While some staff are starting to return to the office, many organisations such as tech giants Google and Facebook are allowing their staff to work from home until the end of the year. Others such as Goldman Sachs may allow 50% of their staff to work from home forever! But how do you keep teams engaged if they are never physically together?
For managers or small business owners, it can be a real challenge to keep virtual teams engaged, especially if you are new to managing remote workers.
This article will give you five tips to keep your virtual team engaged.
Out of working hours are out of bounds!
Sometimes it’s necessary to work long or unsociable hours when there’s an increase in demand or a huge deadline looming. But remember that balance is important, and usually teams can actually be more productive if they stick to sensible working hours.
Where possible try not to send your team e-mails at the weekend or very late at night. Doing this sends the expectation that you want them to also work at the weekends or late into the evenings, and can lead to guilt, frustration and burn-out.
There may be a valid reason why you can’t contact your team members during working hours, but be sure to put yourself in their shoes and try to be fair. We all deserve a weekend!
Organise regular meetings
Agreed, some meetings can be a waste of time and there’s no point having a meeting for the sake of it. However, to keep your virtual team engaged at minimum a weekly meeting is essential. This keeps everyone is on the same page and held accountable to their tasks and projects.
Regular meetings also help to build personal connections amongst colleagues, which is so important for team morale, motivation and engagement.
Communicate updates regularly
When working from home some team members can feel isolated, like they’re not in the loop or even really part of the company. Therefore, regular and clear communication from the manager and leadership is essential. Think about the balance between using e-mail, other tools such as MS Teams or Slack and also video or conference calls.
Ask open questions
When communicating with your team members try to ask more open questions, which facilitate good communication, instead of closed questions, which can close communication doors quickly.
Open questions are a great way to get people to talk more about how they are feeling and their emotions. Most people like to be listened to. If you can listen to your virtual team members concerns and demonstrate genuine empathy, it will help you to build and maintain a strong connection with them and improve their engagement level.
Focus on productivity, not hours worked
Some of your staff may work traditional hours, whereas others may prefer to work very early morning and/or late at night. Some night owls even work their best at 2 in the morning!
Don’t worry if your staff are not always immediately available, try to focus on what they manage to achieve. Doing this will help you avoid micro-management, demonstrates trust and can actually improve overall productivity and performance.
It certainly takes a different skillset, and a lot of trust, to build a super-engaged and motivated virtual team. But with just a few tweaks to your management style and approach to communication, you will see huge rewards in all areas of your team’s work.
We believe that engagement is such an important factor in team performance we have a dedicated training focusing on even more techniques for keeping virtual teams engaged.