Tips for managing teams virtually Published: 06/04/2020 | by Star Trader

Tips for managing teams virtually

With remote working becoming the new way of life for many people, more business owners are now faced with the challenge of managing their employees virtually. Keeping team morale and productiveness high without being there physically is easier said than done. Luckily, we’re pretty good at giving business advice, as some of our traders own their own businesses. We even have O2 Business, a one stop shop for business advice and solutions. Using our knowledge, we’ve put together a few top tips to help you if you’re wondering how to manage your remote employees and keep things running smoothly.

What is a virtual team?

First off, let’s define this. A virtual team is another term to describe a group of people who work together from different locations. To communicate and collaborate, a virtual team relies on technology, such as email, video/ voice conferencing, and live chats.

Having a team of remote employees can be problematic. Some of the most common challenges include:

  • Problems with communication
  • Not being able to track employee performance
  • A lack of trust in teams
  • Losing company culture

However, there are solutions and processes that you can put in place to tackle these challenges. 

1. Problems with communication

Good communication is key to managing remote employees successfully. When communication fails, a number of problems can arise; work progress suffers and employees can feel lonely and isolated from their team. It can be hard to coordinate your team when you’re not there to do it in person, however, keeping in contact is crucial to making sure morale stays high and that your team members know what they need to focus on. 

Here are some examples of ways to communicate effectively:

  • Make use of messaging tools. Slack, Facebook Messenger, and Google Hangouts are all examples of good group communication tools, which help to make sharing problems a whole lot easier for team members in different places. Some are better for collaboration than others, so just make sure you do your research. 
  • Keep all your channels open – at all times – and encourage your team to do the same. Make sure you have notifications switched on, so you don’t miss any important messages. Always remember to be responsive, too. Where possible, make sure statuses are updated, so everyone knows when to receive a response e.g. Melissa is having lunch for the next 30 minutes. 
  • Suggest having regular one-to-one meetings. This will help you to stay in regular contact with your employees and make sure they know what they need to focus on each day/ week.
  • Make sure your team talks via video chat to maintain human contact as much as possible. That way, you can make sure your remote employees aren’t feeling the strain of working alone at home. 

2. Not being able to track employee performance

For those of you who are trying to manage remote employees, it can also be hard to track employee performance and know whether or not tasks have been completed on time, efficiently, and up to your business’ standards.

It’s impossible to know what your remote employees are doing every minute of the day, but that’s ok. Instead of focusing on hours worked, switch your focus on the outcomes. 

Here are some things you can do to make sure your employees are using their time efficiently:

  • Set clear expectations. If your employees know exactly what you expect from them, they’ll work to meet those expectations. If they’re left in the dark, they’re more likely to waste valuable time, which will lower the value of their output. 
  • Don’t be afraid to give feedback. If you’re happy or unhappy with something, explain why. 
  • Make sure your remote employees working environments are appropriate. If there are too many distractions, ask them to consider a new working space. 
  • Consider an employee productivity software, like Hubstaff, to make sure your team is doing what they should be doing and not just spending time scrolling through Instagram. 

3. A lack of trust in teams

Face-to-face interactions are a big part of team bonding. Without having daily communication, you and your team members may lose trust in one another. It’s also possible for problems to arise between your team members, too. 

To prevent this from happening, there are a few things you can do:

  • Host a weekly team meeting, so your remote employees can catch up on the week’s events, what’s gone well and what’s not. This will also give them a chance to speak openly and celebrate the week’s end.
  • Think about some virtual team-building exercises. They can be work-related or just a bit of fun. This is a great way to give your team a bit of a break, as well as the chance to build bonds with their other team members.

As the manager, it’s your responsibility to keep your eyes peeled for signs of conflict. For example, if one of your employees has changed from being chatty and friendly to replying with blunt answers, then there’s likely to be a problem.

Address the issues head on. Ask your team members if there’s an issue and help them to feel better about it. If the issue involves two team members, hold a virtual meeting and get to the root of the problem. Allow each person to say their fair share and create a plan. 

4. Losing company culture

Having your team work from home in different places also increases the risk of you losing your company’s culture, which plays a big part in contributing to your team’s morale. Making sure your business doesn’t lose its culture is important to keeping your employees motivated and happy. Here are some foolproof ways to do so:

  • Keep up the camaraderie. Make sure you and your team members have the chance to catch up regularly to share ideas, bond and chat about fun things, like what happened in the latest episode of your favourite Netflix show. If you’re using Slack, set up some fun channels for this type of chat, like #workoutfromhome, #banter, #filmbuffs, etc. 
  • Encourage your employees to help each other at all times, especially if someone is struggling on something in particular. Working alone can be hard, which is why it’s important for your remote employees to know that they have people there to help if they need it.
  • Give props. If one of your employees has exceeded your expectations, make sure they know about it. Think about sending them a quick, funny GIF. This will make them smile.
  • Send company swag, if you have it. Think t-shirts that they can wear at home, phone cases they can use to protect their mobile phones, coffee cups they can use at home to stay awake, and pens they can use to jot down their ideas.

It’s proven that your business can benefit from giving your employees more flexibility when it comes to working remotely. It can contribute to improving your team’s morale and retention. At first, remote working might make you panic; you’re likely going to be worried about whether your team will be productive enough to keep your business performance high, or whether they’ll lose motivation as a result of being at home in their own environment. However, take our tips on board and you’ll see just how successful remote working can be. It could even take your business further than it's ever been before. 

As a Star Trader, you’re likely to be self-employed. However, it’s just as important for you to establish a routine and ensure that you’re creating a good working environment, so you can continue your business as effectively as possible. Working alone can be lonely, so keeping communication channels is key, whether it be with suppliers or customers.

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