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Leading a Virtual Team

Employees are more engaged when leaders make time to connect with them, keep them well-informed, and take their feedback into consideration. Keep the following best practices in mind as you lead your virtual team.

Inform

Relay information down from senior management to employees.

Interact

Connect with employees on a personal level.
 

Involve

Get information from employees and collaborate with them.

Effective set up

Do not assume that all employees have adequate internet access or technology. Some won't have reliable or fast enough service or only a mobile device. Where applicable, ask employees to request VPN access.

Get input from the team on developing processes so everyone is invested in them. They know the work best and what helps or hinders the work. Maintain a document outlining current coverage levels, team member skills, productivity, and a running list of challenges as they arise.

Brainstorm team actions that will help achieve these coverage levels. Discuss new ways of working as a team. While operational needs still need to be met, it will help alleviate stress if team members have input into how work gets done.

Encourage remote workers to establish boundaries about when they are available – and respect those boundaries.

How do team members want to communicate, when will team members be available, what are service levels, etc.

How the plan is working for everyone?. Revisit the coverage plan with the team to make adjustments.

Build trust

How we lead now will impact future relationships. Be patient and flexible with individuals as they navigate this new way of working.

Keep the entire team in the loop, unless something needs to be confidential. It can be easy to feel disconnected.

Employees and families may now be working and living all under one roof. For example, minimize required real time collaboration and be flexible around when work gets done.

Enable communication

Schedule regular virtual team check-ins and one-on-one meetings with all team members. As part of these meetings, ask employees how they are doing and how you can better support and include them during this time.

Over email, summarize the details of the change as soon as possible. Follow the email with a team meeting to give the team an opportunity to ask questions and discuss how the team will respond to the change.

When employees have different schedules or work in different locations, it is easy to take basic social interactions for granted, such as small talk, building trust, and team dynamics.

Offer informal interaction time for team members to connect. For example, host team meetings and create a central document with updates and Q&As.

Manage performance

Be sure to set realistic expectations around communication (response times, information-sharing methods), meetings (when team members should plan to be available), schedules (work hours, rotating schedules, etc.).

Manage by results and not by activity level. If you don’t have any, define tasks and deliverables as clearly as possible and conduct regular check-ins.

Use an appropriate tool to provide feedback (e.g. use email or text to congratulate and one-on-one video meetings or phone calls to provide constructive feedback).

Manage workload and deliverables

Revisit team and individual goals and roles to make sure everyone is clear and reduce duplication of effort. You will need to reprioritize goals as circumstances change and it is important to communicate these changes to the entire team. Regularly reassess priorities and client service levels and adjust how these services are delivered (if at all).

Where possible, allow employees to set preferred hours as they balance complex work-life arrangements at this time. Work with employees to identify flexible work arrangements to help them continue to work while managing other priorities. Check in with employees regularly on how these modified arrangements are working. Flexible work arrangement examples include split shifts, varied hours so they can alternate childcare with a partner, working extra time on one or two days and then taking lieu days off, etc.

This can also prevent duplication of efforts. For example, using shared Google docs or sheets that everyone can access to track project deliverables or schedules.

Be open and brainstorm with remote workers different ways of carrying out work remotely.

Address the concerns of remote workers to ensure everyone’s needs are met and that you maintain engagement.

It is easy to turn to the same team members you typically rely on in times of stress, but keeping a list of all team members visible will help make you more conscious of how you distribute information and responsibilities.

Reach out to your HR partner if you need additional support as you work through these challenges with your team.