Is it possible for employees to be just as efficient at home as they can be in an office?  

As Australians continue to face unprecedented challenges due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it’s important that leaders implement effective communication, teamwork and collaboration to achieve the best results for their business and their staff.   

Remote working comes with a variety of challenges, not only for a business but also for its staff and leaders. For many employees, these current circumstances may have presented them with a shift in the way they work, how they balance work with family now, which they may have never experienced before.

For leaders, virtual teams can present a risk of disconnection and a lack of collaboration which may have an impact on your team’s or individuals trust and employee engagement, if not implemented correctly.

Five tips for leading and managing virtual teams

How can leaders keep their virtual teams engaged during isolation? 

With careful planning and execution, as well as ongoing team communication, leaders can ensure they are continuing to inspire and lead their teams even when they’re not in the same room or physically seeing staff every day.  

Here are five key tips leaders can follow to help their teams continue to perform effectively while working remotely: 

Set clear and tangible goals 

When it comes to working remotely, there can be a certain amount of added distractions that employees might not necessarily be use to within the office. For others, it can be a perfect environment to be more productive by setting themselves a clear structure for how they are going to plan out their day and what they want to achieve during that time. By setting clear and tangible goals, this can help keep people on track and be clear on the work that you would like delivered by a certain time in the day or week.  

Boost transparency and communication across your business  

Communication and collaboration are amongst the biggest challenges’ businesses can face when it comes to remote working. For many people they are use to being able to resolve issues or ask questions from colleagues or managers face to face in an office environment. It’s important to develop an effective communication plan in which employees are encouraged to have regular conversations and share information openly. Offering tools to employees enables them to quickly and easily engage with others which will help to increase engagement and avoid disconnection or productivity.  

Build employee engagement  

When managing a remote team a hands-off approach isn’t going to be enough. It’s imperative to help manage your team’s workload and expectations by checking in with each employee and bringing together your team on a regular basis. With the amount of technology currently available using instant communication tools such as Zoom or FaceTime are great alternative to a phone call. You could start each morning with a team check-in each morning. A short, 15 minute meeting that allows everyone to share what they’re working on and what support they might need from leaders or other members of the team to deliver specific projects.  

Be consistent and supportive 

To ensure productivity, leaders must manage remote employees effectively. Being consistent with your approach and supporting employees who may feel disconnected or even isolated during circumstances such as COVID-19 can have a huge impact. Just as people would do in an office, having an open communication policy and being accessible to help employees on a regular basis can see people thrive in environments that may be unnatural to them. Employees may be looking for answers or just need to talk with someone to help them through a difficult client or roadblock they’re having on a project. Your team will look to you for guidance and leadership more than they will look to you for management during these times.  

Model best practice  

To get the best out of your colleagues, identifying an effective virtual team leader who models the best behaviours and practices for your business can make a big impact during these times. For many, this can be very unfamiliar and present challenges they’ve never had to deal with in the office. Now more than ever, is the time to have a leadership team in place that people can turn to and feel supported as they embrace this new way of working. This will help to bring the best out people and make people feel comfortable with what could be the new way of working now and into the future.  

What does the future of work look like? 

Over the last few months, we have seen a significant change to the way we work and have had to overcome significant challenges. How businesses adapt and manage teams remotely varies considerably but embracing change and developing essential skills required to manage a virtual team is becoming even more important, especially if this could be the new way of working for a lot of businesses now and into the future. 

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