With the current global situation, many organizations are – for the first time – facing the challenge of managing a global team working from home.
Under normal circumstances, and with the right infrastructure, the concept of virtual working is already part of many peoples’ daily experience. However, for organizations accustomed to operating “face-to-face”, this scenario can be difficult, and employees can feel isolated very quickly.
So, how can companies make the virtual office environment work for the business, its teams and customers?
Effective leadership is key and with it the need for additional amounts of empathy. That means the major focus must be on people’s well-being.
One-to-one virtual meetings are important to maintain, and team leaders are accountable for making this happen. Having at least a weekly catch-up is vital to keep people informed and make them feel involved.
And while it is business-focused – sharing objectives and targets – it’s also a social interaction. Take the time to chat about newfound hobbies, how you’re spending your time and any tips you’ve picked up.
On a wider level, a company’s CEO is wise to conduct a virtual “Town Hall” meeting every week to share any important company developments employees should be aware of.
It seems obvious, but virtual working technology has to function efficiently. Without that reliability, people will stop using it and the organization soon loses control of communications.
Now that video conferencing has become more widespread, it’s better if everybody involved in a meeting is visible to each other. This way you have a better insight into how people are feeling and behaving.
- Running well-organized meetings
Having some agreed protocols helps bring a level of organization to your virtual meetings.
For example, if it’s a “Town Hall” meeting, invite people to ask questions via the online chat function so they can be moderated. This is also useful for people who are less willing to ask questions in a public setting.
- Team social meetings
When teams are based remotely for long periods, it can’t be all business.
There needs to be a social dimension to virtual meetings when it’s just about informal chat and having a bit of fun (virtual quizzes, cooking sessions). Even getting pets involved in the more social, video calls is light relief for everybody.
- Alleviating work pressures
When people are working without immediate access to colleagues sitting nearby, a problem can seem bigger than usual. Therefore, setting up remote work “buddies” to bounce ideas off is important. Ultimately, it’s about looking after each other.
Reducing remote working pressures also means allowing flexibility. Standard working hours don’t apply in this situation as team members cope with non-work issues such as caring for young children at home.
With such disrupted working patterns, it’s necessary for the team leader to be available outside normal hours to cater to everybody’s needs.
- Thinking ahead: the new normal
Managing a remote workforce effectively now will help companies come out of this situation intact and with critical work delivered.
But also, organizations should learn some valuable lessons about what makes people more effective. Colleagues will be better able to work in different time zones and handle flexible working. And, it will probably mean never again taking for granted the value of being in the same room as other people and building rapport.
Having a virtual window on the personal lives and homes of people you normally see in the office actually bridges gaps; you find yourself caring more about the people around you and developing a different connection that translates to better understanding and collaboration in future.