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Managing virtual teams

The coronavirus outbreak and the move for many to working at home or at other locations means we must make some rapid and flexible adjustments to the ways we work. The health and wellbeing of ourselves, our teams and our loved ones is paramount – we need to look after each other and have regular wellbeing check-in’s. This page provides guidance for managers on supporting and managing their virtual teams.

Adopt a virtual mindset

Measure performance by output - trust in your colleagues is essential during this period of uncertainty.

Agree ground rules with your team

This includes agreeing to maintain normal office hours. Colleagues should be prepared to be available during those periods as usual, with adjustments for established flexible working arrangements.

Setting expectations

Your team needs to understand what they are responsible for (goals) and when it needs to be done (deadlines). You aren’t able to ask for work updates at a desk or water cooler, so consider what check-in’s you need to ensure the team are on top of their work. You can also consider managing check-in’s in other ways, such as shared project documents.

Supporting anxious staff

Stay calm and listen. Create an online environment where individuals can share openly everything from their mental health to family issues. This will give you a chance to get to know your team on a more personal level than you might have done before. Make sure there are regular wellbeing check-ins. If required, free and confidential support is available via the Employee Assistance Programme (internal).

See also: How to manage staff anxiety (wellbeing webinar)

Stay in touch

Suggest a daily Microsoft Teams meeting to stay in touch. Consider setting up a Teams site which may become more significant and be used for more important comms during periods of home working. Use video communication wherever possible.

Be explicit about everything you say

In a written environment, your tone of voice and body language are no longer available to you to communicate key messages, so choose your words and punctuation carefully. Every adjective, full stop and exclamation mark matters. Keep all written correspondence short and concise, leaving no space for misinterpretation.

Encourage personal communication

Loneliness is one of the most common reported challenges of remote working. Include as much face-to-face interaction online as possible, using video calls and regular manager check-ins.

Ensure virtual meeting etiquette

Who leads the meeting? Assign a team member who is technically interested/intuitive to support the team’s virtual meetings. In group meetings there may be extroverts and introverts. Allow everyone time, go round the group and let everyone have their say.

Be realistic

Be realistic about what someone can achieve if they have children or are caring for others at home. You may need to reallocate work, give them easier things to deliver and understand they may have to work more flexibly.

Transparent management/leadership

Remote working necessitates a new level of transparency and trust in teams. Our virtual management revolves around the ability to trust your teams and share information openly with them.

More information on successful remote working is on LinkedIn.