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Leading a virtual team

It is safe to say that the Covid-19 pandemic brought about several changes that affected our work and personal lives. One of the biggest changes may perhaps be that organisations globally had to introduce remote working. What’s more is that this had to happen very quickly and without any warning or time to prepare.

Many managers had to suddenly operate with a virtual team, which is something they were not used to. It can be very difficult to manage oneself when working from home, let alone manage a virtual team when you may have never done it before.

If you are new to virtual management, the following are a few recommendations to ensure you are managing your team just as effectively, while keeping up their morale and motivation.

1. Reset expectations

You and your team are probably used to working in a certain manner, sharing the same office and have a routine or schedule in place. Expectations of how work gets done needs to be reset, and you need to allow your team the accountability and the freedom to complete their tasks and day-today responsibilities in their own time. This thus focuses more on the results, and gives them the flexibility they require.

2. Make regular contact

It is essential to speak to your team members regularly. There is no need for the meetings to be long and dense; instead you may want to resort to using a chat application where you can send short direct, instant messages at the required frequency. Depending on the organisation, the culture and the nature of the work, you need to decide how frequently to communicate with your team. It could be every day or every week. For longer meetings and check-in conversations you may want to resort to using online video applications so you can read the body language, and get a clearer picture of how the employee is getting on.

3. Promote continued learning

If you previously had lunch and learn sessions, or days dedicated to training blocked out throughout the year, now you may instead want to resort to shorter sessions where as an entire team you discuss a variety of topics every week. Different team members can lead the sessions, giving them the opportunity to discuss topics which they feel are relevant to them personally as well as the organisation. Keeping sessions shorter allows for the employees to be more engaged.

4. Have buddies and coaches in place

It can be exhausting to support every member in your team. It is therefore a great idea to have more senior members in the team act as buddies or coaches. These employees should be assigned to a colleague, and can act as their point of reference. The buddy can check in daily and provide guidance when necessary. 5. Look out for tone of voice

Since you are not in the same room with your team, you will not be able to read body language cues. It is more important than ever to pay close attention to the tone of voice, tone of written communication, rate and volume of speech, and the occasional physical gestures in video communications. If you pick up on any changes in pattern, this may mean that this employee might need some additional support. 6. Be an optimist

Be the sort of leader that portrays confidence and positivity. Optimism is contagious and will rub off on your people. Choose to be encouraging and maybe even use humor as a tool when work situations get somewhat stressful. 7. Give regular updates

Be transparent and communicate to the team what is happening at all times. Get in touch regularly, even if there isn’t always a ton of information to share. 8. Gauge stress and engagement

Let your employees know that their mental health and well-being is one of the most important things to the organisation. Check in regularly and see where stress levels are at, and gauge if employees are still engaged. Employees who feel safe and supported tend to be more engaged, and will typically go a longer way to help the organisation.

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