Guest Post by Courtney Gordner, DEG Contributor
The internet has transformed the modern work environment by giving department leaders the freedom to choose the right team of employees from a much larger pool of candidates. Similarly, a person once caged by geography or physical disability can now be part of a productive team and have a much more fulfilling career than ever before.
But how does a team leader manage and communicate with a group of employees in cyberspace, where the environment can be so impersonal? How do you foster positive morale among coworkers who can’t really chat and get to know each other the way conventional officemates would?
We have scoured the internet for tips on how to manage a virtual team in the modern workplace. Here is what we have found.
Show Your Team That You Are There with Them
Don’t just shoot them an email or two with instructions and let them do their thing unsupervised. By emailing or texting your crew on a regular basis throughout the day, without hovering of course, you can keep abreast of any challenges they are facing whether technical or personal. According to Professor Sebastian Reiche, of the IESE Business School, you can develop an atmosphere of trust and community by inquiring about their families or any pre-existing stress in their home-life or schedule that you might be able to find a solution for.
Schedule Time for Team Meetings and Events
The benefit of the net is that despite the distance between coworkers, teams can schedule regular meetings via social media, video conferencing and Skype. If finances make it possible, you should also organize a yearly retreat or get together in person. Many real estate agencies that have employees working in different counties make sure to meet up at real estate conferences once or twice a year. These conferences are usually a great way to develop relationships that will surely pay off in acquired knowledge and productivity.
Get the Right Technology
What good is running a virtual team if your IT keeps breaking down? Make sure you have top of the line technology. Invest in high speed access to the Internet, audio and video conferencing, collaborative software, and shared directories. And be certain to always have access to a remote IT specialist to fix any bugs and smoothly resolve any performance related issues.
Be Understanding and Open to Compromise on Time Zone Issues.
Tom Mochal’s 10 Tips for Managing Virtual Teams reminds us that the distance between teammates often has the potential to knock personal schedules out of shape. If you scheduled a conference call at 8:30 a.m. from your office in New York, but one or more members of your team lives as far away as Los Angeles, they might not be pleased to have to wake up for what is really a 5:30 a.m. meeting for them. Be flexible and accommodating. A happy team is a productive team.
Take Advantage of Social Media
As we have said before, despite the benefits inherent in managing a virtual team, the big issue that will often present itself in this environment is geography. One or more members of the group may be sitting at home or in a room all by themselves. This social barrier must be overcome in order to truly work as a team. Encourage them to make good use of social media. Despite physical location, your group can still be cohesive and perform better if they can get to know each other as friends as much as co-workers. It can even provide an avenue for communication that will boost individual and team productivity.
An online workforce can be just as powerful, if not more so, than a traditional office team if it is built correctly. Don’t be hesitant to make your own virtual team as successful as it can be.
Courtney Gordner is a blogger/journalist who loves to write. While she enjoys writing about a variety of topics, internet marketing and social media are her favorites. You can read more from her on her blog, Talk Viral or connect with her on Twitter, @CourtGordner, Pinterest and Google+.