5 ways to effectively manage virtual teams

The pandemic has changed the way the world operates. It is essential that we go remote in order to flatten the curve and stop the spread of the novel corona virus. Working remotely may have started as a necessity and an ongoing trend but has become the new normal and is here to stay! While many of us had long dreamt of being able to work remotely (at least for a couple of days in a week), now are working from home every day. #WFH (Work from Home) is the way of the future workplace.  
 

The change has not only affected the corporate world, but the healthcare and education sectors alike. Clinics are now operating remotely with doctors taking online, rather than in-person consultations. Universities have moved their on-campus programmes to online programmes, with professors teaching classes and posting lectures online. Barring some essential service occupations or frontline jobs like emergency workers, retail stores, restaurants and hotels, banking, etc. (where not closed), everything else seems to have moved online.  
 

Most of the businesses have shifted their work online

Many corporates have realized that they actually don’t need workers to physically come to work. Jobs can be managed from home or from practically anywhere in the world. In last week’s blog, we saw how challenging it is to work from home and some useful tips on overcoming those challenges. Now imagine you are not only working from home, but also having to manage a team remotely as well! What a challenge! This has led to heightened responsibility and a greater role for the team leaders. Managers across industries are rapidly looking for new methods and techniques to manage their widely dispersed and distributed teams remotely.  

Managing virtual teams through video-conferencing

In the wake of these new challenges, business leaders are required to be all the more creative, focus on new means of communication, and be more inclusive. 

So, here are 5 ways that will help you, a new (or old) remote leader, manage your new remote team effectively: 

1. Set clear objectives and expectations 

      Studies show that most workers are not clear of what is expected of them at work. When working remotely this will become even more difficult if not handled properly. In order to encourage maximum participation and engagement from the employees, set clear agendas, norms and expectations with your team. Come to a common consensus as a group so that each employee is comfortable with the goals of the team.  

2. Communication is the Key 

    While working remotely, there is no such thing as over-communicating. It is rather “are you communicating enough”?! While in a normal office environment, a small miscommunication can cause trouble; imagine how haywire things can go when you are managing a team remotely. There are different teams cross functioning, with different perspectives that a leader has to handle at a time. Communicating constantly is an effective means to guide employees, and keeping them engaged and motivated.  

Choose the most effective means, amongst the various means of communication

3. Utilize various means of communication 

    Deriving from the above point, a leader needs to find effective means of communication. The pandemic has given us several alternate communication methods. Business leaders can adopt any of the many tools available like Microsoft Teams, video-conferring on Zoom, UberConference, more conventional Skype, texting, etc. A leader must determine when to use a video-conferencing tool to establish a more personalized conversation, or a quick audio-call or a buzz on Skype messenger for a quick follow up on the work status. This will also establish a norm for employees on how to interact and communicate effectively amongst themselves, and with the manager.  

4. Hold daily and regular check-ins 

    Working remotely might be a new experience for many of your workers. It can be overwhelming for some of them to adjust to this whole new work culture, where the workers are separated from their peers and managers. They might need help and support, but unlike in a normal office environment where they could go knock on their boss’s door or lean on co-worker’s cubicle, employees may not be able to find such instant support or comfort while working remotely. It is therefore necessary for the team managers to have regular check-ins, and one-on-one conversations with their team members. It is all the more important for them to empathize with the situation and hear out what challenges or issues their staff are facing and suggest appropriate solutions. 

A home office setup. #wfh is the new normal.

5. Empowering your employees 

    While working remotely, everyone is their own manager (well at least at their homes, and unless kids are around!). The team leader must tread very carefully before entrusting more responsibilities to the members. The managers must learn to trust and empower their employees. Encouraging a trust-based culture has proven to have an increase in innovation, agility, employee engagement and job satisfaction.  

Being an effective and innovative team leader is not everyone’s cup of tea and managing remotely comes with its own challenges. Keeping the above points in view, using the right tools with a high degree of emotional intelligence, and by adopting the best management practices, you can be an effective leader, and help your team thrive. For all the new remote managers, we trust that you’ve got this! Do share with us your own remote managing experience and challenges in the comments section below. 
 

Vidhi Kapoor

Vidhi is an MBA graduate and has prior finance experience working with the United Nations and in Corporate Banking. A former education advisor, Vidhi pioneered the social media and content marketing team at Robert Kennedy College since 2017. A dynamic and creative person at heart, her passion is to kindle flames of inspiration and positivity within you. While in her day job Vidhi enjoys penning down solutions to academic and personal student issues; she loves to paint a beautiful sunset outside her work. An avid travel enthusiast (lived in India, UK and the US), Vidhi is now exploring her newfound love for skiing in Canada.

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