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Tips for Managing Virtual Team

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Dr Aparna Sethi - Founder: Protouch Corporate Training Solutions

30-Mar-2020

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Coronavirus and 21 days lockdown situation have forced companies to bring in work from home policy. While implementing this, companies are facing key concerns.

On March 24 Conducted interview of Pooja on zoom and at 10 am have we realised offered her job on March 26, we received acceptance at 5 pm, and that's the fastest closure we ever have done. Did we do due diligence before hiring? Yes, reference check, background and documentation verification were done digitally. One team member still doubts that we did not meet her face to face and team member working with virtual team management replied that, "I worked with team members for two years and I never meet them. "

 

Now, that is the future in which we are going to live. Managing teams remotely is not new in the Indian environment. Still, many companies were not following it since it takes time to move from traditional work set up. Many start-ups, consultants, stay at home parents are already working in the same format. 

 

Coronavirus and 21 days lockdown situation have forced companies to bring in work from home policy. While implementing this, companies are facing two key concerns:

 

1. Attitude towards work from home set up.

 

2. Engaging the workforce in a manner that delivers desired productivity.

 

Attitude towards work from home set up is just a temporary phase. Few days employees may enjoy, gradually employees are getting used it. 

 

Some managers may tend to get anxious when the team works remotely. In the current scenario, they have no option but to overcome the anxiety and maintain the morale of the team members. 

 

When teams are working from home, managers can engage them in the following ways:

 

1 Trust: Many managers carry the belief that employees do not work effectively from home. While working in this scenario, managers need to work on the fundamental that employees work effectively in their comfort zone, and the productivity level goes higher when employees achieve work-life balance. Trust the employees and show empathy. Lack of trust will increase the anxiety level and will reflect in every action.  

 

2 Communication: Clear communication is another essential factor while managing the team remotely. Set clear expectations. If it is an operational job, then the daily morning meeting can be productive. It helps align everyone on the deliverables. Having video calls, conference calls and messages over email and WhatsApp group helps. Create a culture of open and candid talks. In the current situation of panic, employees are feeling insecure about their jobs. Make them feel safe and make them aware of the importance of integrity. Recognise the people on common platforms.

 

3 Size: The team sizes are getting larger and larger. But for 'work from home' employees, set up smaller teams. In psychology, there is a term called' Social loafing' and 80: 20 rule gets in. That is that 20% of employees dose the job of 80% workforce. Keep the team small. Knowing each team member is most important. Some team members may require less supervision and few may need more. Taking one-on-one action and personal messages becomes vital.

 

4 Motivation: Work from home team needs continuous motivation. Employees working from home feel isolated and disconnected. Managers can have short term goals than long terms. The virtual celebration is crucial. Kick start meetings, preferably using video, will have the long term impact. Closing day meetings also give a feeling of fulfilment.

 

5 Technology: Use all types of communication while managing work from home team's, like conference calls, text messages, WhatsApp call, virtual break down activities, sharing funny photographs with pets or their family members goes a long way. Usage of various apps is essential.

 

"Managing a virtual team requires managers to double down on the fundamentals of good management, including establishing clear goals, running great meetings, communicating clearly, and leveraging team members' individual and collective strengths," says Julie Wilson, founder of the Institute for Future Learning and instructor at Harvard University. (https://www.extension.harvard.edu/professional-development/blog/challenges-managing-virtual-teams-and-how-overcome-them) 

 

Various tools organisations are using to manage teams effectively. 

 

Technology is what makes virtual teams possible. It is a time to learn new tech skills. Below is a list of the types of tools that can facilitate communication in virtual teams, and some popular options* for you to consider:

 

 

*Disclaimer: Mentions of any proprietary tools or software are merely examples and do not constitute endorsements 

 

In this time of turbulence, we can take it as an opportunity to develop people management and technology-related skills. Those who are developing these skills will have a long way to in the career.