With a completely virtual team, it’s hard to manage productivity and performance. Especially in the situation that many of us find ourselves in at the moment: trying to work from home, potentially with our partner and with the uncertainty of when or if we will ever get back to ‘normal.’ As hard as it may be, we have to accept that we are going to be in this position for the foreseeable future; to make it easier on ourselves, we need to start adapting to working virtually.
To help you do this, we wanted to first look at why it’s much harder to create a high-performing virtual team.
Why is it harder to create a high-performing team (when everyone is working virtually)
- You can’t manage by walking around the office – as not everyone is working from the office, you can’t just walk around and check that everyone is doing what they should be.
- It’s harder to generate trust between team members – due to the lack of proximity, it is hard for team members to put their trust in one another.
- You have to adopt an ‘outcome-based’ approach – the hardest transition to make is having to adopt a results-based approach rather than a time-based approach. You have to trust your team to get on and do the work without being able to stand over them.
- It’s much easier to have communication breakdowns – misunderstandings occur far more often over email and digital platforms which can cause bottlenecks, frustration, and even conflict between team members.
- It’s difficult to keep the communication going – when everyone is working in different places and potentially at different times, it can be hard to keep communication consistent (especially since it’s easy to ignore emails and messages rather than a person).
- It’s hard to get the quieter members of the team to speak up – quieter and more introverted members become even more so when working virtually. It can be harder to get them to speak up in a virtual meeting rather than in person.
- You can’t create that ‘team feeling’ as easily – bonding is more difficult when people don’t work closely in the same place so team members may not be as close or cohesive as they may potentially be if they worked in the same office.
What you can do as team leader to increase performance
It’s very easy to let things slip by you when you’re trying to manage a completely virtual team from home, but that has a massive negative impact on productivity, motivation, and your business as a whole. So what can you do about it? To increase the performance of your virtual team, you must:
- Acknowledge that things have changed and work with each individual to find what works for them – a lot of people are working from home in different locations and some are struggling. Don’t assume that nothing has changed and just carry on as before.
- Create a workflow plan and hold people accountable for what they need to do – create an overall workflow plan for each month and assign individuals their tasks and deadlines. This helps them to see where they fit into the team as a whole and it ensures that they get their deliverables in on time.
- Set specific agendas for meetings – the mistake that some managers make is letting meetings become a talking shop. Yes, it’s important to do a temperature check with everyone involved, but this time isn’t to catch up. You need to make sure that you discuss everything that you need to so that everyone can go off and get what they need to done.
- Tackle any performance issues or workflow issues immediately – if you don’t nip any issues in the bud quick enough, they can become a far bigger problem than they need to. Don’t let that happen and tackle them when they are manageable.
Hopefully, now you understand why it’s so difficult to create a high-performing virtual team and what you need to do to foster one.