A Step-By-Step Guide to Managing Virtual Teams

For most office workers in Victoria, it has been over 12 months since we started working from home. We know that WFH is associated with psychological risks and novel challenges. As recommended by Safe Work Australia, team leads should be taking steps to protect teams from these risks, and support their team’s wellbeing.

Whether you’ve experienced all or just a few, these are the top causes of psychological distress while WFH:

  • Being isolated from managers, colleagues, and support networks

  • Less support, for example, workers may feel they don’t have the normal support they receive from their supervisor or manager

  • Changes to work demand, for example, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and a move to working at home may create higher workloads for some workers and reduced workloads for others

  • Low job control

  • Not having clear boundaries between home-life and work-life

  • Fatigue

  • Poor environmental conditions, for example, an ergonomically unsound work station or high noise levels, and

  • Poor organisational change management, for example, workers may feel they haven’t been consulted about the changes to their work.

The stress of these psychological hazards can be reduced in a number of ways; individuals can take steps to manage their own wellbeing (see our team’s suggestions here), but self-care is only one component of wellbeing. You can engage in all of the self-care activities you like, but if you feel isolated or alone, the burden of fear and change can weigh heavily on your shoulders. Research shows that social support from managers & peers increases work wellbeing during difficult situations, in addition to self-care activities. Therefore, we have the best chance of safeguarding our teams from these psychological hazards if managers can take action to better support and lead their teams, and improvements to communication can be made.

Communication has shown to be one of the biggest challenges for teams working from home. We all have differing needs for human connection, and remote working emphasises these differences. The lack of ‘water-cooler conversation’ means extroverts may be missing out on the social fuel they need, while introverts become a little too comfortable isolating themselves, forgetting to reach out when help is needed. Working remotely means we need to go out of our way to engage with others, which may feel unnatural but is easier if you know the best way to go about it for your team’s specific needs.

We know wellbeing & communication are important when working remotely, so let’s talk about some practical steps. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide for managing virtual teams. See below how you can use our new Virtual Teams Report to gain an understanding of your team in more detail, manage additional challenges from working virtually, and get the team working more effectively and purposefully.

1. CONSIDER YOUR TEAM’S PERSONALITY STYLES

We all have different needs when working from home, based on both our personality preferences and our surroundings. When managing a virtual team, it’s crucial to consider the things that each team member needs to feel supported and work at their best.

For example:

What do they need to stay focused? 

What sort of recognition do they prefer?

What’s the best way for them to learn? 

How much warmth or detail do they need in communication? 

How can you support their ideal working environment? 

How do they manage conflict, 

and what sorts of tasks help them to thrive?

2. Facilitate The Best Virtual Meetings - Where will each team member provide value?

Group settings in a video chat can amplify the differences between team members’ talkativeness and comfort level with making contributions. As a manager, you can source recommendations for how to best utilise the strengths of each team member in a virtual meeting. For example; who kicks off the conversation, who needs to be explicitly asked for their opinion & who to watch that they don’t dominate the conversation?

3. Building Team Agility

If there’s one behaviour that’s integral at the moment, it’s adjusting to change and coping with uncertainty. Awareness of your team’s behavioural preferences indicates the tasks and conditions they naturally prefer – but what if they need to be more agile than that? The key to improving performance (and wellbeing) of your existing team is to help people adapt to different needs by switching mindsets and drawing on specific skills – adjusting to their conditions. Not everyone will naturally embrace change, so drawing from specific, tailored tips to encourage development in your team is highly effective in helping teams adjust to virtual working environments.

4. Engage Your Team with Virtual Training

Training & development is an excellent way to show teams you value their contributions and support their wellbeing. They also facilitate adjustment to new working environments. Encouraging staff to complete development activities during this time helps to keep teams engaged and motivated while making use of the extra time at home for self-development. Additionally, training helps staff develop their awareness of self and each other, so they can collaborate more effectively and work to each other’s strengths.

Resources for these steps are all covered in our new Virtual Teams Report, which has been specially designed during the Covid pandemic. This report gives tips on how to meet the needs of each team member, and collates similar team members into categories, allowing you to make relevant sense of the tips for your organisation. It also includes personal training plans and development resources specific to each individual. If you’d like to get the best out of your teams and support them to success while working remotely, get in touch at hello@testgrid.com.

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