There is still a lot of anxiety about working virtually or from home: Yahoo’s CEO has demanded that all employees work in the office from now on, yet a study has shown that by 2016, 63 million Americans are going to be working virtually to some degree. A whip doesn’t need to be held over your employees to watch if they are working—properly calculated deadlines and good management practices will weed out the low performers by making them starkly visible.
In a regular 9-5 office job, how is productivity proved?
- On-the-spot progress discussions
So if it’s a question of having evidence of what the workers are up to, take a look at this list of why managing a virtual team is better.
Reasons why managing a virtual team is better:
1) Managing interactions with colleagues
How often has the wrong thing popped out of your mouth on a whim? I’m not saying that using IM totally solves the problem of conveying the incorrect emotion (in fact, in some cases it’s worse) BUT there is the opportunity to give a moment’s pause and re-type your thoughts. IM does not demand an instant answer and hides your facial expression from the recipient. This gives a measure of control over the situation and can be used to an advantage.
2) Check the team’s progress with shared access to the tools they use
Sharing documents via Google Drive or Dropbox, or similar service, allows the opportunity to see real action happening. It’s hard for an employee to bluff if there is no hard, fast evidence in the folder to show work in progress or problems solved. Some may argue that this is problematic because of trust, but that’s ridiculous. If you’re getting your work done, why not let people see? It also allows for great opportunities to advise and assist as the project is in development, rather than having to backtrack later on. Live management = awesome.
3) Track your management style by the interactions online
Reflexivity is great. Reflexivity means looking at your own actions and assessing them. Having a record of your management style and the quantity of interactions with the team can give insights that may otherwise be take for granted, or go unnoticed. Did you really notice how often Jonas pops up as the go-to guy for advice? Why don’t you talk that much with Heather? Why is your tone rather hostile towards Frank?
4) Your time is better managed by having less on-the-spot distractions
Although it feels good to keep the rapport with your colleagues alive by dropping by for a chat, this affects productivity. Distractions are all around in the office. It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that time spent asking Laura how the concert was is important for team spirit, but these minutes lost turn into hours and days accumulated over the year. It’s not to say that casual interaction should be stamped out—au contraire, it is essential! But in virtual management these interactions can be timetabled and controlled so that time use is maximised.
5) Less time wasted on meetings
Meetings are famously badly organized, by including people who really don’t need to be there and having poorly designed agendas. In fact, the entrepreneur’s bible Rework says: “If it only takes seven minutes to accomplish a meeting’s goal, then that’s all the time you should spend. Don’t stretch seven into thirty.” Use video conferencing (people get to remain at their computers, on task, rather than disrupting their flow by moving room). Have the agenda posted in a shared platform in advance and allow workers to make suggestions to tighten up the process, or elect that they have no need to participate.
Let people be where they need to be
The trust engendered by allowing the team to work virtually, either partly or fully, is a great motivator. Staff become loyal to those who treat them well, and feeling like they have control over their working life rather than it having control over them is a huge step in the direction of happiness.
It’s pretty easy for managers to see if the work is getting done or not by virtual teams. If a manager is afraid of being hoodwinked by the team, then there is a problem with the manager, the team, or both.
The more we operate globally, the more that time differences impact working. 9 – 5 is becoming a myth; there is nothing special about those hours. It’s about getting the work done and using your time to the max, because you never regain time. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.