5 Tips for Leading in a Virtual Environment
Why leadership matters in a virtual environment
Remote work is here to stay. How do we know? When we conducted a survey on COVID-19's impact we discovered that 54% of respondents want to continue working remotely in some way. However, the same individuals also agreed that there's a disconnect between team members and managers that makes it difficult to connect at work. Knowing how to manage a team remotely is important to help your team (and your company) succeed.
If you're a manager, you probably feel that disconnect on a personal level. You want a happy, productive team with members who work together and communicate well, but where do you start? How do you create a culture of connection and productivity when everything is online?
We have collected some tips on leading in a virtual environment to help you create a productive and engaging virtual environment.
1. Focus on communication
In the remote work environment, some team members may feel lost and unsure of how to contact their manager or talk with their team when they have questions. Managers may experience the pressure to check in with their team constantly to ensure they are being productive and on track to meet goals (one study in Harvard Business Review found one-fifth of remote workers felt their supervisor was constantly evaluating their work). Effective virtual communication is essential to clear up confusion and prevent miscommunication.
How leaders can communicate in a virtual environment
Your team wants to see you as a present leader. They need someone who is always there right when they need them. Communicating with your team frequently and clearly can help them:
- Understand your expectations
- Feel seen and heard
- Want to be more engaged and productive
- Focus on team goals and project priorities
You'll need to find the right balance that works best for your team. Some members might like constant check-ins throughout the day, while others may prefer occasional messages throughout the week. However your team prefers to be contacted, they'll notice when communication is your priority.
2. Protect against burnout
Remote work may put team members in awkward situations as they try to maintain a work-life balance. With extra pressure to perform and blurred boundaries between their working space and living space, employees may burn out quickly. Prioritizing your team's mental health as they work remotely is key to promoting higher morale and job satisfaction.
How leaders can protect against burnout in a virtual environment
As your team's manager, you have the opportunity to anticipate issues and resolve them before they snowball (and not the fun kind). Being proactive can make a huge difference to your employees' engagement. A few ways you can protect your team from burnout include:
- Setting clear boundaries for clocking in and out
- Using video conferencing sparingly
- Checking in frequently with compassion and a desire to help
- Watching for warning signs that your team is reaching a limit
3. Create team-wide connections
Working remotely can be isolating. Without the casual interactions or in-person check-ins that would normally happen in an office, team members may feel alone and unseen as they sit in front of their computers at home. Fewer face-to-face interactions and meetings make many managers feel that company culture and camaraderie are suffering. As a result, having a strong culture to support employees can help businesses experience increased loyalty, commitment, and employee satisfaction.
How leaders can create team-wide connections in a virtual environment
Working in-office comes with many built-in, casual interactions that help employees feel connected. With remote work, you have to plan time for those interactions to take place. Instead of high-fives and in-person chats, you need to build relationships virtually. Try out ideas such as:
- Allowing more time for chatting before launching into your meeting agenda
- Hosting after-hour online events (like a BYOB happy hour 🍹)
- Creating a mentoring program
- Establishing a channel for sharing good news and weekly wins
Some activities or rituals will work well while others may not. Spend time finding the fun activities that help your team best and run with them, and don't be afraid to ask for feedback!
4. Value each team member
With the physical disconnect of remote work, team members may feel forgotten, uninvolved, or unvalued. Many managers work to combat those feelings in order to keep their team members engaged with their work. They have a right to worry, too, since disconnected and unengaged employees can cost companies up to $4,000 per employee per year.
How leaders can value each team member in a virtual environment
Remote work opens opportunities to hire the best talent around the world. If you want to retain those talented team members, you need to ensure they feel valued. Doing this can be as simple as sending a message letting them know you are thinking about them, or it can be as organized as rotating meeting times to accommodate different time zones. Showing compassion for each team member can go a long way in boosting morale and productivity.
5. Be a great leader
Team members look to their managers for information, guidance, and support, especially in online environments. They need a strong leader who can keep up with the demands of a unique virtual workplace, so it's vital that managers like you know how to lead a team remotely. Thankfully, you can inspire and motivate your team even when you don't see them in person.
How to be a great leader in a virtual environment
The truth is, your core goals as a manager remain the same regardless of where your team members are. How you accomplish those goals may change in the virtual environment, but at the end of the day, it all comes back to being a great leader. Whether you are in person or virtual, you need to be a dependable resource for your team. Managing your team remotely may require that you:
- Use more intentional communication efforts
- Increase your emotional support capabilities
- Offer more encouragement
Discover how Enboarder can help you lead in a virtual environment
As your team moves forward in the virtual environment, know that you have support every step of the way. At Enboader, we're all about human connection, no matter where those connections are happening.
Leading remote teams with help from Enboarder's Human Connection Platform can help you tackle the common issues of working online and elevate the things that matter most when it comes to managing your members. Head over to our remote work platform page now to learn more about what Enboarder can do for your team!