Thanks to modern technology, it is now possible for a company— from the smaller start-up to the multi-million dollar corporation— to run a business even if its workforce is dispersed in different parts of the world.
A new and highly innovative productivity software or communication app that will make our work life easier is probably being developed as we speak. Whilst technology is a key element in the operations of a remote workforce, it takes a lot more to effectively manage a geographically dispersed team. Here are a few tips that should help you manage your virtual team effectively.
Plan ahead and share your vision.
Whether your staff is scattered in different parts of the world or contained in one office, as a business owner, you need to have a vision-mission and a solid game plan on how achieve that desired outcome.
Moreover, you must share your vision with your team. Provide everyone with a clear view of the big picture. It gives them the mindset and motivation to push for that end goal.
Set expectations from day one.
So you hired this new content writer to boost your content marketing campaign. Did you tell your new writer what he or she needs to write and how you want it written? How much work do you want done in a day, week or month? Did you give the newbie an orientation on his or her first day? Did you mention that the new content should help boost the brand’s image and attract new clients? If you know what you want from the members of your team, write them down and share these expectations with each of them individually.
Have a regular reporting routine.
Since it’s geographically impossible for you to hop over to your designer’s desk and check how that layout is doing, and micro-managing is neither possible nor advised, it’s important for your remote team to establish a regular reporting routine.
It can be in the form of a daily to-do list, a weekly accomplishment report or a monthly overview. You can even opt to have two kinds, depending on the volume and nature of work done by your staff.
Keep communication lines open.
Having constant and open communication is necessary in any relationship, essential in any workplace and a must in a virtual office set-up. There will always be questions, suggestions and concerns that are not raised during the initial briefing or ideas and issues that arise when least expected; it’s best to keep the lines open just in case.
Connect with your team.
Virtual workers are made to understand that their hours should be spent working. They know that they’re paid to get actual work done. However, it won’t hurt to connect with them and learn about who and what they are outside of work.
Are they married? Do they have kids? When is your web designer’s birthday? Is he into music, art or sports?
You might even find a common point of interest, perhaps a new TV series or a recently televised sporting event. Sparing a minute to briefly chat about the highlights of the most recent episode or the last game of the finals won’t hurt your productivity or hamper the workflow. On the contrary, it might actually put a smile on your virtual assistant’s lips, lighten the work atmosphere and boost productivity levels.
Be sensitive to time zone differences.
Having a virtual team means that you will be working with people who are on the other side of the world. You may be wide awake and having sunny-side ups and orange juice already, but your web developer might still be counting sheep in the hope of getting some sleep.
It’s ideal for a business owner to have a perfectly synchronized work schedule with the team, but it’s not always possible. Forcing someone from an opposite time zone to work during your ‘office hours’ may not always be productive. Asking someone to write engaging copy at 2 a.m. might not give you the results you desire. It is however, recommended to have at least a few intersecting work hours daily, if having the same schedule is not manageable.
Plot important holidays and vacations in advance.
There may be important occasions or holidays specific to a person or region that you may not be aware of. It is best to request your workers to plot these days off in advance so you can manage the work load on the days prior to their leaves. If you have to decline a leave request, do it early. You don’t want a grumpy copywriter who had to beg off her son’s birthday party at the last minute to write your sales newsletter.
Respect cultural differences and the need for work-life balance.
What may be culturally acceptable in your country may not be tolerable in someone else’s, so be careful when discussing culture-related matters. If you can avoid discussing anything that’s related to race, religion or politics, then don’t talk about it at all.
The same goes for culture-specific observances and holidays. You may find some practices unusual but that’s what they’re accustomed to. You may not understand why they need to go to a family vacation when it’s freezing on your side of the world. But if such requests are made in advance and you approved them because they won’t hamper operations, then you must respect their needs and keep your word.
Know your plans for the following day.
Don’t ever shut down your computer without knowing what you want your team to work on tomorrow. Make a list of the tasks and expected results and make sure they have sufficient information to work with the following day.
These are just a few general guidelines that will help you manage remote teams effectively. A virtual workforce may be difficult to handle at first, but hopefully these tips would make the job easier.