How to Manage Virtual TeamsNatalie Lewis
Virtual teams are becoming increasingly popular in service and consulting driven industries. A virtual workforce is where you have employees who work out of the office rather than in it, for example from a home office or co-working space.
The advantages of this type of business is reduced overheads which often means that pricing structure can be more competitive but also if provides employees with more of the flexibility that they crave these days.
The disadvantage is that you need to make sure you manage the situation properly.
New technology is making is possible for employees to work from home or elsewhere outside the office. However, there is still an employer duty of care which means you do need to ensure that you are looking after virtual teams properly! You don’t want employees feeling cut off and excluded or else the business will suffer.
Here are my top tips to do it right:
Assess their working environment – boring I know, but health and safety requirements still apply to employees who work from home. You need to go through a process to make sure they have got the right equipment, that they’re sitting comfortably and that they have the right environment to work from effectively.
Make sure they are properly insured – this is really important and often overlooked; an employee’s personal home insurance will not cover them for working from home so you will need to include them in your business insurance. Tell your insurer that you have employees who work from home and give the insurer their home addresses too to include on insurance documents, otherwise your business may not be covered if something goes wrong.
Be secure – another boring one but it is important to assess the level of security at your employees’ homes too, if you scrupulously shred every document at head office but your employees simply chuck sensitive documents into the recycling bin at home, then you have got a problem. Your employees could be unknowingly putting the entire organisation at risk.
Give them the tools they need to do their job properly – giving remote employees equipment that is not going to break down every five minutes is particularly important as the logistics of getting stuff fixed can be a nightmare! The world of work has changed beyond measure and it is increasingly important to provide employees with the right technology. Not only does it help employees work from remote locations but it can help assist with a healthy work-life balance. There are loads of great project management tools like Trello and with the use of video conferencing software like Zoom, you can’t go far wrong!
Schedule regular time for interaction with your team – don’t just assume that it is somehow just going to happen – put in place a formal structure of scheduled conference calls, anything from once a week to once a day depending on the nature of the business. It is important to ensure your virtual teams feel really engaged with what is going and aren’t excluded from any activities. I’m a fan of a virtual huddle on a Monday and a Friday. Do whatever works for your team but make sure you do it!
Talk to your virtual team informally on a regular basis – this goes for all of your staff, virtual or not! Make sure they know they can call you if they need to. More importantly have a system such as my Dynamic Performance Feedback process in place which allows you to provide monthly feedback on how they’re doing in their job and what they can do to improve. Employees want regular feedback and if they aren’t getting it, they will go elsewhere. This is even more important for virtual staff who don’t have the ability to get informal feedback on a daily basis through interactions in the office.
Make sure virtual teams are given the same opportunity as any office based workers for ongoing work training – don’t forget to include your virtual workers in a good onboarding process when they start as well as in training programmes. You may need to teach them how to use new equipment, tools and processes – they are likely to be just as ambitious to progress as office-based colleagues.
Don’t forget to invite them to the Christmas party and other company events – this is easy to do without thinking if you have a mixture of office based staff and virtual teams. It is very difficult to recover from if you get it wrong. Out of sight should not mean out of mind!