from phone calls or video chats preferring emails instead, however, this immediately hinders communication. Everyone has had an email they’ve read a certain way, that was meant in another way entirely.
No matter which theory you prescribe to, it is generally agreed that in communication only a small amount of our understanding is the actual words we use. The rest is made up of a number of factors including body language, the intonation of voice, and context.
It is therefore vital that you pick the right method of communication, whether it be email, phone calls or video chats, for the message you wish to convey.
According to a 2019 State of the Digital Workplace survey by Igloo, 70% of employees who work remotely feel left out and isolated.
Feeling left out can be demoralising for staff and decrease productivity. Therefore being proactive about keeping people updated is important.
Often in an office environment, you might be having a conversation with a colleague about a project, which someone will overhear and be able to chime in on, adding their thoughts and ideas.
The benefits of this are two-fold. Not only does it help ensure time and energy is spent in the most productive way as nobody is doubling up on work but it helps build rapport and trust within the team.
At M Training, when we are working remotely we often have chats open for quick questions or comments. If a quick question turns into a longer discussion, we’ll often move to zoom conversation or phone call and ask anybody who we think should have the opportunity to have a voice in the conversation to join us.
Including team members in discussion helps stop them from feeling left out and also saves time.
One of the biggest advantages of remote working is flexibility, but one of the biggest disadvantages is that it can be hard to separate work from home.
As a manager, you can help by encouraging regular working hours. If you’re not sure what kind of hours they’re doing you can often pick up on small clues like when emails are being sent.
If you or one of your team struggle with time management then we offer a 1 day Time Management training course (available in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool & Interactive Online) which can help you optimise your balance and productivity.
Whether you are managing a virtual team or an office-based team it is vital that they have the right resources for the job.
It’s important to remember that resources aren’t just physical equipment such as laptops and printers but also access to files and information as well as systems and processes. Ensuring these are all in place saves staff time enabling them to focus on the work instead.
There are a lot of great tools and systems out there that might work for you. At M Training we highly recommend having a method of video chatting. Some companies use tracking software such as Time Doctor, or ones that show which file staff are working on but it’s really up to you whether it feels like that fits your company ethos.
Project management isn’t just for big companies, project management is an incredibly useful tool even for people working on their own.
Project management is particularly useful for virtual teams as it helps make sure everyone is meeting their targets but also helps bring awareness to any tasks or goals that may have been missed due to not being based in the same office.
Project management can help all team members, whether a virtual team or not, understand what is expected of them and focus on important tasks. It also allows you as a manager to monitor the progress of activities and deliverables.
If you’d like to learn more about how to implement Project Management within your team have a look at our 1-day Project Management course (available in Manchester and Interactive Online).
Performance management ties in with project management and is an integral tool for effective management. To find out more about performance management read our blog, ‘What is Performance Management? & Why Do You Need It?’.
Performance management, particularly 1-to-1s, is especially important for remote workers as it gives you as a manager the framework to check in with them regarding their work and as an individual. Try to ensure 1-to-1s stay about the individual, it’s not the time for project updates that should have other team members included.
Where possible try to conduct the 1 to 1s as a video chat, because as discussed earlier, you will be able to pick up on a lot more information than you would be able to just over the phone or via email. 1-to-1s should be tailored to each individual team member; new staff and underperformers will also benefit from more regular catch-ups.
If you would like to learn more about how to perform effective 1-to-1s, then check out our Performance Management Course (available in Manchester and Interactive Online).
It is tempting, especially when you’re busy, to try to shortcut communication and knowledge sharing by simply cc-ing team members into emails. However, this cannot replace a meeting update, whether it be over the phone or by video chat. Cc-ing team members into emails can’t replace updates because it often develops a culture of cc’d emails, leaving people with overloaded inboxes.
For many people, an overloaded inbox will result in skim reading or ignoring and deleting them without absorbing the content. Other people may feel overwhelmed with the sheer volume of emails and be unable to process which are priority emails and which they can dismiss.
Want some advice on how to get your emails under control? Read our blog, ‘Is Your Inbox Looking Scary?’
If your team are all working remotely and rarely/never in the office they can easily feel like they are just individuals with set tasks. It is really important to take the time to create and develop a company culture, ethos and values.
By taking the time to develop your culture, ethos and values you can help keep all of your team members on the same page and more engaged.
Those are our top 9 tips on how to manage your virtual team successfully. As with any team, office-based or remote, it's about finding what works best for you and your team.
want to learn more? Take a look at our Remote Team Management training course.
Good luck with your virtual team!
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