The COVID-19 pandemic shifted work culture from in-person to remote. In Canada, 37% of the workforce went remote, while in the United States 35%. This shift led to the emergence of a new topic of importance: how to manage a virtual team effectively. This article will explore practical strategies for successful virtual team management.
Dispersed vs. Co-located Teams
Even post-pandemic, a substantial portion, about 25%-30%, of the workforce is expected to continue remote work. While this shift offers advantages, it also poses unique challenges for virtual teams. Effective communication and coordination are among these challenges, as physical separation can lead to confusion and frustration, especially when working with offshore teams or vendors in other time zones. Additionally, maintaining trust and preventing conflicts can be more challenging in virtual teams due to physical distance.
Best Practices for Virtual Team Management
1. Leveraging Technology for Collaboration
The careful selection of appropriate tools, such as project management software and cloud-based platforms, can significantly streamline work processes. Ensuring these tools are easy to adapt and troubleshoot for technical issues is essential to minimize potential disruptions or time wasted on technical problems. These technologies facilitate efficient document sharing, task tracking, and collaborative workspaces, boosting productivity.
For instance, Microsoft Office 365 has over a million global users. These tools are essential for seamless communication and efficient collaboration within virtual teams, underscoring technology’s critical role in the modern workplace.
2. Effective Performance Management
Performance monitoring and evaluation are essential for virtual team success. When team members are often dispersed across separate locations, monitoring and evaluating performance becomes necessary. Regular feedback is vital, helping team members understand their strengths and areas needing improvement, benefiting both individuals and the team. Additionally, recognizing achievements becomes even more critical in a virtual setting, boosting morale and motivation among team members and increasing productivity. Clear role expectations are fundamental; people managers must ensure that every member understands their responsibilities to prevent confusion.
To facilitate these positive changes, many organizations have updated their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) accordingly. This shift aligns with the trends of major companies like Facebook, Shopify, Siemens, and Zapier, which are adapting their work practices to accommodate remote work. This transition positions them in their Work-from-Anywhere Future, emphasizing flexibility and the ability to work from diverse locations.
3. Building a Virtual Team Culture
Cultivating a sense of belonging and unity in virtual teams is equally important. People managers should promote shared values and goals to establish a strong team culture.
Remote work, however, poses challenges in recognizing employee struggles or isolation. Digital fatigue and mental overload can go unnoticed behind computer screens, contributing to the reported burnout symptoms experienced by 69% of remote employees working from home. To address this, many companies have introduced “virtual wellness programs” that aim to keep remote employees connected and fulfilled. These programs offer various resources, from virtual therapy to nutritional guidance, fitness tracking, and guided meditation, providing valuable support for employee well-being.
4. Conflict Resolution and Problem-Solving
People managers need effective conflict resolution strategies tailored to remote work settings, emphasizing open communication, active listening, and mediation for swift issue resolution. Task conflicts involving work assignments, resource allocation, and procedures are common.
For instance, Hive’s product manager, Winshen Liu, conducts daily virtual stand-up meetings with her team to enhance transparent communication. Harvard Business Review recommends virtual workspaces to prevent mismanaged employee conflicts. Hold separate meetings followed by moderated joint discussions, a practical approach to guide team members toward mutually acceptable problem solutions.
5. Balancing Flexibility and Accountability
Achieving a balance between flexibility and accountability is crucial. While remote work provides freedom, it necessitates a commitment to responsibilities. Defining guidelines for remote work, deadlines, and task completion helps maintain this equilibrium.
Many virtual offices adopt flexible schedules, enabling team members to be online at their convenience, provided they meet the required hours. Some companies, like KPMG, support a “Working Parents” networking group that includes discussions among parents with young children and sharing ideas and experiences on balancing personal and professional lives. Dell, for instance, has been offering flexible work schedules and arrangements since 2009, allowing employees to work remotely, either full-time or part-time, with variable hours to accommodate individual needs.
6. Selecting the Right Team Members for A Strong Foundation
Selecting the right team members is the first stage for success. According to a report by Harvard Business Review, 80% of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions. Beyond skills and experience, consider qualities like self-discipline, self-motivation, and practical communication skills when choosing remote team members. Cultural fit within the organization plays a significant role in long-term team cohesion.
Leveraging assessments, such as cognitive ability and problem-solving skill evaluations, can aid in building a solid foundation with the right team members. It ensures that team members have the necessary skills and align with the company’s values and culture.
How We Can Help
Talentoasis is a rapidly emerging staffing agency in Finance and IT in North America and we can find the right hire for your team. Our HR experts first understand your hire requirements, company culture, and team dynamics. We then screen the candidates using a proprietary assessment that evaluates their cognitive abilities, motivation and personality for the specific role you’re hiring for. Next, we select the top 10% and present them to you. And this works, our client success rate is 92% (see our case study here).
Future Trends in Virtual Team Management
By 2028, 73% of departments will incorporate remote workers, opening numerous possibilities. As we peer into the future, several trends will emerge for the benefit of both employers and employees.
One significant trend involves virtual teams increasingly relying on digital platforms for collaboration and productivity. Consequently, cybersecurity will take center stage as a top priority. Companies will invest in robust cybersecurity measures to safeguard sensitive information and maintain data integrity. We also see a growing emphasis on ensuring the well-being of remote team members. Companies will adopt policies and practices geared toward supporting virtual employees’ mental and physical health, solidifying virtual work’s future.