How to Overcome the Challenges of Managing Virtual Teams

One of the biggest challenges that managers have had to navigate during the Coronavirus pandemic is managing virtual teams.

Amid the jokes about employees working in their pyjamas and the complaints about ‘Zoom fatigue,’ the shift to remote working has proven to be a huge challenge.

While it’s true that some businesses will naturally be able to adapt to remote working more easily than others, the challenge for managers is how to ‘be in charge’ without being able to directly manage what is going on.

No matter how experienced a manager you are, you’ve probably never dealt with change on this scale in your career, but the good news is, you don’t have to suddenly rip up the management rule book and forget everything you know. You just need to take what you know and do it as best as you can to support your team through this time.

You already know how to communicate with your team, build trust, delegate, and offer mentoring and support, so do this and do it well before you start panicking and telling yourself that you don’t know anything!

Here’s how to overcome the challenges of managing virtual teams.

The challenge: Everyone communicates differently.

The solution: Set expectations and create a structure.

Communication is just as important when your team is working remotely as it is when you are physically in the workplace, if not more so.

People do have different preferences and needs when it comes to communication, but it’s a good idea to set out exactly what you expect from the start. So maybe you agree on one weekly virtual team meeting, then catch up with individual team members at allocated times.

Don’t underestimate the impact of having a team WhatsApp group or similar where you can check in every day with each other, and not just about work. Not having the camaraderie of the office around them can be a struggle for some employees, so it might help to know that you or their colleagues are only a message away.

To make sure communication and work tasks run smoothly, encourage team members to be available for set working hours each day.

The challenge: Staying on task.

The solution: Use software and other tools to make collaboration and staying productive easy.

Working from home requires a lot of self-motivation as the usual structure of the workplace and workday is lacking. This can affect productivity, but if you want to keep everyone on task and be able to see where things are at, using tools like Asana or Trello can really help. Google Docs and Dropbox make collaborating on documents and sharing files easy. Try some different tools and see what works best for your team.

The challenge: Performance issues.

The solution: Have a virtual 1:1.

There’s no getting away from the fact that there’s a lot of distractions to contend with when people are working from home. From Netflix to having to work around family life, it can be difficult to maintain the same level of productivity.

Do make allowances for personal circumstances and for the fact that everyone is going through the same very difficult situation. However, don’t avoid a conversation about it when an employee’s performance drops dramatically.

Have a 1:1 with the employee, make your expectations clear, and also offer support if needed. Review their performance at an agreed time and work with them to find solutions to any issues.

The challenge: No office culture

The solution: Create opportunities to bond virtually

It can be hard to keep that sense of being a team going when you aren’t seeing each other in the office every day or going for after-work drinks, so it’s important to create opportunities to connect and maintain that bond. Try the WhatsApp group I mentioned earlier, arrange virtual coffee mornings or after-work cocktails, and of course, speak to each other about things other than work. This can be so valuable when people are feeling isolated and unmotivated.

Managing a remote team is not an easy task, but by setting clear objectives and expectations, offering appropriate support, working to build trust, and staying connected, you’ll create a loyal, engaged team of employees who feel appreciated and trusted.

But like with any great team, you as an effective manager, are its foundation.

How can I help?

Just because we can’t meet face to face right now, it doesn’t mean that your pressing team issues have to take a back seat. Book a call for 1:1 virtual consultancy and support that will help you turn your team around and have the business not just surviving, but thriving throughout this time and beyond.

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