Managing Virtual Teams
Our New Normal
Emergency Work From Home (WFH) placement can be an exciting and welcomed change of scenery for some and yet creates anxiety and uncertainty for others. Even in the chaos of what is going on around us we must do what we can to maintain a positive outlook and that we can still trust our people to do great work in a professional manner, albeit virtually. It is likely that everyone has something to gain from a refresher on WFH best practices. Those experienced with WFH may have picked up a few bad habits over the years, such as working through lunch or clocking 12‐hour workdays because of difficulty setting boundaries. Those new to the WFH scene may not have the right ergonomic setup or technology to support their work. Try to understand each personal situation and ask early and often what is needed in order to help them be successful in their new version of normal. Share Tips for Working from Home with your team as a helpful reminder of how to prepare a productive work from home environment. Some may just need a quick refresher on using WebEx or Zoom or equipment upgrades, while others need flexible work hours to help manage everything on the home front. The lesson here, reassure and trust your team but do not assume you know their challenges, make sure you regularly check‐in on how they are doing.
A Time of Reassurance and Trust
It is unprecedented that now more than ever we must consider the personal situation of each team member and the potential impact to both team and individual productivity. We have never in our history experienced work, childcare, and school all colliding as is the case for much of today’s workforce. Moreover, this all happened almost overnight. A working mom and spouse WFH coupled with two school aged children in class at home might need flexible work hours to make it all work. Entry‐level staff may not want to be disconnected from the senior mentors they had easy access to before they began isolating and WFH. Both situations are equally stressful for all involved. As leaders we must be the voice of reassurance and remind our teams that we are all in this together.
Flexibility is Paramount
In this unprecedented period of uncertainty, we must be empathetic, flexible, and trust in our people that work is still happening and that client needs are being met. The old adages of “you must be present to win” or “out of sight, out of mind” do not work in the current remote work climate where we must trust first that people are rising to the occasion and doing the right thing even when no‐one is looking. While flexibility in where and how work is getting done is key, it may be beneficial to establish core hours to help ensure the collective team is reliably online and accessible between certain hours, for example from 10am – 3pm. Alternatively, you may choose to modify the start of the business day to allow additional family activities to settle before the official workday begins i.e. no formal meetings before 9am. As for team and individual productivity and performance, we should ask ourselves whether it really matters right now that work occurs off hours if deadlines are still being met.
Etiquette & Protocol Tips For Leading Virtual Meetings
- Establish rigor around starting and ending on time. Share the expectation of using video as much as possible and that multitasking on calls is discouraged.
- Late arrivals? Ask that when someone joins late that they immediately announce themselves “Angie’s on” vs. waiting till a natural break. Most will not like having to interrupt others when joining and this therefore incentivizes on‐time behavior.
- Don’t recap the meeting every time someone joins late, unless a senior leader joins and a recap is truly warranted. This helps set the precedent that showing up late might mean you miss out.
- Consider scheduling meetings always at the top of the hour and try ending 5‐10 minutes early to allow time for employees to refresh/snack/hydrate/stretch in‐between calls. When we are in the office this happens naturally, but when virtual it’s best to build in this much needed flex time.
- Avoid the lunch hour when possible to prevent the awkwardness of watching people eat on screen. This may be particularly difficult with global teams and time zones. On the other hand, you may reserve the lunch hour for one‐way style learning where being on video is not important and you can be muted/off video when eating.
- For key meetings, consider using the recording functionality of most online meeting tools. If you have team members that are sickened by the COVID19 virus or caring for someone that is, this can be particularly helpful.
- Make it a habit to have everyone recap his or her key action items vs. the meeting host doing it. This keep everyone on their toes and ensures that if there were any audio tech glitches that all discussion items were successfully heard and assigned before the call concludes.
Virtual Ways to Stay Connected
- Virtual Water Cooler Calls – bi‐weekly video calls to allow your team to informally cover topics of the day that would have otherwise happened in the breakroom/elevator/Starbucks line i.e. check‐in on how everyone is doing, cover tips for staying healthy, discuss coping with distractions of home, what might be going on with the business, any company announcements, etc.
- Virtual “Best Of” Calls – different lineup of presenters and topics each week, some may be TED style 15 min. talks sharing a best practice, client success story, or lesson learned. Longer 1‐hour topics may be focused on learning a new service offering or a detailed case study of a recent project, transaction or deal.
- Show & Share – Share articles by emailing a link to the team and provoke a reaction: Team, what is the most interesting thing you’ve read/seen all week?
- Virtual Yoga – Have any yogi’s on your team? Stream weekly yoga or meditation sessions for those interested.
- Virtual Happy Hours – brief 30 min. video call on Friday afternoons @ 3pm (knowing most will disconnect early to start the weekend) raise a glass to another successful week concluding and well wishes for the weekend and week ahead.