Working from home (WFH) was something many workers had never experienced prior to lockdown last March and was usually only a familiar practice among freelancers in specific sectors. Many business owners and directors approached remote working with trepidation, which was understandable because it was unchartered territory.
Now fast-forward 12 months and despite lockdown restrictions finally being eased across the UK, many businesses have decided that they will not be returning to their old ways of working. This may be due to cost savings, convenience or flexibility, whatever the reason, remote working for many is here to stay.
There is however, one common factor that determines whether a business continues to work remotely or returns to a traditional place of work, and that is performance. If a team WFH is performing optimally then a business can afford to remain working remotely but if a team is continually underperforming then they will probably return to their original workplace. That makes perfect business sense, but what are the key components for a high-performing virtual team? Well, let’s take a look at some of those now.
Leading a virtual team is difficult and the traditional role of leadership needs to adapt into more of a coaching one in order to succeed. Regular communication is important here to motivate and support team members.
The right personnel
Probably the most obvious of all criteria but working remotely demands specific traits and skills to succeed, such as discipline, self-motivation and organisation. These are not as important for office based work but are essential for those WFH.
Sharing the same vision
Ensuring everyone understands their role in the business and their contribution to the bigger picture is vital. As well as this being important for strategic reasons it is also empowering and rewarding for team members to know how valuable they are and their importance to the success of the business.
The right tools
There is an adage that says: “A bad workman always blames his tools” and this is often still used today. So, in the era of remote working it is imperative that staff are given the right software, hardware and training in order to carry out their work to the best of their abilities.
When you are managing a team remotely it is essential that you communicate clearly, concisely and consistently. Depending on the size of the team, this may be a weekly team Zoom call or a daily one-to-one. Either way it provides the opportunity to ensure the members understand their weekly goals as well as offering them the chance to raise any issues they have.
The working environment for remote workers varies considerably and each worker will be undergoing challenges as they try and balance their work and personal life. Mental health has been identified as one issue that has escalated during lockdown and support mechanisms need to be put in place to alleviate this. Managers should hold regular one-to-ones with team members and emphasise that they are contactable at anytime for advice and support. Reassurance is key here because many people are worried about their jobs in such uncertain times. Understanding is also vital and managers should allow team members flexibility when needed.
Trust has always been essential in the workplace and it takes on even greater importance with remote working. Research indicates that people working for high-trust businesses are great at collaborating, extremely loyal, and suffer from less stress than those working for low-trust companies - all of this has a positive effect on productivity.
Trust works both ways and it is equally important for employees to trust their managers and vice versa. Managers should give team members greater responsibility and flexibility and reward and celebrate success, while micro-management should be avoided at all costs. Transparency is key in engendering trust, so set clear goals, communicate regularly and inform staff of any news affecting the business.
These are just a few of the key elements that are needed to help optimise team performance when working remotely and if everything clicks then why would you want to return to an office?
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