To manage a virtual workplace successfully, leaders must be ready to adopt new management techniques and adjust their management principles.
The virtual workplace, after all, differs in many respects from the physical office.
Employees may enjoy the comforts of working from home, for instance, but at the same time, they are isolated from one another. That isolation, in turn, can help boost productivity, but if left unchecked, it can also become emotionally detrimental.
These examples, however, are just a few among many reasons why managers must adopt new management principles when leading virtual teams.
Below, we’ll look at a few principles that can help managers and their teams stay healthy and productive in the virtual world.
Management Principles for the Virtual Workplace
In no particular order, here are ten things managers can begin doing today to improve their virtual workspace:
1. Listen and learn from teams
Now more than ever, managers must make a concerted effort to listen to their employees.
Given the current state of the economy and the world, workers are more likely to be worried about things such as the economy and job security, which can affect their health and their performance.
They may also feel the impact of social isolation, which can affect their emotional health, their productivity, and, as a consequence, the team as a whole.
Most managers tailor their management style to fit the personalities and needs of individual employees, at least to a certain extent.
In a virtual workplace, however, it becomes even more important to stay flexible and offer personalized solutions to employees.
For instance, some employees may thrive in a virtual work environment. Those employees would do better if they had more freedom and independence.
Others, however, may require more structure, social interaction, and oversight.
It is important to engage with employees consistently to learn which approach suits each person best.
3. Create structure
In an office, structure is often taken for granted. Employees arrive at the same time for each shift, they adhere to daily routines, they see the same faces everyday, and so forth.
When working from home, however, this structure is absent.
Managers, therefore, must proactively create that structure through mechanisms such as daily check-ins, daily meetings, and daily reporting.
4. Set clear communication rules
Communication and collaboration can be an issue when working online.
After all, employees are not in the same office, which means that communication will be less frequent by default.
If rules around communication are not established clearly and in writing, miscommunication and friction will become more frequent.
When protocols, communication channels, and expectations are clearly defined, however, less will be left up to chance and communication issues will be far less common.
5. Be flexible when possible
As mentioned, structure and rules are needed to maintain a productive, communicative workplace.
However, it is also a good idea to take advantage of the freedoms offered by remote working.
For instance, managers can allow employees to make their own hours rather than requiring the entire team to work the same shift. As long as certain structures are maintained, such as daily check-ins, this added flexibility can help improve employee morale and productivity.
Managers should proactively combat the downsides of working in isolation.
One point in particular that should be addressed is the lack of social contact. Without consistent contact with coworkers, it can be difficult for teams to form bonds and social cohesion.
As a result, communication, morale, and engagement may all suffer.
To counter this, managers should dedicate time to social interaction and even consider having online social activities.
7. Offer support when needed
The current business environment is volatile and uncertain.
Many employees have had to rapidly transition to a virtual workplace, which can be disconcerting and challenging. At the same time, businesses around the globe are investing heavily in digitization and business transformation.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that some people will have difficulty adapting to these rapid shifts.
Managers should step up and be ready to offer support to employees when it is needed.
8. Adopt the right technology
Succeeding in a virtual workplace depends on adopting the right technology and infrastructure.
Cloud computing, online collaboration tools, digital training platforms, and other tools are all essential.
Since employee productivity and the employee experience are directly tied to the tools they use, it is important that managers provide them with modern, up-to-date software and equipment.
9. Focus more on output and less on activity
When working onsite with employees, managers can physically see when employees are busy and when they are not.
In a virtual workplace, however, this can only be accomplished if employers use tools to monitor employees’ screens. That approach, however, could be considered invasive and many employees would react negatively.
Instead, it pays to focus on employees’ output and their productivity, rather than how active or busy they are.
10. Become data-driven
Data is a must-have tool to include in the remote manager’s toolbox.
Software usage data, productivity data, financial data, and many other data sources can provide insight into a team’s performance.
That information, in turn, can offer insight not only into what is working, but also into why it is working and what areas can be improved.