These days, managing virtual teams is becoming increasingly common. The challenge is, it’s tricky to do without the traditional face-to-face relationships!
Allowing employees to work remotely not only opens up the market of potential applicants, but also leads to a proven increase in productivity in existing employees as well.
The mark of a progressive company is one that accommodates its workforce with flexible policies that aim to accommodate–rather than dictate. However, simply having these policies isn’t enough.
Creating a workspace and workflow for remote employees, may it be physical or digital, is an integral part of making them feel valued and included in your company.
With that said, aiding remote employees to form connections to your business isn’t always a one-size-fits-all type of solution. Just as every company is different, the required solutions may be different as well.
Here are a number of different areas and resources that you can explore to improve the happiness and production of your remote workforce.
Fostering Inclusion with Virtual Teams
One of the most important things that can be done for remote employees is to keep them both engaged and on-board with company values.
It must be clear that even though they’re not physically in the office, they are still considered as a vital and integral part of the company.
The fact of the matter is, remote employees likely spend little to no time on-site at their company’s office. So, it is up to the employer to take the extra time and effort to ensure that their remote workforce feels as though it is a part of the company culture.
Whether it be sending weekly recap emails, developing a remote workforce newsletter, or hosting conferences to further integrate remote employees into the day-to-day of office culture, find what works for your company and make it the norm!
Whether you have a monthly all-hands meeting, or frequently celebrate milestones and broader work achievements, make sure all employees are able to tune in and take part in the fun.
Setting up a livestream would allow employees near and far to engage in the meeting, and feel the impact of the message being shared as if they were there in person.
Additionally, allowing remote employees to feel included through the ability to share in the recognition of coworkers (or perhaps themselves) is a great way to improve relationship building. By livestreaming company events, you’ll also be removing the need for after-the-fact communication where significant points could get lost in translation.
Additionally, this allows your remote employees to ask real-time questions and share comments.
Having remote employees scattered around the country, or even the world, can make for an interesting work dynamic.
Some people are very effective when working remote, but others may benefit from finding a pseudo office that they can work out of during normal business hours. If you have a remote workforce that is concentrated in the same metro area, perhaps consider opting for a coworking space.
Having a central location for remote workers to congregate is a great way to facilitate a more typical working environment. It’s a great way to get those employees local to each other in contact to forge relationships with each other.
Coworking offices often have additional amenities that would benefit your remote employees as well.
Communicating with Virtual Teams
Communication is often one of the most prominent areas where processes can be improved. Whether the transfer of information is too much or too little, each company’s situation is different.
The best way to mitigate this is to objectively look at your business, take into consideration the size of your workforce (both in-house and remote), and establish a concrete list of best practices to follow.
Be mindful of feedback and occasionally assess your processes and adjust them when necessary.
Employees, especially those working remote, often respect an open and honest communication policy. People crave information that details how to treat different workplace scenarios and the proper channels of communication that coincide with each.
In addition, businesses must establish a communication standard. This is necessary to achieve the right level of communication among managers and employees to improve relationships and create unity.
Having a remote workforce creates a need for extended security precautions. Start by implementing software that is secure and reliable.
Utilizing a service like VoIP, commonly known as voice over internet protocol, allows you the same capabilities of a hardline phone–but with improved security. All that’s needed to enable VoIP usage is a device that is able to connect to the internet.
VoIP services also include a number of additional functions like extension dialing, auto attendant which acts as a virtual receptionist, and voicemail. Additionally, most VoIP offering can be paired with a unified communications system to keep all communication easily accessible in one place.
In many cases, this means that your employees’ company issued computer can serve as the “hub” for all methods of communication.
Recently, amazing improvements have been made into the realm of creating virtual workspaces for companies with remote employees.
Applications like Sococo creates a virtual office that all employees, remote or otherwise, can use to simulate in-office interactions that they’d have with their coworkers, like “knocking” on the conference room door to see if they’re available.
You’re even able to chat with coworkers around the coffee machine and grab lunch together.
One of the more unique aspects of Sococo is the ability to spontaneously sync up with coworkers, rather than checking availability and scheduling time.
Enabling employees to feel more at ease with each other and with a digital workspace would certainly work to the advantage of the company.
Daily stand-up meetings are becoming more and more popular in today’s work environments. A stand-up meeting is literally a brief meeting that is short enough that everyone can comfortably stand through its entirety.
These typically take place each morning so that teams have the opportunity to discuss what each individual is working on and any obstacles they foresee needing assistance to overcome.
Jell is a web application that allows you to track goals, check in with your team, and host daily stand up meetings for your employees anywhere.
These meetings help coworkers (both in-house and remote) collaborate on potential issues while giving managers a bird’s-eye view of how a project is going and what blockers the team may be experiencing.
Team organization and collaboration is an important part of any company. This can become more challenging with remote workers, but software developments have made it easier than ever.
Notion is a platform that allows users to organize workspaces, calendars, notes, and project management all in one.
It works with many other platforms to allow for integration across the board, making sure you’re not missing any important notifications. This application also allows your company to completely organize the knowledge base you have, giving your employees access to information that’s readily available and easy to find.
Collaborating with Virtual Teams
In the current digital age, any piece of work, be it a slideshow presentation, a document outlining the terms of work, and even internal documentation, are often written, edited, and pieced together by more than one person.
Utilizing software that enables multiple people to be working on documents at once can improve the workflow and produce these documents faster. There are many existing platforms that allow users to do exactly–while including additional features that may suit your particular team’s needs.
Not only does the Google platform support word processing documents, but it also allows for the creation and maintenance of spreadsheets, slideshows, forms, and more. Documents stored in Google Drive can also be accessed across multiple devices, in addition to being available to multiple team members.
Another added benefit? In the event that a team member leaves your company, with a corporate account, you’re still able to access their old documents and restore files that had been deleted to limit the disruption to your greater team.
For companies that do design work, the collaboration between the different teams involved is key.
InVision is a collaboration application that allows constant collaboration every step of the way. From wire-framing and maintaining all the different elements, to interactive prototyping and creating the navigation flow of an app or website.
Keeping a team on the same page and creating a team workspace that everyone feels comfortable in will lead to overall more quality work and more collaboration between team members.
This application also allows for direct communication and brainstorming between virtual team members, which keeps everyone on the same page.
Time Management for Virtual Teams
A big part of having a remote workforce is knowing that they are able to be as productive as possible and manage their own time effectively.
No one likes a micromanager, but it’s important to morale and overall production to make sure that everyone has good work habits.
Time tracking software with analytics and a scheduling application are musts for any virtual team manager who wants to keep everything moving along as smoothly as possible.
Managing a team or company with remote workers can lead to scheduling conflicts, especially if there are flexible hours and different time zones at play.
Using an application like the Google Calendar can help to reduce or eliminate these scheduling conflicts.
Google Calendar can even send push notifications for upcoming meetings and events. It’s perfect for those of us who need that extra nudge to sign into meetings at the right time.
Managing time as an employee can be difficult, especially while at home. Employees working remotely might hear the dishes in the sink calling their name or notice that the floor could use a good vacuuming.
Occasional breaks are extremely important and should be encouraged, but losing too much time on outside tasks can be detrimental to their productivity.
Lanes provides two important aspects of time management: task manager and timers to set intervals for work and breaks.
This application also provides data analysis and insight into how productive you are at different times, giving important feedback to employees about how best to structure their time.
As previously mentioned, maintaining a work-life balance is key to employee happiness and is becoming a top priority for companies in every industry.
The days of endlessly pressing your theoretical nose to the grindstone are coming to an end. Rescue Time is the perfect application to help bring that about.
This app runs in the background of your computer, tracking time spent on applications and websites. You’re also able to set personalized goals for yourself to keep yourself accountable and improve your metrics.
For example, you can set a personal goal of spending 30 minutes or less on work involving email. At the end of each day, you’ll receive a report of what you did and for how long, allowing users to analyze time spent on the task at hand vs. time spent on unrelated tasks.
This is a great tool for anyone looking to improve their productivity overall and find the gaps in their workday.
With the technology available today, there’s no shortage of applications that enable companies to make their remote employees connected and an integrated part of the team.
Creating a stable environment for these employees will lead to more company loyalty and overall job satisfaction. Despite this, creating good relationships between remote workers and their on-site counterparts is one way that employers often fall short.
With the use of some of the examples given above or exploration of similar solutions, employers are able to better improve the way their virtual team collaborates with each other and the in-office team.