Advice for the
Virtual Team Leader

Sarah Ferguson, Senior President of Client Services

With the advancement of technology, the virtual employee is becoming more common, and it is easy to assume that both remote and in-office employees are engaged with and connected to one another. However, unless leadership makes it a priority to support a virtual culture, remote employees can easily fall out of the loop, and in-office employees can feel disconnected from remote staff.

These simple techniques can help you create a culture that supports both remote employees and those in the office:

1. Use multiple communication channels to convey information. Too often, the virtual office relies on conference calls or email threads to share important information, but not everyone fully understands the details or hears what is said. When possible, use more than one means of communication when sharing vital information with the team. For example, after a team call, send an email that recaps the conversation, or during your next phone call, reference a recent email exchange and ask team members if they have questions.

2. Establish a virtual “open-door” policy. Remote colleagues may think they are bothering you if they call you on the phone or ask to jump on a quick video call. However, it is always better to communicate over the phone or on camera than to send a communication via email. It is important for staff to know that they can call their manager and interact with other staff whenever needed. So welcome their phone calls or quick video messages.

3. Create the virtual water cooler. The office isn’t all about work. We form social and collegial bonds through informal conversations. A few ways to create this environment in the virtual office: send around photos from vacation, start a “Friday Funny” joke email thread, or host a virtual Christmas party. This casual interaction is really important for team building, can spur on conversations that are similar to office water cooler talk, and can lead to more meaningful discussions. It also offers an opportunity for you to better gauge the temperature of your team and how they are really doing in the workplace.

Bridging the gap between the in-person and virtual workforce can be a challenge. But, if you follow these steps, you will help keep the lines of communication open and make staff more comfortable with their workspace and colleagues.

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