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Virtual team leading: Best practices

Creating a remote team of employees has many benefits. However, it also requires proper planning, as employees and management have to adjust to a completely new environment and way of working. It also has a direct impact on the management process. Learn more about how to lead a virtual team of employees, what to keep in mind, and what to pay special attention to.

According to research conducted by Harvard Business Review, a large number of managers struggle with remote team management, and employees on these teams feel a lack of trust from their employers. As many as 40% of the managers in the study expressed that they don’t feel confident in their ability to manage a remote team.

What are remote teams?

A remote or virtual team means a group of employees who work together towards a common goal exclusively using digital communications. They can work from completely different locations and time zones; all their work is online.

Differences between remote and traditional teams

Working with a remote team looks very different from employees who meet in an office every day. The fact that team members don’t meet face-to-face means that relationships and decision-making processes are built differently. Communication in a team happens in a different way, because email or group chat doesn’t allow us to accurately visualise the emotions and body language of the person speaking.

The virtual team management process is also significantly different from the traditional one. Managers can’t directly control the daily activities or even meetings that employees hold. They have to rely only (or mainly) on software and tools.

Below we’ve compiled a list of remote teams’ best practices to keep in mind when managing a virtual team.

Provide your employees with additional support

Proper remote team management requires giving employees extra support. Working from home is not an easy option for everyone, therefore employees need to be provided with extra help and time. Make sure it’s always available to them when they need it. Regular contact will help them structure their days and their tasks much better.

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Remote team integration

Another important aspect is team integration. When everyone meets in the same place every day, it’s easy to build relationships between colleagues. When working remotely, the task is a bit more complicated. For new team members it is particularly helpful to establish a system of ‘buddies’ or ‘guides’, colleagues, whom they can ask all the questions they don’t want to ask their boss and who take the time to show them the ropes. It’s also worth organising regular online meetings or games that are not necessarily related to work. If you’re wondering how to do that, check out this list of our favourite online games that you can easily organise with your team.

Update your team regularly

It’s also a good idea to ensure that all employees in the company are well informed. When working from home and not having face-to-face contact with the rest of the team, sometimes the flow of information can be interrupted. There are many ways to solve this problem. You can, for example, send a “Daily Email” to all team members with an update, do 10 minute stand-ups at the start or end of each day and of course hold weekly online meetings where everyone can have their say and the opportunity to ask questions.

Help to structure the day

With remote teams, employees have more flexibility and freedom. Sometimes this leads to a situation where work and working hours become “blurry”. Of course, this can be a big advantage, for example, if some of your team members work from other time zones. However, employees do run the risk of burning out if their days become longer and longer. At the same time, it is easy to get distracted or lose focus when working from home. At ALSO, we have developed a guideline for colleagues to support them in structuring their day, prioritising tasks, and getting things done efficiently and effectively. Of course, it is just as important to respect the working hours of your team members.

Trust and track

Trust is the foundation of any team, even more so if it is a virtual team. Believe in your team’s abilities and don’t allow yourself to control your employees’ every move. Your employees will quickly notice and appreciate it. However, this does not mean there doesn’t have to be any monitoring and management of the team. Creating dashboards with clearly defined targets and measurable KPIs is extremely helpful both for your team and yourself, especially when working remotely. Both elements together will give the entire team a target and significantly improve collaboration and productivity.

Challenges of remote teams

Building a virtual team of employees comes with some challenges. Inadequate IT infrastructure, tech, and software preparation can be serious stumble stones or even road blocks. Therefore, when planning a virtual team, you need to make sure that everybody has easy access to data and communication channels as well as the right devices in their home offices to work seamlessly and efficiently.

Learn more about ALSO SMB Remote Workplace solutions that enable small and medium-sized businesses to work remotely.