12 Ways to Successfully Manage a Virtual Team

Joanna Zambas
Joanna Zambas

Content Manager and Career Expert

Woman Having An Online Meeting
Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

Virtual teams have become the norm over the past few years, with more and more businesses and startups turning to remote workers to build a productive workplace. This strategy not only cuts costs but it also boosts productivity by offering workers a flexible schedule, essentially increasing job satisfaction and driving better results in the process.

But to increase revenue and maximise success, you need the right set of skills and devices to manage a virtual team.

From online collaborative tools to key practices, here’s how to manage a high-performing virtual team.

1. Create a Structure and a Plan

The first step to effectively managing virtual teams is to define a working system that everyone can stick to, also known as a standard operating procedure (SOP). By setting standards and establishing the work process, team members will have a better understanding of how long tasks should take and will generally have fewer questions.

To standardise procedures and outline rules for all employees, whether remote or in-house, you can create a downloadable manual. You can make this as comprehensive or as simple as you wish; the idea is that all employees should follow the necessary procedure to complete their projects as efficiently and accurately as possible.

2. Move Forward with File Sharing

Sending large documents through email can not only make your inbox work at a much slower rate than usual but also result in information getting lost in translation, especially when you’re sending comments in a separate form. To avoid these issues altogether, you can share large files with team members through a cloud-based service like Dropbox or Google Drive.

Cloud storage services have many benefits and offer everything your internal server does, but they are more secure and easier to access. Your files and folders can be organised almost any way you like. Many of these services offer a downloadable app, so you can even access your documents from any device, which is perfect if you’re working on the road and need access to multiple files.

3. Engage in Multiple Communication Channels

When moving away from a traditional workplace model, it’s essential to review the key part of a strong team: effective communication. And to get the most out of your team, you’ll need to tap into leading communication tools available on the market.

The first essential tool you need when managing remote workers is a secure chat system that will let you instant-message and call colleagues at the click of a button. These tools are used in offices all over the world and provide employees with a platform to have that all-important watercooler chat, ask quick questions and share files with each other.

Meanwhile, you can’t simply ask someone to pull up a chair next to you to show them your working process when working remotely. With video sharing tools, on the other hand, you can effectively do the same thing! Skype, for example, lets you video-call people while sharing your screen with them so they can see what you’re doing. Some might argue that this is even better than in-person training, but we’ll let you be the judge of that!

4. Tap into Project Management Software

When many members of a team are collaborating on a single project, the use of project management software is essential. This effectively allows you to track processes, input data and communicate with your team, as well as improve collaboration between team members.

In fact, there are hundreds of project management tools available on the market that can help you streamline a project and work towards the same end-goal, from Trello to MindMeister.

5. Build a Remote Company Culture

Creating a company culture can seem like a somewhat tricky affair when all your employees aren’t working under the same roof and do not have face-to-face contact on a daily basis. But having said that, it’s not impossible! With the power of the internet, you can see your colleagues by using video software or recording short clips to send to your coworkers via an integrated system.

You can also arrange an event (if all your workers are in the same country) so they can meet and build a stronger bond when working together on a daily basis. By doing so, your remote employees will have shared experiences that will help build their trust and understanding towards one another.

Alternatively, you could arrange frequent catch-ups via a group call or chat when everyone is winding down for the day on a Friday afternoon!

6. Establish Set Working Hours

If you have employees in all four corners of the world, you’ll most likely have different people working around the clock. However, it’s important to try and establish specific working hours for various members of the team, ensuring that there is always a crossover between at least two teams working together at the same time.

This will essentially cut down the turnaround time on projects if two or more people who are collaborating are online at the same time. This doesn’t necessarily mean that their working hours should be set in stone, but you should come to some sort of agreement so they can support each other throughout any given working day.

7. Create a Combined Calendar System

To help you identify your team members’ working hours and schedules, you should consider using a collaborative calendar that can be accessed by all team members (with limited rights, of course – you don’t want them to edit their own shifts!). You can organise different calendars for different topics (eg: working hours, annual leave, etc.) or list all events on a single schedule and use a colour-coding system to differentiate between topics.

This is also an excellent opportunity to schedule meetings, training sessions and other events that will be useful for your employees.

8. Hire a Team of Self-Motivators

Great remote workers need to be self-motivated and driven, and finding such people can be tricky, to say the least. But in order to run a successful business, you need to identify if they can sit alone for hours one end and produce high-quality work.

Not only should they be self-motivated, but they also need to have excellent written and verbal communication skills to ensure there are no misunderstandings. Additionally, they should also be good at problem solving and be organised with excellent time management skills.

9. Be Creative with Team Bonding

When working virtually, it may take a lot more effort to form a culture and ‘team spirit’, but it’s essential for people to create a bond. Employees need to know that they are all working towards an end goal and are part of a larger picture, instead of merely working on their own.

You can create a real team feeling by interacting with employees via video calls, sending them personal birthday gifts and messages, and communicating with them outside working hours via social media and other outlets.

10. Set Goals and Boundaries

A good way to keep remote employees engaged is to set goals and reward them for their achievements. For example, if your remote worker is a customer service representative, you could reward them with a gift card for their favourite store if they meet or exceed specific targets.

On the flip side, you should also create boundaries. For example, employees should work a minimum of six hours per day. If they work anything over that time, they will be paid on an hourly basis.

11. Form a Team of Leaders

A virtual team should, essentially, be a group of leaders that can manage their own workloads without needing any hand-holding. Each person should be responsible for a set of tasks and will need to lead their daily duties based on the work they are given.

While they will be working as part of a team, they should also show the ability to lead in one way or another, either by being assigned as the project manager of a certain task or in charge of a specific section of a project.

12. Schedule Frequent Meetings

In order to achieve a feeling of team unity, you should arrange regular meetings, both on an individual and a team basis. The frequency of these meetings is down to your working schedule, but you should aim to check in with your team as a whole once a week to ensure everyone is on the same page. Meanwhile, don’t go overboard: too many meetings can do more harm than good!

This is not only effective for team bonding, but it also encourages brainstorming and creativity among team members, and it builds trust within remote teams. It can also reduce stress levels by reminding remote workers that they do have a safety net and a unit to consult with.

As the workplace is no longer restricted to a single office, it’s essential that you adapt and develop your skills in order to manage employees from across the pond. To make sure that you’re scaling and building a strong business, you need to keep your remote workers engaged and motivated, and these key management strategies can help you achieve just that!

Have you ever managed a remote workforce below? What challenges and surprises you were faced with? Perhaps you want to share your own tips and advice on how to build and manage a virtual team? Join the conversation in the comments section below and let us know!

This is a sponsored post for Dropbox. All opinions are my own.