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Managing in a New Virtual World

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Let’s be real. As team managers, we have to think of everything: budgets, ROI, deadlines and more. It’s imperative that we keep our teams engaged and productive in order to meet our goals. This is challenging even in a traditional office setting.

The current global health crisis sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic has driven workers out of the office and into a remote work environment overnight. This shift has created a new set of demands for the people in charge. Answering questions, predicting results in an uncertain climate and providing leadership for coworkers and colleagues are just the tip of the iceberg.

Fortunately, some of us have been doing this for years. Below, I’ve created a list of strategies you can put into practice immediately that will help you manage your team like, well, a boss! It might feel like you’re sending productivity out the door with your employees, but with the right direction and a sprinkle of empathy, you can keep your team on track.

Get Set Up For Success

Establish a culture for your communication. In order to succeed, you must make sure your team is prepared to work in their new normal: a virtual workplace. From a practical perspective, it’s important that your team has access to the right tools for virtual work and communication. Regardless of how your office has operated in the past, you likely already have collaboration tools at your disposal.

Use communication to build a roadmap for your team. The pandemic is causing a general sense of uncertainty, so your employees need more clarity and direction than ever before. Remember, this is not simply a work-from-home situation. Schools and day cares are closed, and your team will likely have kids, babies and spouses around that will need attention and care (especially the spouses). Plan for these complications and set core work hours for your employees to be online and available. Consider the fact that work may need to be done before or after the kids are awake, so above all else, be flexible.

Personalized Communication

A good leader understands the importance of learning about each of their employees. Tailoring management style to specific personalities has been proven as an effective method to promote productivity. Take time to understand each individual team member’s communication style, and your virtual workplace will be more likely to succeed.

Think about the individuals in your office who are the life of the party — they might lose motivation in an isolated setting. Communicate with them and develop a plan to keep them engaged and excited about their work. Those who are more comfortable alone at their desk will probably do just fine in a virtual work environment, but don’t write them off. Make sure you connect with everyone on your team and offer your assistance.

It is important to understand that every individual will respond differently to the rapid changes and uncertain climate created by the COVID-19 outbreak. Be patient and understanding with your team as they find a way to adjust and shift their own family situation.

Pick Up The Phone

Collaboration tools are incredibly convenient, but if you’re not careful, they can further isolate a remote team. Look for opportunities to pick up the phone and call your coworkers. Unplanned, spur-of-the-moment conversations can often be quicker and more productive than a chain of emails. Verbal communication creates a more personal interaction and allows you to check in on your employees’ work and their well-being.

With schools and day cares closed, there will be background noise. Be kind and understanding should there be interruptions during your conversations.

Encourage your employees to connect with one another throughout the workweek, and schedule one-on-one meetings with each member of your team to ensure continuity. Even a short conversation can promote a healthier relationship between you and your coworkers.

Video Conferencing Collaboration

Video conferencing, along with the ability to screen-share and record, is an invaluable tool for working in a virtual setting. The most obvious application is to replicate a conference room. With the right tools and people involved, you can also use the screen-sharing function like a virtual whiteboard. Think about recording a meeting and sharing it with your team to keep them inspired.

Team-Building The Not-So-Old-Fashioned Way

Just because employees aren’t occupying the same physical space doesn’t mean you can’t replicate a group experience. Weekly team meetings, birthdays, awards and accolades for your business and more can be celebrated in a virtual environment. Even though they can’t meet in person, your employees need to feel like they are a part of something greater. Setting up fun meetings to break up the hard work can be incredibly rewarding.

Working from home is a new task for most of us. If you’re feeling uncertain in your new virtual management role, you’re not alone. Although there are many differences in your employees’ personalities, styles and work habits, we hope these pointers will help you guide your team through this strange new world of work. With your leadership, unexpected change can lead to positive results.

Link to original post on Forbes.