Virtual teams have been on the rise over the last decade, but the COVID-19 outbreak has highlighted their importance in our current economy. 

As we move forward, it will be the teams who can make a success of remote working which will come out strongest. 

As announced by the Prime Minister, in the U.K. from Wednesday, May 13th, workplaces are being encouraged to open, with social distancing measures in place. However, for those who have been working from home, this continues to be the norm. 

The coronavirus outbreak was the first time in U.K. history that more employees than ever have gone fully remote. Likewise, it was the first time many leaders were tasked with leading a fully remote team. 

Overwhelmingly, employers and employees alike have risen to the challenge, with virtual working becoming regarded as the ‘new norm’ for many.  

How long these initial temporary measures will last for is unclear. In many ways, this shift to remote working has raised searching questions over the nature of the physicalities of work. For leaders of newly-virtual teams, I want to share my advice on developing an impactful virtual team, gleaned from my years of experience in this sector.  

 

Define Your Processes 

 

 

This task will have been on your to-do list at the start of lockdown – the move from the office to home working will have meant that you might have added additional stages to your usual process, or taken some out. 

What was ‘temporary’ at the start has now been in place for many weeks – does your system need revisiting? What worked at the beginning might need adapting. Have your team changed the process as they discovered what worked, and what didn’t, but has this been clarified? 

Work with your team to document the processes for each employee or department, and then create a standard operating procedure (SOP) which outlines the process for every task and role in your organisation. 

Remember, when creating SOPs is to simplify your processes as much as possible – keep tasks to sub-groups of no more than three employees (where possible) and use clear transparent language with time frames. 

These documents are incredibly useful for virtual employees to reference, and they make virtual working more streamlined. 

 

Keep Momentum 

The most critical component of a successful virtual team is momentum. Working from home is very different from the camaraderie of the office, and you might find it noticeably more challenging to keep the energy up in your team.  

The momentum in your team can slip due to lack of contact that organically happens within the office. It is easier for employees to slip when they haven’t got their colleagues to voice queries and ideas with – some tasks might get added to ‘to-do’ lists but then forgotten about – due to a lack of constant communication. 

The best strategy to combat this is frequent video calls – repeated at the same time each day, with extra as and when they are needed. Encourage your team to use video to connect instead of phone calls when they need to discuss something.  

Video calls are proven to be better at communicating ideas – your team will feel more confident and secure in their roles when they are sure that they, and their colleagues, are on the same page in regards to tasks. 

 

Motivate Your Team Members 

 

 

Learning how to motivate your team remotely will be crucial to their success. Some team members will find it easier to stay motivated while at home; others will find it more challenging. 

What is vital to remember here is to learn and remember your team members’ personality types and working styles. Some employees will love speaking on video calls; others will naturally want to shy away. 

While I heavily recommend regular video calls with the whole team, you will invariably give more attention to those that need it during these calls, and even do extra calls with employees who need additional guidance and motivation. 

 

Use the Right Tools 

Of course, even the best virtual leaders need to be supported by the right tools. To help you develop your virtual team, you will need to utilise the following –  

  • Video call software – there are many applications out there that allow you to conduct video calls – the three main platforms are Skype for Business, Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Each platform has its benefits and drawbacks, but all are free to sign up for and trial, so you can see which one works for your team. You might choose to use a combination, such as Microsoft Teams for daily team meetings but encourage team members to use Skype if they need 1:1s with each other.  
  • Online project management – some organisations will have already had in place an online project management tool, while others rely on more traditional methods such as spreadsheets and emails. Using an online project manager, such as Wrike, Monday.com or OpenProject, makes it much easier to track workflow, and influences employees to be timely with their work.  
  • Workflow automation – going a step further than project management, it is possible to set up workflow automation so that the time-consuming parts of your team’s roles are taken care of autonomously. This can be email automation, uploading, cloning and decommissioning of tasks. Again, there are plenty of providers of these services, such as Tallyfy and KissFlow 

 

Finally 

 

 

We provide regular blog posts for new and experienced virtual managers to help lead their teams to success. Right now, due to coronavirus, the issue is pertinent. Head to our blog here for more advice and guidance on managing virtual teams, or for more information on how we can support you to support your team, call us on 0845 548 0833 or email us here. 

Until next time, 

Julia 

 

About  Zestfor   

Zestfor specialises in developing Training programmes and resources scientifically tailored for technical markets – including Pharmaceutical, I.T., and Life Sciences.        

Our blend of in-classroom, online, and virtual live-stream delivery methods will engage and assure even the most introverted team members from the first meeting – whether face-to-face or virtually. To have a brief chat, call us on 0845 548 0833. Alternatively, please email our team here.