Effective Leadership Tips For A Virtual Workforce
The gradual decentralization of the workplace has increased the amount of employees and companies who are conducting their business operations virtually. Modern technologies provide companies with an opportunity to reduce costs, offer greater flexibility to its employees and/or build an organization that is more responsive to changes in the business environment.
These benefits have been overwhelming for many businesses that have made the choice to allow individual employees, teams or even entire departments to make the shift to a virtual work environment. While there are many perks to this move, there are significant obstacles to keep in mind, the largest being the leadership challenges.
Below are strategies to help leadership to manage the challenges that can arise within a team that is geographically located in various cities, states or possibly even countries.
Recognize the differences
For experienced managers and company leaders, it can sometimes be difficult to realize the necessity for change. When making the shift from a traditional, centralized office building to a virtual environment, previously accepted leadership techniques may need to be tweaked. Leaders have to learn new skills like listening more deeply, communicating more clearly and interpreting more mindfully. With little face-to-face contact, it can be difficult to detect how engaged an employee is or what is being left unsaid in an email. For virtual leaders, the first step to success is recognizing that these differences exist.
Create a structured environment
Virtual work environments are accompanied by a shift in company ideals. With more emphasis on results and less on social interaction, there is an increased level of responsibility and accountability for every employee. Leaders need to outline expectations clearly and follow up on them more regularly. Check-ins and team meetings should be scheduled more frequently than in traditional office spaces to ensure that all employees are staying on track and on top of their assignments.
Provide employees with adequate tools
Your company may no longer occupy a physical office space, but leadership is still responsible for making sure that the employees have the tools to thrive in their positions. Ensure that they have the proper technologies, secure work environments and minimal distractions. This may mean providing employees with laptops, video chat capabilities or access to virtual office software programs, such as Sococo. Being equipped with these tools, the employee is given company support, which promotes hard work, elevated engagement and motivation.
In a traditional work environment, employees are able to communicate with each other constantly, whether it is a short walk to a colleague’s office, a phone call or a conversation over lunch. The connection, while it may be more organic, is something that can be easily lost in a virtual office. Leadership needs to recognize this risk and leverage the array of communication technologies that are essential to recreating these informal interactions. Instant messaging, wikis and webinars are all tools that can be utilized by leadership to promote the communication of thoughts or ideas from employees.
Promote a work-life balance
For businesses, the rapid development of communication technologies has meant that their employees can be reached at every moment of every day. Physical offices make it easier for employees to leave work at the office, but virtual workspaces blur this line. When an employee works from home, using their own computer and personal phone, the same technologies that create efficiency and engagement can swallow employees alive. Leadership must make a point to encourage employees to disconnect from their technologies after the structured workday has ended. Working hours should be clearly defined and checked up on during regular meetings to ensure that individual employees are not overworking themselves and heading towards a burnout.
The age of the laptop, smartphone and communication technologies such as Wi-Fi and Skype have allowed companies to expand into new ideas of a work environment. Although not all work can be performed virtually, a wide variety of knowledge-based tasks can be sent to workers off-site, presenting organizations with new and exciting methods to get their work done. When spearheaded by strong leaders, a virtual workforce can be a source of true benefits, including flexibility, lower costs and increased productivity. The modern version of the workforce is expanding to more and more businesses each year and soon, mastering the art of virtual workforce management will be a major topic in the business world.
Deanna Ayres is the SEM Strategist and Community Outreach Supervisor at The Marketing Zen Group & Sococo. She loves to come up with new content strategies for and with her team and believes that connecting on a personal level is vital to success. Growing up in Europe has allowed her a unique insight into cultural differences in business & marketing. In her spare time she is a photographer, hobby cook with a love for coffee, gamer and geek.