Butler & Davis Consulting LLC

Tips on Managing Virtual Teams

Encourage a “Culture” of Good Communication 

[1]Communication is one of the most important aspects of a team and it can pose as a challenge with virtual teams. A good leader must foster a communicative culture amongst their team. The first way that this can be done, is to lead by example and do regular check-ins with team members. Additionally, communication policies should set specific guidelines or Standard Operating Procedures to avoid ambiguity.  It is important as a team to address barriers directly that come from having people working in different time zones and on flexible work schedules. Remember the goal is to have communication be clear and run smoothly. And since people tend to communicate better with people, they feel they know, hold agency wide in-person staff meetings at least semi-annually.  Face to face interaction can counter some of the mixed messaging that occurs in emails or in large conference calls. 

Hold Each Other Accountable

[2]You can build a sense of trust amongst your team members when you create a culture of creativity. [3]A remote work environment can cause staff to feel isolated and unheard. This can bring about instances of ambiguity and resentment. Leadership should make it a priority to hear from staff and to consider their input before making a decision. Top-down solutions are often unsuccessful, because there is no staff buy-in. Virtual teams work best when solutions come from the staff and staff hold themselves and team accountable for work. 

 Choose the Best Tools 

[4]What makes virtual teams possible is the software that is used to connect us all together. These tools make the job of the team easier. Consider these tools for your virtual team: 

  • Direct Communication: Google Hangouts, Slack, Twist and Zoho

  • Scheduling: Calendly, Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar, Doodle 

  • Workflow Automation: Zapier, Microsoft Flow, Monday

  • Project Management: Trello, Asana, ClickUp, Plutio, Jira

Most of these tools also come with a free trial, which means you can use them to see if they are a good fit for your team. 

Form Supportive Structures

Help staff set clear boundaries so they can have a work-life balance.  A traditional office environment often self-imposes boundaries on staff so there are less challenges with managing a work-life balance. However, high performing virtual team members can become easily exhausted and resentful towards others if they lack the skills to set boundaries. Encourage staff members to stay within the working hours and not to burn the midnight oil. Check-in with them regularly to make sure that they are not overworking themselves. 

 Maintain Clarity in the Designation of Roles

[5]In the remote environment, there are sometimes blurs in the boundaries amongst each team member, especially when it comes to roles and responsibilities. Make sure that specific actions are assigned to specific roles. Send an email after meetings to clarify and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Be careful with emails, sending blast emails to everyone can often get ignored and encourage the “bystander effect” which is when people rely on someone else to take action in the event that there is no clear direction presented.

Time management
Time management

[1] https://www.extension.harvard.edu/professional-development/blog/challenges-managing-virtual-teams-and-how-overcome-them

[2] https://www.hult.edu/blog/6-tips-managing-virtual-teams/

[3] https://www.extension.harvard.edu/professional-development/blog/challenges-managing-virtual-teams-and-how-overcome-them

[4] https://www.extension.harvard.edu/professional-development/blog/challenges-managing-virtual-teams-and-how-overcome-them

[5] https://www.hult.edu/blog/6-tips-managing-virtual-teams/