Managing In A Permanent Virtual Workplace by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

There are many benefits of working in a virtual office environment. For companies, there is a decrease in overhead and costs of having to lease or purchase a physical business location to house all employees. In addition, employers can hire quality candidates from around the world, providing the opportunity to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce and hire the most qualified people, regardless of where they may reside.

For the employee, the virtual workspace allows for greater inclusion, increased flexibility, and reduces the stress and cost of commuting to and from the office or workplace. However, for both management and employees, a virtual workspace can create a challenge when it comes to effective leadership.

As a manager or leader of a virtual team, creating a leadership style that works in this environment is critical. Many of the more traditional leadership strategies are not applicable to the virtual environment, which means rethinking and applying new strategies to be an effective leader.

Have Meaningful Team Collaboration

Collaboration needs to be critical within the team as well as between leaders and teams in the virtual world. The more teams feel connected to each other and to management and leadership, the more connected they feel to the project and the job.

Holding regular, structured, and meaningful collaborative meetings to discuss projects, hear ideas, brainstorm, and get feedback is essential to be a trusted leader in a virtual space.

Keep these meetings focused and timely. Some information may be more effectively delivered using email or project management software. Managing the meeting to increase participation and decrease disengagement is essential. Having the team on camera during these meetings is also a good idea.

Be Available as a Leader

Having an “open door” policy in a virtual workplace is critical to being a trusted resource for your team. Provide the team with the contact information needed to reach out to you when they need resources, support, or if they are experiencing a challenge. This includes challenges and difficulties outside of work that may be impacting their performance or ability to maintain their workload.

This may include providing more than your business contact information. Many virtual managers and leaders do list personal contact information to allow employees and team members to connect. This can be important if the virtual team is in different locations around the world.

Consider Software Options

Utilizing a project management software solution can help to reduce the need for a lot of meetings and one-on-one communication. Consider having the team use one central software solution to update and upload current files, to communicate asynchronously to let people know if they will be away, to identify what they need to complete the project, or if they have an idea, strategy, or a solution to share with the team.

Know the Team

As the team leader, reaching out to each member on a regular basis is important. These short in-person meetings can be done by Zoom or a conferencing platform, through phone calls, or perhaps regular in-person meetings when possible.

Effective managers care for their team, making the people a priority. Reaching out on a regular basis through one-on-one communication helps employees to recognize and understand they are valued and important.