More and more companies are considering starting a virtual workforce. In reality, around 40% of the jobs can be done remotely, whether it’s from home, a coffee shop, a plane, a waiting room or a mall. In the U.S. alone, the demand of teleworking as an option could be as much as 50 million people.
The challenge most company owners face is how to make that cultural shift without “losing control” of their employees, results, goals, terms, client interaction, etc. The good news is that technology is on your side and there are many ways you can implement to the minute interaction so that communication won’t be affected but enhanced in most cases. Another challenge you must consider is how to integrate the virtual side of the organization with the non-virtual.
Going back to what makes virtual work effective; employees, especially leaders should be capable of creating “presence in the distance.” The illusion of control is not there anymore, so leaders of virtual teams need to support their teams by providing them with answers and connecting constantly. These are some ways you can successfully achieve this:
Meetings, meetings, meetings
This is what makes any telework effort a success. Smart virtual leaders meet once a week with all the team and then some more. When working with a virtual team sharing information is mandatory. Another powerful tool is to meet constantly with each member of the team in order to create presence in the distance and to make sure they have what they need to do their job. If the role of any leader is to coach, direct and facilitate, the one of a virtual one is even more so. Virtual leaders serve their teams.
People who telework have different schedules. A lot of them work with geographically diverse teams with different time zones, which requires a lot of flexibility. Being in the U.S. and having to meet with a team in Europe might require that you get up very early in the morning. Living in the East Coast and working late in the afternoon with a team in San Francisco might require you work until midnight. The paradigm of working from 9 to 5 is a thing of the past.
Use the phone for conflict resolution and avoid e-mail
Differences of opinions that usually lead to conflict are natural in any team that must produce results. So, what is the best way to manage them as a team leader or member? Avoid email. Pick up the phone and talk it through. People interpret written statements differently, which can lead to further discord. It has been said that some let more of their feelings go with a keyboard, but business is not about letting go of your feelings. Differences happen, but they need to be followed up by discussions in order to be resolved. Keeping a healthy presence in the distance for the entire team is made easier with both visual or verbal communication.
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Understand different cultures
If you have a geographically dispersed team, you get the the gift of working with people of different languages and cultures. Do your best to adapt and communicate effectively with your talent. Discuss cultural differences if they're leading to a difference of opinion or understanding. Don’t let anyone feel bad for having difficulties communicating, but at the same time, don’t make that be an impediment to the rest of the team either. At the end of the day, your job is to facilitate the success of your team.
Use the right technology
You can have all the above figured out, but if your team doesn’t have the right tools there is not much you can do. Make sure to use the right technology for your team. Technology is what makes teleworking and virtual workforces possible so it all starts from here.