8 Top Tips for Managing a Virtual Work Team
With flexible working on the increase, more small businesses than ever are effectively working in a virtual office.
Whilst this has its benefits, it presents unique management challenges. How do you ensure productivity? How do you manage security?
In this post, we offer our top tips for managing a virtual work team.
1. Set standards & define work systems
Everyone has preferred methods of carrying out tasks, which differ from those of others. Whilst it is true that many tasks can be accomplished effectively using a variety of methods, it is also true that some methods can be more effective than others.
Sometimes, it is simply the case that an individual’s productivity is hindered by their methods, simply because they lack the knowledge of alternative ways of doing things. It’s important to recognise that individuals need a degree of freedom and flexibility to complete tasks to the best of their ability. However, when managing a virtual team, it’s also important to set certain standards and define work systems to ensure maximum efficiency.
By implementing repeatable work systems, your virtual team will know how you expect tasks to be completed and in what timeframe. As a result, there will be less confusion and delay.
2. Give clear and specific instructions
If you expect a specific outcome from your team members, then it’s important to give clear and specific instructions. When sending instructions, try to ensure that they are detailed enough to cover everything you expect, but concise enough to ensure that the message is absorbed.
When it comes to common tasks and general professional standards, it’s helpful to spend some time compiling detailed guidelines covering all aspects of your business. Perhaps include some sample documents of what you expect certain completed jobs to look like.
Doing this will save a lot of time later and is likely to dramatically improve the quality of the work that you receive.
3. Give each team member a specialisation
If you haven’t already done so, consider giving each team member a specialisation. If you currently provide generalised tasks, it’s likely that you will have noticed that each member of your team has certain strengths and weaknesses and performs certain tasks with ease.
You can use this to your advantage by giving each person a specialisation that plays to their strengths. This way, your staff will enjoy their work more and carry out tasks much more efficiently. It will also reduce stress and lower your workload as you won’t have to spend nearly as much time providing training and feedback.
4. Establish multiple communication tools
Establishing multiple communications tools will ensure that your team members can communicate immediately with the right person when something is urgent, collaborate as a team when necessary and respond to customer enquiries promptly.
For virtual teams, investing in the right technology can really pay off. Unified Communications solutions, for example, will unify multiple communications tools into a single, easy-to-use interface that makes life easier for everyone. You can benefit from presence information, displaying the status of various team members at any given point, making it easy to reach the right people using the appropriate means.
Conference calling and video calling are must-haves, when trying to integrate remote team members, as these create a feeling of unity, regardless of distance.
5. Create a virtual meeting place
Following on from the previous point, it is good practice to create a virtual meeting place and schedule regular meetings for the whole team to participate in. Whilst Email can be useful for sending instructions etc., it is not the best method for facilitating proper discussions.
Instead, choose a communications tool that can better facilitate group discussions in real-time. Video calling is one of the best methods for this, as it provides the closest thing to face-to-face contact between remote team members. Being able to see the people you’re talking to enhances communication and reduces misunderstandings because you have the added benefit of being able to read expressions and body language.
Other options include conference calling, social media and instant messenger groups using a service such as WhatsApp. By attending regular meetings in a virtual meeting place, everyone will be kept in the loop and feel part of a team, which is hugely beneficial for productivity.
6. Set up a reward system
Reward systems can be extremely motivational in any kind of workplace, but especially in a virtual office. Show praise to those who consistently work hard and to a high standard.
Consider incentivising good performance with a bonus scheme. This could be in the form of bonuses on their pay packet, gift vouchers or material goods. It doesn’t have to cost the Earth; even small rewards can make people feel valued and encourage them to go the extra mile.
Giving the most work and/or hours to those who show the best quality in their work is also a good way to encourage improved performance. You can also encourage loyalty from your best team members by paying them the most.
The great thing about running a virtual office is that dispersed team members are less likely to discuss their salaries, so you won’t have to deal with the pay related envy and resentment that can often occur in more conventional work spaces.
7. Use technology to improve organisation and accessibility
The effective use of technology can be the key to success when managing a virtual work team. Paper-based solutions are really not an option; rather, you want to ensure that all your processes are digitalised, with technology that’s simple and user-friendly.
Use cloud-based collaboration tools as these will allow multiple team members to access and edit documents. Use project management tools to help you manage workloads, set alerts and reminders and keep on top of what needs to be done, when and by whom.
There are many applications of this nature to choose from, some of which are even free to use. The right option for you will depend on the nature of your business, how you want to your virtual team to operate and the kind of tasks you undertake daily.
8. Take cyber security seriously
Having a virtual team can bring added risk with regard to cybersecurity.
It can be difficult to manage online security when you have various individuals connecting from home and public networks, and using a variety of devices. You don’t want your data – or that of your clients – to be compromised, however, so it’s important to set security standards and be vigilant about the monitoring and management of remote devices.
Make sure that you provide cybersecurity training to your staff so that they understand the risks. Consider using technologies that will help you to improve security and manage remote access more effectively. There are numerous affordable solutions on the market, so do your research and find the best fit for your business and data security needs.
There are many benefits to running a virtual office, but this method of operating also brings a unique set of challenges.
By implementing these 8 top tips, you can overcome many of the challenges of managing a virtual work team and ensure the ongoing success of your business.
For further information, help or guidance on the tools or security considerations for working this way, contact Grant McGregor Ltd on 0131 603 7910.
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