According to recent figures from Upwork, 35% of the U.S. workforce is now freelance. This is a trend that doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon, especially with the rise of digital nomads and virtual teams taking over modern business. That's not to mention the global pandemic that sent most of the world into long periods of working from home.
Whether you're hiring freelancers from around the globe or are trying to adapt from working from home, we've got you covered.
In this article, we'll be documenting some tips to help you manage your virtual teams, getting the very best possible out of your international mix of workers. From the best tools to vital rules and practices, we'll show you how you can start managing virtual teams with ease.
What are the benefits of a virtual team?
With the global COVID-19 pandemic, team members have begun to transition online more than ever. Managing virtual teams offers a different range of challenges than in-person communication, but also comes with a further plethora of benefits.
Here are the top three benefits to having remote team members:
- Cost-efficient - Without having to rent an office space, you'll be saving your business a large sum every year.
- Global Talent Pool - You're no longer geographically constrained to the area you're in, with the whole world of talent just one click away.
- Happier Employees - Team members working from home will be able to save hours without having to commute, leading to a better work-life balance.
Without further adieu, let's jump into the top five tips for managing your own virtual team.
5 tips to effectively manage virtual team members
Virtual teams can be difficult to manage, considering the range of time zones that come into play and all of the various communication technologies you'll need to become an expert in. But, when done correctly, virtual teams can bring a whole new dimension to your business, unlocking the very best working potential from around the world.
Here are our top five tips for managing virtual teams:
- Give employees the right equipment
- Set goals when managing remote teams
- Recognize achievements and reward top performers
- Organize regular meetings
- Allow flexible hours and consider time zones
Let's break these down further.
Give employees the right equipment
The foundation of a strong virtual team is access, with adequate video, microphone, and laptop technology ensuring that all of your team can participate. No matter where they are in the world, your team will need the right equipment to stay online.
That's why we recommend that you give your team either a tech pack during their onboarding process or a stipend to go out and buy any technology that they're lacking. Make sure your team members all have access to:
- A working computer with a webcam
- A microphone or one that's built into their computer
- WiFi packages that will ensure they can run video connection continuously
- A work account login to any services you use for communication, like Skype or Google Hangout
Ensuring that every single one of your team members has the right tools will allow them to perform their job efficiently, no matter where they currently are.
Set goals and recognize achievements
More so than ever, when managing virtual teams, there's a need to set and update goals continuously. As many companies will have staff members across multiple time zones, it's difficult to keep all the projects running smoothly if you're not strict about maintaining progress towards goals.
This is another moment in which regular meetings come in handy. Suppose you have a quick scrum meeting at the start of every working day. In that case, you'll be able to make sure that everyone is on track to achieve their personal goals or carry projects further along to the finish line.
Although working remotely can feel a little disconnected at times, it's also important to celebrate when goals are met by the team. If you feel your team is starting to lose their motivation, try some of these work from home burnout tips. As a team leader, you should always work towards motivating your team, whether they be remote workers or people you see in-person every single day.
If you have a monthly goal that was hit ahead of time, set aside a moment in the day to congratulate your workers on their efforts. If your company can do so, sending out a small gift of appreciation to their home addresses also never goes unnoticed.
Organize regular meetings
From virtual teams to in-house departments, everyone should understand the power of regular meetings. Although there is definitely something to be said about the vast amount of wasted time that some meetings generate, with 15% of an hour-long meeting being categorized as a waste of time, we're talking about efficient meetings.
To run an efficient meeting, the first step is always to send out an agenda ahead of time. These agendas will allow your employees to know what will be coming up in the meeting. Additionally, they'll be able to prepare answers ahead of time, streamlining the process and ensuring that you don't waste time with people thinking on the spot.
When scheduling regular meetings for your virtual teams, you provide a forum where everyone can check in with the progress of their team members. You'll be able to share problems, discuss strategies, and give updates on how specific projects are going.
This is especially important with remote teams with very little social interaction with their workgroups. These meetings allow people to coordinate work while also offering a moment to meet with others. Although it's not quite the same as meeting face to face, these calls can bring a much needed social element to the job.
Give feedback to employees in one-on-ones
A one-on-one meeting allows you to directly scan with a team member, checking in on them and finding out how everything is going. From asking about stress levels to learning more about the employees themselves, one-on-ones are a great place for managers to help their team out.
Check out this sample template for your next one-on-one from Hugo.
Employees may feel alone sometimes, especially with virtual teams. Be sure to use these meetings to remind them that they are part of a team effort and that they are valued. You can also use these meetings to give feedback to employees, helping them get better at their job over time. This can give them a helping hand towards reaching their professional goals.
When in a one-on-one meeting, be sure to listen to your employees closely and take notes. If you listen to them, you'll be able to build a better idea of your employees’ strengths and weaknesses while hearing about how they're fairing at work. What's more, employees that feel listened to are more likely to think their feedback is correct than those that feel unheard in the workplace.
That means if you listen to your employees and provide them suggestions, not only will you motivate your employees, but you'll also make them feel like you've taken the time to carefully craft their personalized feedback.
One-on-ones, just like regular meetings, are a vital part of managing remote teams.
Allow flexible working hours and be mindful of timezones
When working with virtual teams, you're also likely to be working with the problem of time zones. While one team member may be located in the states, one may be in Europe, while another could be in Asia. Depending on how international your team is, you should always be flexible with work schedules.
Many jobs with virtual teams require their remote employees to stay within certain time zones, which will let them follow the company’s set hours. While you don't have to be that strict with your policies, it does help to be working under the same daylight.
We recommend that you allow your remote workers to choose their day's start and end time, depending on their position. Suppose they're independent workers that are working on a project by themselves. In that case, there isn't such a pressing need to work the same hours as all of their other colleagues.
With certain employees, you can allow them to work to the schedule they want. Just be sure to schedule wider team meetings ahead of time to let them know when they need to rejoin the group.
Building upon that, you should also be mindful of time zones when scheduling your virtual meetings. While video conferencing means that anyone can join from anywhere, having an important meeting at 3:00 A.M. may not be the most encouraging way to start someone's day. Be sure to understand where your remote employees are based in the world, and then schedule meetings when the whole team is available.
Manage your virtual team with Hugo
Above all, when managing team members from all around the globe, you need to have the right digital tools ready to use. From Microsoft Teams to Zoom and Upwork, you could use a range of tools to keep on top of your virtual team.
If you're looking for an all-in-one meeting platform, then Hugo provides everything you need under one subscription. With note-taking software for recording your meeting minutes, easy drag-and-drop calendar scheduling, and unlimited access for your team, there's never been an easier way to help your virtual team work together.
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