The needs of a new generation of workers and evolving technologies are just some of the challenges the workplace of the 2020s will encounter.
The work environment today has evolved into one where managers cannot simply be concerned about meeting goals or running operations smoothly. With the recent impact of COVID-19, work, as we knew it, has changed. We have learned how to work, live, play, and survive in a virtual world with limited social physical interaction, especially with our work teams. Although working virtually has been happening for decades, not all employers have prepared their management team or employees on how to do it effectively. It is important for managers to understand the Virtual Team Formula.
20% TECHNOLOGY + 80% PEOPLE = 100% SUCCESS
There are more dynamics to consider with the people than technology, but we tend to put more emphasis on the technology. It is, however, the people that add the dynamics to any work environment. That is why we should spend more time ensuring this part of the formula is addressed. Implement a solid strategy for success with your TRE—Team Rules of Engagement. Here are some effective ways to better manage a virtual workforce:
How you provide access to you, each other, and information is important. Make that known to your team.
■ Part of this access should include what success looks like to the organization. They should not guess what is expected and what they have available to help them succeed.
■ Consider these key factors: the parameters of time. Will they work
a) synchronous—everyone works the same time schedule
b) asynchronous—team members work different times, set by them or the manager, and times change daily or not
c) rolling present—work a set schedule for a set period of time before it changes. If this is flexible, state it and how to let you and other team members know when the change happens.
■ Let them know when you are available to answer their questions. Provide clear purpose and definition of roles and goals. Have a process to track and report on projects.
Build a virtual community where you intentionally focus on building relationships and not just getting the work done.
■ Be accessible, present, and engaged. Spend time contributing to discussions, answering questions, and proactively providing information.
■ Create a virtual water cooler where the team members can see, hear, and talk to one another. Have virtual lunch meetings with your team or individual members.
■ Setup one-on-one video coaching sessions for information and feedback in a two-way format. Be intentional about mentoring your employees.
Communication and Collaboration
Communication is important to any group of individuals working together for a common purpose. The virtual workplace is no different.
■ Focus more on coordination and less on control. Manage in a way that requires the employee to manage themselves while you focus on coordinated efforts.
■ Provide information in various modes, frequencies, and in the right location. Written communication is not the only way of effective communication. Humanize communication by making technology the secondary aspect of communicating.
■ According to a study shared in Harvard Business Review, 46% of remote workers said the best managers were those who “checked in frequently and regularly.” One skill to continually develop is your listening skills. During your check-in sessions, listen to your employees and ask where they would like your help.
Employee wellness is a growing concern. Mental wellness is just as important as physical wellness. Working virtually can increase stress and the feeling of isolation within your employees.
■ Set clear work boundaries so employees don’t work into exhaustion and resentment. Provide them resources to support their mental well being.
■ Check your unconscious bias. Your employees are working in their personal space, within which they have carved out a work space. If you hear some background noise during a call, that does not mean the employee is not working. They are operating in a non-perfect work environment. No different than if they were in the office and co-workers were socializing in the background. Don’t let assumptions and stereotypes guide your evaluation of how they work.
■ Give employees a Wellness Day they can use as they deem necessary to handle doctor’s appointments, schedule a massage, or other wellness-related activities.