In response to the uncertainties brought on by Covid-19, many companies have had to transition to a virtual environment. While nearly 25 percent of US workers already work from home to some extent, the new safety policies have many in the workforce working out of the office for the first time. You may find it difficult learning how to manage your virtual team.

Under ideal circumstances, every manager would be equipped with clear policies and training to manage virtual teams. However, in times of crisis, this level of preparation is not always achievable. Fortunately, enough businesses have ventured down this road, ours included, to provide helpful tips on how to run and manage your virtual team.

Schedule structured team meetings

manage your virtual team

Instead of micro-managing the members of your team, host a mandatory daily stand-up right before everyone starts their day. Keep the meeting simple and give each person the spotlight to share three things they plan on completing that day. If they need help, this is the time to ask for it. Alternatively, encourage your team members to volunteer help if they see the opportunity.

Outside of quick daily meetings, have a weekly meeting in place for each member of the team to highlight important milestones from the past week. This meeting is purely informative and should not be used to manage projects. For more in-depth discussions, arrange separate weekly project management meetings.

Enable and empower your team with the right tools

Having the right productivity and project management tools will make it easier for everyone to stay aligned on the status of various tasks. This will also help you spot potential problems as they arise—giving you plenty of time to prevent bottlenecks and roadblocks.

Use these tools to empower your team to better manage their work and to coordinate with each other more easily. Don’t use these tools to constantly check up on your team and their progress with each task.

Here are several that we recommend for your own WFH toolkit:

Trello – visual collaboration tool for planning tasks and projects.

Slack – communication platform for members across the organization to communicate and share content 1-on-1 or within public and private channels.

GitHub – development platform for teams to easily host projects, review code, and develop alongside millions of other developers.

JIRA – project management software for the entire development cycle, enabling teammates to collaborate across tasks.

Asana – workflow management tool that allows teams to collaborate and track tasks, projects, and conversations.

G Suite – Google’s suite of collaborative products and tools provide an easy way for teams to share files and co-create various assets and content.

Set clear expectations

Most projects have multiple stakeholders, but it’s not always easy to pin down who owns what. Unfortunately, this can get even more convoluted when your team is completely virtual. Preempt the confusion and clearly define ownership as well as metrics of success.

Setting expectations so explicitly can be uncomfortable if this is not how your team usually functions. However, remember that an ill-defined set of guidelines will only lead to issues down the road. Setting expectations to better manage your virtual team helps to keep everyone focused and allows for constructive feedback and benchmarking.

Encourage team building

manage your virtual team

It’s difficult to replicate the in-office chatter and fun when you’re a virtual team. You can’t do walk and talks, take coffee breaks, or grab lunch together. This doesn’t mean team building and bonding is impossible. Here are a few activities you can consider scheduling for your virtual team:

  • • Find a common hobby among your team members and create a slack channel to share your mutual appreciation for the topic.
  • • Host Zoom happy hours and play games like Codenames.
  • • Host contests that encourage team members to submit works they’ve created.

Define work hours

For most people, working from home means working out of a space that’s also meant for winding down and relaxing. When the lines blur between work and home, you may end up with stressed and restless team members.

Encourage your team to have an end-of-day routine and to keep after-hours messages strictly to emergencies.

With the right guidelines and practices in place, virtual teams can surpass the productivity of traditional teams. Using collaborative tools to manage this process is key to pulling it off successfully, as is encouraging a positive and collaborative culture.

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