Being an effective manager is hard enough in person, but it gets even trickier when your team is distributed across different time zones or locations. Whether you have a remote work policy or a hybrid work model, you’ll need virtual management skills to keep your team members on the same page and doing their best work.
Here are five elements of virtual management that you can use to keep things running smoothly even if your team never meets face-to-face.
What Is Virtual Management?
Virtual management refers to the policies and procedures that you use to manage your team virtually — that is, remotely. Managing a virtual team doesn’t mean you can throw all of your in-personmanagement systems out the window, but it does mean that you’ll face new challenges related to communication, collaboration, and teamwork.
Since remote employees don’t share a physical work environment, you’ll need remote collaboration tools like project management software and video conferencingapps to help them connect with their co-workers in real-time and feel like a team.
5 Key Elements of Successful Virtual Management
Sometimes, the transition to virtual management can be unexpected. Maybe your work situation changed during the pandemic, or maybe you’re building a remote team for a specific project. In other cases, your team may be fully remote from the get-go.
Either way, these five components of remote management will help you manage your virtual employees more effectively and streamline the transition to remote work.
1. Clear Documentation
Attendance expectations, dress codes, and company culture can all be harder to pick up on when your team members don’t spend time together on a regular basis. Vague policies can also lead to resentment if it’s perceived that some team members have more flexible schedules or remote work options than others.
Put your policies in writing so your remote employees know what’s expected of them. Do they need to be available during specific hours, or can they work whenever they want as long as they get the job done? How does vacation time work, and are they expected to attend team meetings when they’re in a different time zone?
Don’t just add a section to your company handbook to create a remote work policy — rethink everything to ensure it’s appropriate for a virtual work format.
2. Remote Collaboration Tools
Remote collaboration tools are a key component of virtual management, and some of your project management solutions may need to be adapted for remote work. Do you still use physical whiteboards for brainstorming? Switch to a digital format instead.
Depending on the size of your team, you may need to invest in video conferencing tools like Zoom or Skype or workflow automation tools like Zapier. You can also use time management tools to track how many hours your remote team members work and enable them to clock in and out on mobile devices.
These tools are vital for virtual teams because they make up for the limitations of phone calls and emails. Remote collaboration tools serve as a central repository for important information and can keep record of your online communications.
3. Effective Meetings
Regular meetings help with collaboration and team building by getting everyone in the same (virtual) workspace at the same time. But they can also pose some challenges, from technical difficulties to a lack of spontaneity in the meeting room.
Follow these tips for running effective virtual meetings, and make sure that the meeting type aligns with your meeting goals. Kick-off meetings, stand-up meetings, and regular team meetings all have their own formats and note-taking requirements.
Having a clear remote work policy isn’t just about ensuring that your virtual employees get their work done on time. It’s also about protecting them from burnout.
The lack of a physical workspace or consistent work hours can mean that your remote team members feel like they’re always on the clock. They may feel pressure to attend Zoom meetings outside of work hours or respond to co-workers’ messages 24/7.
Encourage employees to make time for themselves by scheduling in vacation time and setting their status to “away” or “out of office” when they’re off the clock. Respect your employees’ after-hours commitments — such as childcare and hobbies — just as you would if they were leaving the office at the end of the work day.
5. Coaching and Mentorship
A virtual work format can make it harder for employees to stand out, and some team members may be shy to speak up in virtual meetings. Plus, it can be harder for new employees to learn skills when they don’t have co-workers in close proximity.
Take the time to check in with team members one-on-one to address any issues and to build rapport. Ask employees about their communication preferences — do they love video calls but hate emojis? — rather than assuming that everyone has the same communication style.
And be sure to assess performance on a case-by-case basis, since broad productivity metrics like idle vs. active screen time may not tell the whole story.
Benefits of Virtual Team Management
Remote work may be having a moment, but it isn’t a new phenomenon. Companies like Basecamp and Zapier have been fully remote for years. Other companies use a hybrid work model to give employees more flexibility without ditching the office entirely.
Here are a few reasons why you should consider virtual team management.
1. Reduced Costs
Office space can be a significant expense for a growing company. You may be able to reduce or eliminate the cost of rent or utilities by letting employees work remotely.
Of course, just because your team is virtual doesn’t mean your real-world expenses vanish altogether! Some companies offer a stipend so that employees can invest in home office equipment or join a co-working space.
2. Larger Talent Pool
Not having to hire nearby employees means you can cast a wider net and draw from a larger talent pool. You may even benefit from lower employment costs by hiring virtual employees in places with a lower cost of living relative to your office.
Plus, by hiring virtual employees in different time zones, you can keep your operations running around the clock without having to resort to graveyard shifts or overtime.
3. Improved Productivity and Well-Being
There’s some disagreement as to whether or not remote work improves productivity or work-life balance. Some of that may come down to your specific business needs and approach to virtual management.
Still, once employees get a taste of remote life, returning to the office can be a hard sell. According to Business Insider, more than half of remote employees would be willing to earn a smaller paycheck in order to keep working from home.
By following these tips and putting a virtual management strategy in place, you can reap the benefits of remote work while avoiding the pitfalls.
Level Up Virtual Management With Anchor AI
Good virtual management starts with great communication. By having clear remote work policies and regular virtual meetings, you’ll be able to avoid some of the most common misunderstandings and ensure that everyone’s on the same page.
Anchor AI makes it easy to move forward as a team with our AI-powered note-taking and project management tool. Invite Anchor AI to your next meeting and it will help you take notes, identify action items, and assign due dates automatically. You can also Ask Anchor to create a post-meeting email that summarizes the context of the meeting and key takeaways.