Due to quarantine, many companies were forced to move their employees to remote work. Soon, some business owners found that the quality of their team’s performance has fallen off. There was a feeling that everything is falling apart or going wrong. Many say that everything wasn’t bad at the beginning, but then the employees started to skive off work, fall out of touch for a thousand reasons, and someone even left the team for good. Some complain that it’s problematic to hire people remotely.
Don’t blame anyone. It appears that company management wasn’t able to switch to a new format of work effectively. The reason for the failure is the unbethought organization of remote work and lack of knowledge on how to establish communication flow properly. Only those, who can adapt themselves timely, survive now. The future belongs to virtual teams.
If you have not prevented the negative implications of remote control, then it’s not too late to fix it. And the faster, the better. So what to do to keep your team productive and motivated?
Virtual communication is a projection of the real one. There’s also a formal and informal platform, as well as a platform for direct communication.
A formal (working) platform involves the following:
System integration is a guarantee that your business won’t fall apart. By working remotely, people develop their own processes and procedures that are inconsistent with how others work. It’s necessary to introduce a documented and standardized working practice. One that can be constantly improved and adjusted to the needs of the company.
Using enterprise management systems offers enormous benefits for conducting business more efficiently. Implementing the system at first may be costly, but worth it, because in the long run it will reduce expenses and increase profits.
For example, MS Project is a very popular system, but there are many others as well. Systems of this type allow you to plan many projects, allocate resources and budgets, take into account risks and ways to work with them, and also monitor the progress and effectiveness of task performance. The system allows you to manage employees and resources, regardless of their geographical location and quantity.
If you have a small team or if you think that your tasks don’t require such a system, it’s enough to use a platform like Wrike. In any case, it is necessary to standardize the work process so that each employee follows the instructions and doesn’t perform independent actions.
The work performance of a virtual team can and should be measured.
For this end, there are work performance metrics. Each task has its key indicators of success. These indicators should be set so that you can quickly see if each employee is productive. Periods of maximum a week or two are convenient for that.
While in the office you can see who is at the workplace and who isn’t, when managing a remote team, it can be difficult to understand what is happening, how long, and what each team member has been working on. If you pay hourly, then it’s even more necessary to keep track of each person’s work time and maintain records of this time. There are very few motivated and disciplined employees who don’t need supervision. Most people aren’t so disciplined, and some have not yet gained experience of working from home. Introducing of time tracking system is therefore vital.
If your employees work in different time zones, set a synchronized time when all team members are connected. This is the best time for virtual contacts.
In some cases, you can allow employees a flexible work schedule if the result is justified. But practice shows that it’s better to work in the same mode, as in a real office. Otherwise, there will be a risk that everything becomes chaotic and it would be impossible to organize a window for communication when the whole team is online. Someone’s absence from the workplace can be a demotivating factor for others.
It’s important to create an atmosphere that allows employees to communicate with all other colleagues easily. Such communication requires its own platform. Choose the type of communication that is convenient for you in accordance with your tasks. Some effective options are online chats (for example, Slack, Skype), platforms for project management (e.g., Basecamp), and video conferencing (Zoom, Google Hangouts).
The chat must be constantly open. It should remain alive, but not distracting. Chat is vital for discussing work issues. In addition, it helps people feel part of one team.
Some issues can be best addressed only by telephone; for others, video calling is more preferable. Any emotional issue, such as performance problems, requires eye contact. Video chat is even better because it gives an idea of what is happening to the other person.
Video calls save you time because they help you explain something faster than by writing messages.
It’s good when employees have a platform for communication that is not related to work. Sometimes people working at home feel lonely and bored. An entertaining chat for the whole company, where people can relax and turn their attention to something else, helps to maintain a feeling of social connection.
Since nothing can replace face-to-face interaction, it’s also necessary to provide videoconferencing for informal communication.
Often, one employee needs to see what another one is doing or make changes to their common work. Therefore, visual access to the desktop of another person is necessary. There are many free tools for this, such as TeamViewer and Join.me. Skype allows screen sharing, but without remote control of another computer.
Attention! Despite all the variety of tools, you need to choose only one communication channel for the main work. This is your virtual space replacing the office. If there are several channels, you’ll get chaos.
First off, you can offer a person to work on a test project, and upon completion, if both parties are satisfied, to begin working full-time. Full-time work is very important because with a part-time job or on a temporary project, people will be distracted by other things. They will be unavailable when you need them. Our experience shows that remote part-time employees end up leaving. People, who work full-time, rely on your company as a source of livelihood, therefore they will fruitfully cooperate with you for a long while.
The fight against coronavirus simply accelerated the processes and trends that were already outlined. Everyone who wants to survive will switch to a virtual format of work. And this means that new approaches to management will appear and be improved.
One thing remains unchanged, and this should be remembered. Though virtually, but we work with real people. This understanding is key to the successful management of your team.