Virtual and remote workplaces are a fact of life in IT and similar fields. The ability to work from anywhere can either help productivity skyrocket or make it stumble.
Managers who lead virtual or remote teams face unique challenges. When the team is offsite, the need for effective leadership doesn’t diminish, but the tools available to provide that leadership change. Traditional opportunities like in-person supervision and face to face meetings may disappear, while other chances, like teleconferencing, open up.
Here are five tips to help managers encourage maximum productivity and motivation in a virtual or remote workplace:
- Plan ahead. Whenever possible, facilitate the transition to a virtual or remote workplace by thoroughly preparing employees for the change. Set metrics managers can use to measure performance, and ensure employees understand what is expected of them at each step. Some companies even set guidelines for remote workspaces and administrative processes.
- Get everyone on the same page (or platform). “Groupware,” or software that allows virtual groups to work together, is essential to success in a virtual or remote workplace. Make sure everyone is using the same platform or platforms to reduce problems with incompatible file formats or lost data.
- Communicate regularly and in multiple ways. While in-person communication may not happen in a virtual setting, face-to-face, verbal, and written communication all remain options, and managers should leverage them to their fullest extent. Maintain daily communication with team members. Even a brief daily phone call to ask what team members have accomplished and what their goals are for the day can do much to keep a virtual team on track.
- Be available. It can be tempting for virtual managers to focus on their own work and ignore their buzzing cellphone or flashing email notification for a while. When your team members need you, however, these are the tools they have – they can’t walk into your office to get your attention. Make responding to the team’s needs a priority, and reserve your usual daily email or phone time for non-urgent matters.
- Leverage the power of the Internet to track feedback. One major advantage of email or similar systems over face to face communication is that it creates an instant record. When giving feedback, consider sending it as an email or in a follow-up document after verbal feedback is given. When it comes time for an employee’s performance review, you’ll have a “paper trail” of the guidance you’ve provided and the results.
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