2020 has been an unprecedented year in more ways than one. While we had never experienced a virus hold the world hostage and bring economies to a standstill, with lockdown in most countries, working from home became the ‘new normal’ this year. While conceptually, working from home seems like a good idea since you don’t have to navigate heavy traffic and beat the morning rush, it has certain disadvantages too. Most professionals are finding it hard to strike the coveted work-life balance from home and uncertainty about the future of the economy and their jobs are not helping them settle in either. While organizations have tried creating virtual teams to streamline the work-from-home process to some extent, people in the team management roles are facing a unique roadblock – How to manage virtual teams.
Unless you have managed vendors sand a team of freelancers in the past, managing a virtual team can be quite a challenge. What seems like a mere lack of personal connection with the team can soon catapult into a lack of trust, ownership, commitment, communication, clarity, and direction. That is a lot of ‘lacking’! With the pandemic still looming over our heads and a vaccine not yet in sight, working from home seems to be our reality for the near future. If you are finding yourself at a cul-de-sac while managing a virtual team, then here are some tips to help know how to manage virtual teams better.
Create a Professional Working Environment
When people work from home, they tend to approach it in a leisurely fashion. This means they don’t think about creating a professional working environment at home. Before you apply this to your team, ensure that you are not guilty of working in your PJs.
First, find a place in your house that can be dedicated to your working space. Avoid working while lying down on the couch. Also, change your clothes and get into something smart. Clothes play a huge role in setting your mood. Professional attire begets professionalism. Once you have these two aspects sorted, talk to your team and ensure that they follow it too. Also, ensure that your team starts working at a fixed time and doesn’t stretch work post the working hours.
Choose your Team Wisely
Initially, teams in the office were directly converted into virtual teams. However, if you have a choice of selecting new team members, remember that there are certain traits that make a team member excellent to work with virtually. While experience and knowledge are necessary, focus on the personality traits and behavioral patterns of the new member. Look for traits like trustworthiness, punctuality, and someone who follows rules. Also, look for team players who would avoid gossiping and creating a bad virtual work environment.
Remember, there is a difference between a group and team. Ensure that you build a team for maximum efficiency.
Make Use of Project Management Tools
While managing a team virtually, the biggest challenge is to ensure the team meets deadlines. Project management tools are one of the best mechanisms to keep a track of deadlines. This ensures that each task is completed on time and also balances the team’s workload.
Communication is the Key
When you manage a team in person, keeping the team members informed is easier and efficient. However, to manage virtual teams, you need to put more effort to ensure the same. This is where clear communication plays a role. Ensure that you communicate with your team in a clear, concise, and consistent manner. Further, let all team members know the role and responsibilities of other members so that they can view the process as a team and not as individuals. Avoid duplication of work and be clear about timelines and solve queries immediately. In a virtual situation, a small miscommunication can lead to wastage of time of your team member, yourself, and affect the productivity of the entire team.
Schedule Regular Meetings
In the work-from-home set-up, there is no personal connection with the team. Hence, it is necessary to schedule a virtual meeting at least once a week. Try to set a routine as it offers a sense of familiarity and comfort to team members. A video meeting is more effective than an audio one. Also, try to add some laughter and character to these meetings and make your team members look forward to them than dread them.
Reward and Recognize
Be it online or offline team management, one thing that never fails is recognizing and rewarding performances and initiatives. This is the best way to keep the team motivated and striving for more. While promotions or salary raises might not be easy to come by, find creative ways to reward team members who have given an excellent performance. Maybe, give them an extra day off or a Certificate of Appreciation or some other tangible reward as per the organization’s guidelines.
You might want to visit the Leadership and Excellence section of our blog for some insightful articles.
As a manager handling a team and getting the best out of them has never been easy. The pre-pandemic scenario was very different. There was a personal connection with the team due to their physical presence in the office. Now with the platform being virtual, challenges are bound to arise. Hence as taskmasters, it is extremely important to ensure that your team is motivated enough to give their best every day. When every team member can work from where they feel most comfortable, accommodating their work/life balance you get the most productive version of them.
At Change Ur Story, we understand the roadblocks faced by team managers and senior professionals in ensuring optimum productivity in the work-from-home model. Our Career Coaching Program is designed to help an organization create teams that can do wonders. We also coach team managers for optimal engagement, performance, productivity, and overall happiness and fulfillment of the team. Drop us a line and let’s start charting a successful path for you and your team.
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