Virtual workspaces enhance efficiency and enable hiring the best talent, no matter where they live.
Being liberated from an office space has big benefits. During my personal engagement of 12-plus-years as a successful remote worker myself, I’ve learned essential skills for managing a team successfully from afar. Managing remote teams isn’t without its challenges. Some feel disconnected from the team without face time. Others run into communication issues with time zones or organizational structure to check-in with others (no “office drive-bys” happen remotely).
Here are the top 5 tips for successfully guiding a virtual team:
1. Hire the right talent
To spot whether a candidate is self-motivated and will thrive in a remote working environment, ask questions about the examples in their portfolio, the ones where they came up with outside-the-box creative solutions. Check their references: Are they organized? Do they meet their deadlines? These are telling indicators for finding the best remote workers.
2. Focus on results, not on working hours
Yes, they need to attend meetings on time no matter what their time zones are. But when they actually DO their best work may not be between the standard 9-5 office hours. I personally managed a rock-star coder who did his best work between midnight and 4 am. As long as they attend meetings and respond to questions/emails/IM’s in a timely manner, it doesn’t really matter WHEN they do the work.
3. Institute a consistent Daily/Weekly meeting infrastructure
Yes, we know that today’s creatives are inundated with meetings. But it’s imperative to create a consistent structure of one-on-ones with each of your direct reports. And they should also have weekly one-on-ones with their direct reports. Also, it’s important to identify key team players that are “peers” outside your organization that also need weekly one-on-ones. Also, you need one-on-ones with your manager to keep them abreast of what’s in movement. Weekly staff meetings are also key, so everyone has an idea of what’s going on in the different departments. Finally, institute daily stand-up meetings to identify what folks are doing that day.
4. Use the right tools to help communication channels
Meetings should always be held utilizing a screen sharing software — Webex/Zoom/Etc– with the agenda of the meeting saved in a shared Slack channel. It’s important that a shared calendaring system is clearly adopted so all can see if resources are aware of meeting times and can/will attend. Instant communication channels like Slack or IM are also key for allowing teams to chat in real-time with each other. It’s a nice plus if in those real-time messaging platforms, the employee’s availability at that moment are displayed: “I’m In A Meeting” or “Back at Noon.” A cloud-based file-sharing platform enables creatives to quickly find the master layered PSDs. Finally, a Saas infrastructure that allows for sharing work and enabling review notes like InVision vs. emailing back and forth mockups for review and notes.
5. Set a benchmark for response times – Require a positive hand-off within 20 minutes!
This is key for enabling trust that your team is actually sitting at their desks and can respond to any slack/IM pings, emails, etc., within 20-minutes. It’s amazing how a 1-hour response time on an email can kill that trust with a co-worker faster than anything.