In the wake of the pandemic, remote work has become the new norm. It's also become a new source of stress for people who aren't used to a totally virtual work environment.
But it looks like working from home is here to say, even post-Covid.
Many Canadian businesses are giving employees the option to continue working from home after the pandemic subsides.
And some are ditching their physical office space and going permanently online.
This massive shift to remote working is forcing managers to face a whole new set of challenges.
How can you keep people connected and engaged when they're not together in the same office - or even the same time zone?
How do you track progress, monitor performance, and hold your staff accountable?
Apply these 7 simple strategies to take control and get comfortable with the new reality of virtual team management.
1. BE FLEXIBLE ABOUT WHEN PEOPLE WORK
When you're managing team members in different locations, you need to respect varying schedules and time zones.
Don't worry too much about who's online when. Instead, concentrate on worker output. Set clear goals and deliverables. Track actual work progress, not time spent logged in.
Peter Mesh is a project management expert who trains people on how to lead and coordinate teams online.
He says virtual team management is not really about making sure people are working at specific times.
It's more about determining whether they're achieving goals and getting things done.
"We're seeing a strong shift toward a more empowered model that focuses on ownership, accountability, and the deliverables being produced.
This shift, if done properly, will allow project managers to navigate difficult decisions in real time, backed by the data they need to make good decisions."
2. SCHEDULE REGULAR CHECK-INS
One of the big challenges with virtual team management is making sure everyone feels supported and connected.
When you can't just pop by someone's desk or say hi while grabbing coffee, a regular phone call, email, or (better yet) video chat is key.
A Gallup study found that employees who had regular meetings with their managers were 3 times more engaged than those who did not.
Keeping up with what remote employees are doing allows you to offer feedback, listen to concerns, and discuss potential challenges before they become a real problem.
3. choose THE RIGHT COMMUNICATION TOOLS
Remote teams can take advantage of many different communication channels. These include email, text, instant messaging apps, and videoconferencing platforms.
As a manager, it's wise to set expectations for when people should use each type of tool.
For instance, a video call lets everyone benefit from body language and visual cues, so it could be a good choice for weekly team meetings.
But instant chat tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams are better for quick questions, updates, and check-ins.
Choose the right tools for your team, and make sure everyone understand how and when to stay in touch.
4. KEEP VIRTUAL MEETINGS PRODUCTIVE
At this point, we've all suffered through some painful online team meetings, plagued with tech issues, time-lags, and general chaos.
Even when we're all together in the office, it doesn't take much for work meetings to go off the rails.
Here are a few ways to keep everyone on track when you're running virtual check-ins.
☑️ Distribute an agenda in advance so everyone knows what points will be covered.
☑️ Set some ground rules, like requiring each person to be on camera and to go on mute when it's not their turn to speak.
☑️ Start with some casual chit-chat to build rapport, just like you would in an in-person meeting.☑️ Remember to pause for a couple seconds after you ask a question to account for lag time.
If you're struggling in this area, online project management training covers several strategies that can help make virtual meetings a success.
5. SHOW SOME UNDERSTANDING
Home-based workers face plenty of distractions.
Some of your employees may have spouses, children, or pets around while they're trying to focus. Others may be working from less-than-ideal locations like a bedroom or even a closet!
Have an honest conversation with each employee about their situation.
You may be able to address some of their challenges. Simple gestures like allowing more flexible work hours or providing a pair of noise-cancelling headphones can make a big difference.
Tip: Make it easy for employees to get the tools they need to work comfortably from home (laptops, software, webcams, headsets, etc.) Don't let the process get bogged down by lengthy approvals or other bureaucracy.
6. MAKE TIME FOR virtual SOCIAL INTERACTIONS
It can be difficult for remote employees to feel like they're part of a collective whole. But team members who bond on a more personal level tend to work better together.
That's why it's important for managers to get remote employees interacting in fun, non-work-related ways.
Here are a few things you could do:
☑️ Open an online channel for discussing what people are watching on Netflix
☑️ Host a virtual happy hour☑️ Start online meetings with off-beat icebreakers like "What was your first paid job?" or "What's on your feet right now?"
7. SUPPORT WORK-LIFE BALANCE
When people are working from home, the line between work life and home life can get blurry.
In fact, in a recent survey, not being able to unplug was one of the biggest challenges noted by remote workers.
So encourage people to fully disengage during their off hours or holiday time. Make it clear that no one needs to answer emails or respond to notifications during those times.
That way, you can help your team avoid burnout and remain productive.
LEARN MORE ABOUT VIRTUAL TEAM MANAGEMENT
Looking to adapt your management skills for the new world of remote work?
Check out the Online Project Management course from Kompass Professional Development.
Learn tools and techniques for virtual team management, including tracking tasks, gathering performance data, protecting data security, and selecting the right software and collaborative platforms for your team.
Bring your unique remote work challenges to class and get practical solutions you can apply in real time.
Training is delivered entirely online and can be spread over 14 to 28 weeks.
Click below for a detailed course list, or to chat live with a knowledgeable Admissions Advisor.