Oh, how times have changed!
I don’t think it is a secret anymore that workers are becoming more and more virtual. Companies have become very good at adopting policies and technology that allows their employees to work from pretty much anywhere at any time. In fact, one study found that 70% of the global workforce now works virtually at least once per week.
While the way that employees are working has changed, the way we lead hasn’t. Many managers and leaders are using the same old techniques for communication that they did 30 years ago. The result has been a workforce that feels disconnected and from their teams and their leaders.
So what needs to change? How can you take the skills that you have already learned in communication and apply them slightly different for this new wave of work? Here are my tips for communication with a virtual team:
1) 1:1’s need to happen more often
For a lot of leaders, the one-on-one meeting is not their favorite thing to do. I get it – you’re super busy and taking 30 minutes out of your day to just meet with one member of the team doesn’t feel like the best use of your time. If you are like most, these meetings have probably gone from weekly to bi-weekly, to monthly over time. In order to be the most effective, however, these meetings need to become a priority once again.
Make sure you set aside time with every member of your team AT LEAST bi-weekly to talk about the projects they are working on and how they are tracking against their goals.
Why are these so important? It allows you to always be setting new expectations for your team and make sure they always have the most up-to-date information. In addition, employees usually like having facetime with their managers to talk about their ideas and see what they can do to reach not just day-to-day goals, but career goals as well.
2) Implement virtual meetings and require webcams
It is so easy for things to get lost in translation when working virtually.
A perfectly innocent email asking a basic question can very quickly turn into a misunderstanding that leaves people feeling confused, uncomfortable, or upset. While I think that we can all agree fewer meetings is usually a good thing, there are times where an email just won’t do.
One tip that makes these meetings even better is to find an online conferencing system that requires you to use a webcam. While this will probably feel uncomfortable and a little weird at first, it is worth it to make sure that everyone is paying attention and is actually engaged in the conversation. It also allows everyone to see body language and make sure everything is being understood correctly.
3) Establish and enforce project management tools
It is not as easy to know the state of a project when you aren’t sitting right next to someone. In order to solve this problem, you should look at implementing some kind of project management tool. Whether it is a shared excel sheet or an online tool like asana, find a way for your team to update daily what they are working on and what was accomplished in that day. As long as the team is committed to updating the system on a regular basis, it makes communicating way easier than it was before.
4) Try and have times where everyone is in the office
There is nothing like personal communication. While companies that have multiple offices across the country might not be able to have their teams get together often, teams that work from home can try and make sure personal communication still exists. Pick a day of the week and make working from home not an option on just that day. Have a team meeting and address to address all concerns and level-set what the team’s expectations are and what every person’s priorities are. This makes sure that your team still has the WFH (Working From Home) flexibility that they love, but assures effective communication is still taking place.
Working from home is one of the favorite perks of employees today. And while there are a lot of benefits to it, we as leaders need to adjust how we approach our teams and communicate goals and objectives. Managing a virtual team does require a lot more work and can feel frustrating at times, but by implementing these techniques, you can get your team running smoothly no matter where they get their work done!