Virtual and remote teams are becoming much more likely as we near 2020. With all of the communication tools available today, many industries don’t even require brick and mortar locations. Plus, you can get employees for big-city companies at small-town salaries. Not to mention the fact that so many organizations have employees in several different countries. In fact, according to Remote.co, remote work has grown by 91% in the last 10 years.
Working remotely is also gaining popularity among people who just want to work from home whenever they have availability throughout the day, such as young parents or caregivers.
According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), there are specific challenges to coordinating people working on multiple projects across time zones, distance, language and cultures. Challenges include:
- Ensuring common understanding despite language and cultural differences, without the benefit of body language and cues from tone-of-voice.
- Coordinating all team members so everyone is where they need to be when they need to be there and with everything they need to succeed.
- Honoring individual cultures, while creating a common team culture.
So, with all of these employees in all these different locations, across time zones and cultures, it can be easy to lose track of how best to manage them. Here are some tips to help you when managing your virtual teams:
Communication – Transparency
When managing virtual teams, there’s no such thing as too much communication. Over-communicate. Since the virtual, or remote, the team is scattered, possibly around the globe, make sure that all the gates of communication are open and available. With the communication and team collaboration tools available today, it shouldn’t be difficult to keep those lines open with phone, email, text, chat, video, etc.
There is also no need to beat around the bush. Be clear about the goals and expectations of the team. Don’t let any miscommunication or errors creep into the performance of the team. Keeping the lines of communication open and your expectations transparent will be a great start to bringing your virtual team together.
Socialization – Get to know the session
Break the ice and get to know each other by socializing. Encourage a “Get to know your teammates” session. Make it a practice to follow this every time a new individual joins the team, or at specific times during the year, during the holidays, for instance, or just every once in a while.
Include team-building activities among the teammates. A healthy and professional relationship between the team members as well as the manager will always boost the team’s performance rates.
Establishment of limits and boundaries
As important as it is to make sure every team member feels like family, it is just as important to set boundaries. There is a science to maintaining interpersonal skills and managing conflicts.
It’ll be up to you to make sure no one gets overridden unnecessarily or offended by any comments from teammates.
Schedule shifts – Manage across time zones
Having remote teams across many different time zones may be a huge advantage, especially if your organization has customer service aspects. However, you’ll need to take into consideration the varied time zones of your virtual or remote team and set shifts accordingly. If you can, schedule shifts so there is some overlap of time every day that everyone is working at the same time. That may mean early morning for some and late at night for others.
Don’t let the time difference between New Delhi and New York City come between your goals and the team performance. Coordinating and communicating with the team before scheduling shifts is always a good practice!
Acknowledging and respecting the culture differences
Virtual teams are unique in their way. One of the primary reasons is the higher chance of having a vast diversity in the culture. Treat this as a positive aspect about the team in welcoming new ideas, respecting each other and acknowledging each others’ cultural differences.
Hosting a virtual meet-up or a party in-real-life once in a while to celebrate Christmas and Chanukah and Gion Matsuri or any others will bond the team and give everyone a little break from the stressful atmosphere, which will result in higher morale and better performance by your team.
Cheer on all Team Members
Trust your team members and their capabilities. Guide them during their failures and motivate them towards reaching goals. At the same time, never fail to congratulate and cheer on the team or members of the team when they go the extra mile for the organization.
Sending handwritten thank you cards to members of your virtual team to thank them for their contribution or excellence in performance can never hurt either!
There are numerous benefits to having a remote workforce, including benefits to employees’ mental health due to a healthy work/life balance, greatly increased productivity and benefits to the environment with fewer cars on the road. Studies also suggest that older workers prefer working remotely because they can keep their skills current with evolving technologies and it is preferred by younger workers because they desire more flexibility.
So, now that you’ve decided that a remote workforce isn’t such a bad idea, you should probably look at ways to manage the administrative part of your virtual team. By implementing a time tracking system like Track.ly by 500 apps, you will be able to ensure your team is hard at work and they will be able to track their hours automatically, alleviating the need to document each time they start and stop working throughout the day. Benefits of using time tracking software such as Track.ly include:
- The ability to track activity and gain insights into your team’s activity levels and engagement with frequent screenshots and tracking mouse movements and keystrokes.
- The ability to boost productivity by being able to see where workers are most effective and where they can use some assistance.
- The ability to integrate payroll to improve billing accuracy and reduce manual administrative work. There are several payroll software integration options.
Managing a virtual team from anywhere is possible. Following the tips above and implementing an efficient time tracking software will give you a good start on ensuring you have the right teams, in the right places with the right tools.
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