Suggestions on managing the virtual office revolution

By IanIn standard26th April, 2016

In a previous blog Ways grow your Small Business quickly, we mentioned that one of the fastest ways to grow your business is by hiring virtual office staffers that you do not need to create office space for. To some companies this might be easy; but others have the fear of losing the ability to track employee progress. The trick to making it work is by having the right tools and constant communications with the remote team.

Implementing a remote-workforce team allows you to source talent from any location, meaning you have access to the smartest, most capable workforce in your industry. This means that not everyone on your team needs to live within driving distance of your main office. In most cases, you will want a new hire to spend their first weeks at your office for training and meet the rest of your team in person. This not only makes them feel part of the team, but introduces them to client support and business procedures.

While most communications will be done through electronic means such as email, telephone and video conferencing, you still want to bring your remote team together a few times a year to help promote relationships with other team members and to reinforce your corporate culture. This is especially true if you are adding new team members to your remote workforce. It gives new hires a chance to meet the entire team at once.

Speaking of communication technology, having it available is not always enough. In order to have good communication with remote staff, some planned communication is needed – whether it is daily or weekly check-ins with a manager or scheduled teleconferences with the entire team. The remote team member who is not directly working on projects with other team members, is the one you really need to keep in constant communication with, to ensure that he or she is a functioning member of the larger overall team.

Another reason for constant communication is to help remote workers fight the feeling of isolation, when focus on tasks can be lost. Some people can get distracted while they are working at home alone, and this can cause the quality of the work to suffer.  Mixing up the types of communication may help. Teleconferences can be an efficient way to communicate with your remote team, but a video teleconference allows people to see the reactions of other team members when they make a point. This can be complemented by a web-based project management tool that allows all team members to see ongoing and new activity, as well as the status of each project they are working on.

Setting up a open chat room allows team members to leave messages for other team members. It is important to keep these chats alive while not  being too distracting to getting the job done. There should be enough conversation to discuss important issues, while at the same time feeling like they are connected as one team. You may also consider a second chat room that allows for non-business-related chat that acts as a virtual water cooler. But make it clear how much time can be spent and establish guidelines on topics that are off limits.

While bringing employees into the office space on a scheduled basis for training and project updates is good for collaboration and team building, it may not be enough. Use the time that the entire team is together to allow for social interaction or non-business-related team building events and exercises.