More than 5% of Americans currently work from home. But the number is rising every year.
Businesses and workers all over the world are waking up to the notion that they don’t have to share the same space to work together. Technology makes working from home a simple and efficient solution to many problems that modern businesses face.
But is managing a virtual team any different to regular team management?
How do you get the best from a team that you can’t even see? Here is our ultimate guide to managing virtual teams.
What is a Virtual Team?
A virtual team refers to a group of employees that will work from home. These remote workers could be anywhere in the world.
Virtual teams can carry out a wide range of different tasks, from customer service to content creation, web design, and app development. If you can do a job with just a computer, then theoretically, a virtual team could do it.
What are the Benefits of Having Virtual Teams?
Do you find that when you are recruiting locally, you’re just not pulling in the right workers? Virtual teams allow you to cast your net far wider. Instead of employing locally, you could take on from anywhere in the world.
You could host a virtual interview, and all of your onboarding could be done online. You may never even need to meet in person.
By hiring remote workers from across the globe, you can choose from a far wider talent pool.
You’ll be offering flexibility and convenience to your employees, and in exchange, you can get the best workers.
Not only will virtual teams improve the caliber of your workforce, but they will also save you on your business premises. You may not even need to have a physical office at all.
What are the Challenges When Managing Virtual Teams?
It is hard to set rigid hours for your remote workers. You may need them to complete tasks within certain timeframes, or be available across specified working hours.
For some remote workers, motivating themselves can prove challenging. There is often a tendency to procrastinate or become distracted when working from home.
Your employees may be lonely when they are working. This can lead to mental health problems that are not easily identified by remote team managers.
You are unable to see how your team works. This can make it hard to know what they’re doing.
You can deal with all of these things by using person-centric management styles. Remember that all of your employees are people. They may be remote from you, but you have a duty of care as their manager to check-in and communicate effectively with them.
Can Virtual Teams Be Productive?
Any business leader may have concerns about team productivity when it comes to virtual workers. The lack of supervision and the proximity to home comforts and distractions could cause workers to slack-off instead of working.
However, this may not be the case. 86% of employees believe that they are most productive when they are working alone.
With less going on in their workplace, virtual teams are better able to get their heads down and do the job at hand.
What to Look for in Your Virtual Team
Hiring the right people is essential in any business. This is never more true than with a remote team.
Think about hiring employees with the following traits:
- Be self-motivated
- Have excellent written and verbal communication
- Be able to demonstrate the ability to thrive in a flexible work environment
- Have the confidence to ask for help
Invest in On-Boarding
Once you hire your virtual employees, the onboarding and training processes are crucial to their success and retention.
Put together a full and thorough training program. Use a mixture of media and check understanding throughout the process.
Have a period of continued and on-going evaluation and development after the employee has joined the team.
Using Team Management Tools
Communication is vital in any business. But this is never more true than in the virtual workplace.
To get the best out of your team, you need to communicate and manage expectations. Let your employees know exactly what you need from them and when you need it.
Use tools that enhance the quality of your communications. Emails are good up to a point. However, there is always a risk that information will be misinterpreted.
Having an open channel of communication for all of your team using messaging apps will mean that you can get in touch when you need to. All of your team can see the information they need at once.
Consider holding phone or video conference calls. Not only is it much easier to pass on information all at once to your team, but it will also allow your employees to ask questions. This lets you check their understanding too.
Let Your Employees Feel Like They’re Part of a Team
One of the biggest problems remote workers face is isolation. The feeling that they are an island and not connected to anything can be hard to deal with.
By encouraging communication across your entire virtual team, you will create a support network. It won’t just be them working alone. Having a connection with others in the team will let them feel part of something bigger.
In turn, this will allow your virtual team to build more of a relationship with the business. Through engaging with their teammates, they will have a greater inclination to work towards the company goals.
Remember that Your Virtual Team are Real People
Managing virtual teams needn’t be a challenge. Applying the same management style and communication techniques as you would in the office will ensure that you can set and manage expectations within your team.
Check-in often, understands what motivates your employees, give praise, and use all of the tools at your disposal, and you will have a productive virtual team that you can be proud of.
For more information about the tools needed to manage your remote teams, get in touch today.