Updated: Feb 21
10 Ways to Successfully Manage Virtual Teams
If you are managing one or more virtual teams, you are not alone. The Workforce 2020 survey claimed that 83 percent of executives plan to increase use of consultants or intermittent employees over the next three years.
Virtual teams can be a challenge to manage because one needs to create a corporate culture remotely. Here are 10 strategies to successfully build a virtual team that can be implemented instantly.
1. Define work systems.
Different people have different ways of going about tasks. Setting standards can shorten the time needed to achieve the desired result. By setting standards and defining repeatable work systems, the team has generally less questions and gets a feeling for how long certain tasks should take. These work systems need to be both standardized to allow for maximum effectiveness and tailored to allow the necessary freedom to complete the task at the best of one’s ability.
2. Establish multiple communication tools.
The benefits of establishing multiple communication tools is two-fold. First of all, your team has a way to communicate something that is urgent to the right person immediately. Secondly, it unifies processes such as what to use for conference calls, screen recordings, and so on. It is clear what tool is used for what, which contributes to creating that internal feeling of togetherness.
3. Schedule regular meetings.
Scheduling briefings at the same time on the same weekday contributes to creating a routine. Routines provide the team with something they are used to and familiar with. That in return puts the team at ease and reduces stress. Video calls are one of the best ways to maximize efficiency because they recreate the routine office feeling remote teams are missing out on.
4. Have clear and detailed deliverables.
Simply telling somebody to do something is usually not the popular way to go about managing teams. Micro-managing isn’t either which is why some managers avoid giving instructions with too many details.
Based on my experience, it is better to provide more detailed descriptions of the tasks with examples of what the final result should look like. Give the team the freedom to execute it than less instructions and having to deal with potential misunderstandings.
5. Make sure work hours overlap.
Regardless of what time zones your team members are in, it is recommendable to have at least three to four hours a day where most of the team is online at the same time. Even if some of the team members are unlikely to need each other to complete their tasks, being online at the same time brings the team closer together and is the quickest problem solving solution there is.
6. Create a professional work environment.
Professional attire and a distraction-free work environment are part of any corporate culture. Additionally, setting professional standards contributes to being efficient and puts people in the right mindset.
7. Choose (video) calls over chatting and emails.
With Skype and email being available at everyone’s fingertips, it is tempting to chat and send a quick email whenever there is something to discuss. This can easily lead to misunderstandings. With virtual teams, video calls or at least regular calls are more than a way to avoid misunderstandings. They connect the team members on a more personal level.
8. Find the right people to work with.
Not everyone is cut out for remote work and not everyone fits the team personality-wise. There are quite a few professional personality tests out there, and they can be a great way to determine whether someone is the right fit is still to ask yourself whether you are sure about that person or not. If you are not, it is usually best to move on to the next candidate. Additionally, double checking all references is a must to make sure you know as much as possible what you are getting yourself into.
9. Establish a meritocratic system.
Meritocracy -- or the process of rewarding and recognizing people based on their skills -- stimulates people to work harder and better. Make sure to set up reward systems to keep your team motivated and to better pinpoint the team members that can take on more responsibility.
10. Use project management tools.
Project management tools can be ideal to keep track of deadlines. They also send alerts and reminders for deadlines and give you a quick daily, weekly or monthly overview of what needs to be done, by who, and when. Things like Google Docs can still be a great addition and the same is valid for time tracking applications.
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Managing Virtual Teams: Ten Tips
As companies continue to expand globally, the number of people working in teams with colleagues and managers separated from them by many miles (and often different time zones), is growing. This virtual team strategy has many advantages, but it presents its own set of managerial challenges; working online is less formalized, and companies frequently lack clear policies on how to manage virtually.
Here are 10 tips for managers to get the most out of their virtual teams:
Tip 1: Be available
It can be isolating working virtually. Don’t make team members feel you are absent; be in regular contact to talk not just about their day-to-day duties, but beyond that to general queries about their day, mood and social life.
Tip 2: Organize regular meetings with both individuals and the whole team
This should be done both online – through IT technology such as videoconferencing, social media or Skype – and face-to-face, at least once or twice a year. Even if companies are cutting costs, it’s a cost well spent on building relationships.
Tip 3: Encourage informal conversations
Humans are social animals, and people tend to assume the worst if they don’t know what others are up to. To help build relationships and trust between members, encourage your team to share their feelings and chat informally whenever they can.
Take this example - Pete to Maria: “I hate coming in on rainy days, traffic is awful and I feel I am wasting precious time, plus it stresses me out.” Maria thinks: this explains why he is so cold and to the point some days… Not good that he lives in London. Maybe we can be a little more flexible with his working times.
Tip 4: Rotate
To further break down barriers between team members, try to ensure at least one team member spends a short period of time in another location.
Tip 5: Be creative with team bonding
For example, after your team achieves a particular goal, organize a virtual reward ceremony. Send a small present to all team members and get everyone to open it at the same time during a video call.
Tip 6: Treat time zones fairly
With teams spread around the world, you may have a very short window to meet some members or the whole team. Rotate every week the times for meetings to make sure one member is not always waking up early for meetings and that another is not going home too late.
Tip 7: Prioritize cultural sensitivity
Being culturally aware in a virtual environment, where people are based around the world, is even more important than in face to face settings. It´s crucial you have an awareness of the cultural differences in your team and promote cultural training for all members. For example - Susan sends short and “very direct” emails to other team members. If they don’t know that’s part of her culture, others may feel uncomfortable and feel she’s treating them poorly.
Tip 8: Invest in socializing pre-existing teams
If you inherit a strong pre-existing subteam (everyone knows each other and works excellently together) - bear in mind that these teams may create even more barriers if they begin working virtually with other, unfamiliar, team members. People in strong pre-existing teams are more reluctant to share information as they have a method that ´works´. Invest in building relationships between the whole team or, recruit someone new in every location and start from scratch.
Tip 9: Look for shared understanding when recruiting
If recruiting, look for people that have worked internationally and who share previous experiences and similarities. Not necessarily in terms of culture, but in terms of shared training activities, having worked on similar projects, education background etc. The aim is to have some diversity but to make it easy to build trust with some point of contact.
Tip 10: Manage expectations
Team members might be expecting certain global opportunities (like moving to headquarters at some stage). How do you motivate your team? What happens if the team goes well? You need to deal with this along with HR – so you should know from the beginning what you can offer them.
9 tips for effectively managing virtual teams
Managing virtual teams requires a set of special skills, flexibility, innovation, and the right tech support – here’s what it’s all about, including a “managing remote workers” toolkit with 9 quick and easy tips.
What are the challenges of a virtual team?
The challenges of managing virtual teams are various – they include:
Causing or being a victim of a misunderstanding – because of a problem with your chosen communication system.Occasional poorer performance – because of a lack of clarity and direction in your work.A feeling of detachment from other people working in the team – because you get caught up in your own work and the lack of face-to-cafe interactions makes you forget about the other people in your team.
However, all of the listed challenges have a solution – you’ll just need to be patient in the execution of these solutions and experiment a little to find what works best for your team.
How do you overcome the challenges of virtual teams?
The short answer is – gradually and methodically.
Here are the 9 tips on how best to overcome the challenges of managing virtual teams:
Allow flexible work hours
Undergo virtual teams training
Organize meetings according to different time zones
Ask for progress reports
Use communication tools
Use management tools
Look for the right kind of people for your team
Harbor a virtual team culture
Find inspiration in famous virtual teams
Tip #1 – Allow flexible work hours
Working from different parts of the world means that your entire team will rarely be able to work at the exact same time.
After all, your UI designer from Warsaw won’t be able to work at the exact same time as your back-end developer from California.
So, you’ll need to be more flexible with their work hours – both to accommodate different time zones and help your team strike a work/life balance. They’ll be happier for it, and, as a result, more productive with their work.
So, have your team work according to their natural predispositions, and instruct them to track time on tasks and projects they work on during their work hours.
This way, you’ll be able to see:
When each individual team member likes to work
Who is working on what at any moment
Who is currently available to take on a new task
As a result, you’ll be able to pinpoint the times when your schedules overlap and arrange real-time group activities accordingly – for the times when your team absolutely needs to work together.
By tracking your flexible work hours, you’ll also be able to measure productivity levels – and identify bottlenecks and potential time-wasting activities you’ll then know you need to eliminate in the future.
Tip #2 – Undergo virtual teams training
If you want to master anything in life, chances are you’ll have to work on it. The same goes for managing remote teams – sometimes, it’s best that you undergo training before tackling it.
There are several ways of managing virtual teams, so managing virtual teams training courses also involve three separate types of training:
Your team will have to be well-versed with the virtual team management tools you’ll all be using in your work.
So, you’ll need to cover:
What types of tools to use? And when?What specific tools to use?How to choose the tools to fit your individual needs?How to handle tech issues – including tool issues and having no Wifi
GROUP PROCESSING TRAINING
Your team will have to be able to tackle various project-related challenges.
So, you’ll need to cover:
Building trust among remote team members
This type of training is vital if you work in a multicultural team – your team will need to understand how best to function in a cross-cultural team.
So, you’ll need to cover:
How to overcome cultural differences
How to work according to each culture’s customs and work routines
How to overcome prejudices and ignore stereotypes
You can join in on an official “Managing Virtual Teams” course to learn the best strategies for managing virtual teams. Or, you can do your own research on how best to conduct the training.
Tip #3 – Organize meetings according to different time zones
We touched upon this in an earlier point – you’ll need to take into account your teams’ time zones for the times you’ll want the entire team to “get together” and work together.
And, this especially includes group meetings of any kind.
When it comes to the process of finding the ideal time slots for meetings, it’s best that you:
List all your team members on a paper
Add in their time zones
Add their clock-in clock-out times you’ve gathered from their time tracking results
Find the ideal time slots for meetings through comparison
You can use an online time zone converter for this purpose.
Once you’ve decided on the time, you can then handle remote meetings by holding Skype video conferences or through a communication system like Google hangouts.
Tip #4 – Ask for progress reports
You don’t want to micromanage your team – but you’ll still have to keep an eye on what they’re doing and whether they’re making the planned progress with their tasks.
You can do this by:
glancing at their time tracking reports establishing and carrying out regular daily meetings arranging occasional one-on-one meetings
As a result, you’ll be able to spot and discuss potential challenges and deal with hold-ups in a timely manner.
Tip #5 – Use communication tools
When it comes to tips for managing remote teams, nothing beats efficient communication.
Of course, virtual team communication can best be handled with the right communication tools:
📷 Chat tools – they are great for asking quick questions and clarifying some matters about your work.
📷 Skype – it’s great for carrying out video meetings and video conferences with your team.
📷 Phone calls – they are great for the more involved conversations, as well as lengthy discussions you don’t need to carry out through Skype.
📷 Email – it’s great for the more official correspondence, like arranging the time for group reports and one-on-one meetings.
Using a number of different communication tools ensures you handle discussions, comments, questions, and answers quickly.
Tip #6 – Use management tools
There are plenty of tools for managing remote teams you can try out – most of them help you cover virtual management of virtual projects:
📷 Project management tools – they are great for keeping track of project progress “from afar” and keeping an eye on deadlines.
📷 Task management software – it’s great for defining and tracking tasks, as well as storing documents you need for work.
📷 Team management tools – they are great for facilitating collaboration among team members.
📷 Screen sharing tools – they are great when you need to help a team member set up a new program you’ll both be using, or anything else you need to perform from afar.
📷 Online spreadsheets – they are great when you have to work on documents simultaneously and have all changes saved and synced in real-time, automatically.
Using a number of management tools will greatly facilitate your project, task, and team management – as well as ensure you save time by working in one document at the same time.
→Top productivity tools for remote teamsClockify pro tipFor 25+ great collaboration tools, check out the following lists we’ve compiled earlier:→ Best team management software→ The definitive guide to best project management toolsFor a list of useful productivity apps for remote teams, check out the following list of 20+ great tools:
Tip #7 – Look for the right kind of people for your team
When looking for people you’ll hire to work in your virtual team, make sure you:
Post your job vacancies on reputable freelance websites – conduct technical interviews with candidates who apply, but have them also go through a couple of personality tests, to make sure they’d fit in with the rest of the team.Test new hires – before signing up with individual team members full-time, take them on for smaller projects first, to test out their skills and potential for further work.Give an advantage to people with experience in remote work – this shouldn’t be a must, but people who have already worked remotely know how to work in a virtual team efficiently. This is knowledge they can extend to the rest of the team.
By hiring the right individuals, you’ll compile a group of people right for forming a successful team – regardless of the fact that they may never meet face-to-face.
Tip #8 – Harbor a virtual team culture
Virtual team culture is just as important as a standard team culture – the group of people within a virtual team will still have to form some kind of understanding, as well as build mutual trust.
You can make it happen by:
Meeting face-to-face from time to time – if you all live in the same country, you can organize get-together every couple of months. Organize a team dinner, go out bowling, and get to know each other beyond your company titles.Trying to establish virtual friendships – as you won’t be able to throw pizza parties and play Fussball together all that often, you can encourage people to strike online friendships. As a manager, you can lead the way – add your team members to Linkedin and Twitter, or even Facebook.Making all the meetings remote-friendly – sometimes, only part of the team is virtual, and the non-virtual part of the team may be tempted to hold separate meetings. To avoid the remote crowd feeling left out, establish the practice of holding all meetings, even the quick ones, online.
Building a virtual team culture helps the team feel more like a whole – and not just individuals in front of their computers, merely doing their share of the work and punching out the clock.
Tip #9 – Find inspiration in famous virtual teams
Whenever in doubt about how to handle your virtual team – take inspiration from virtual teams who’ve been successful at what they do for years.
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