TrainingPros has been a virtual company for 23 years. We have 30+ people all working from their homes and being extremely productive. We think we have this system worked out pretty well after all that time. I thought our team might be qualified to offer some advice beyond what virtual tools to use. After all, it’s still about the people.
Trust: The first rule when managing a remote team is trust. When working virtually, it’s impossible to look over shoulders which means you have to trust your employees. A model I’ve found to be useful is using the Results-Oriented approach to work (Results Oriented Work Environment or ROWE). ROWE means that you give the team members a result they are expected to achieve in a specified period rather than specific hours to sit at their desk and work. I find this even more useful now that everyone’s kids are home and must be tended during work hours.
Meetings: Our Operations Manager offers this advice: “Schedule meetings on a regular basis, both 1:1 and as a team, to help everyone stay connected. Take it up a notch and meet ‘live’ once a month so everyone can see the faces of their teammates!” Our company has an all-hands 15-minute meeting every Monday morning. In addition, I meet with each department head weekly to go through projects and any other issues and provide direction for the week.
Workspace: Our Social Media Coordinator has this guidance: “Schedule time for work: The most important tip would be to find a quiet place in the house and make it your daily workspace. Having a routine in place is crucial. I create a set time for work every day. This helps me stay organized both mentally and physically for work.” I would also add that you need to negotiate “Office Hours” with your family. Having specified periods of time when it’s your turn to be focused on work even though you are home is critical.
Limit emails: Our IT Manager suggests, “Minimize emails when possible. Too many and they start to be ignored. Opting for a phone call over an email helps eliminate overflowing inboxes and misinterpretation. Limit the use of cc: to only those who need the information you’re sending.” This is great advice! Emails can quickly overload a key team member, stopping their productivity altogether.
Working virtually is more than just the tools you use. It’s self-managing team members and a leader that trusts and know how to manage a virtual team.