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Virtual Team Management: Moving to Remote Work Amidst COVID-19

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has quickly become a global emergency. Within the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported over 3,400 cases. That number is growing each day, prompting a mass response to contain the spread. Experts are urging people to avoid unnecessary outings and work from home when possible. As a result, organizations across the country are implementing remote work policies. For some managers, however, this is their first experience with virtual team management. Many might feel unprepared for this sudden format change.

While remote work is a growing trend in the U.S., a recent report by Global Workplace Analytics found that only 3.6% of the workforce currently works remotely. That number is quickly changing due to COVID-19. Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook are among some of the major organizations that have initiated remote work policies. Many local companies are also jumping on board, and numerous colleges and universities are moving to e-learning formats. As more and more managers are tasked with virtual team management, we want to provide a helpful guide to manage remote workers during COVID-19.

Virtual Team Management Tips

Explain Business Reasoning

Encourage your employees to remain calm. Help them understand that this is a proactive measure to keep them healthy, limit exposure and maintain regular business operations. The CDC refers to these measures as “social distancing,” which is a conscious effort to reduce close contact between people to decrease the spread of the virus.

Communicate Clear Expectations

Set your team up for success by ensuring employees have the necessary resources to work remotely, including any needed software and internet connection. Establish work hours and a communication strategy, and communicate your expectations. These are the same people you work with every day, so you know what feedback and communication methods work best. It’s crucial to maintain as much normalcy as possible.

Remind Employees of Existing Policies

Employees should know that existing workplace policies apply during the work-from-home period and that violations could warrant disciplinary action. Remind them to uphold confidentiality and professionalism when communicating with customers. Employees should be actively working during scheduled hours and maintain normal productivity levels. It’s helpful to promote any team collaboration that would normally occur in the office.

Uphold Team Engagement and Morale

Maintain electronic or virtual contact with all employees and schedule team video calls, if possible, for some face-to-face interaction. If video conferencing is not an option, conduct regular team calls (weekly or daily). This can support team collaboration and strengthen morale. Ask employees to share what they’ve accomplished and provide recognition for their hard work. An important aspect of virtual team management is showing appreciation because it can strengthen employee engagement. It’s also essential to resist the urge to micromanage your team. You may need to check in more often to ensure project completion, but it’s vital to give employees their autonomy.

Be Flexible

In addition to COVID-19’s impact on businesses, thousands of public and private schools have closed. At the time of this post, at least 35.9 million public school students have been affected in the U.S. This means that your employees may be at home with their children or a spouse / significant other who is also telecommuting. Exercise compassion and understanding in these situations. Try to find creative ways to help employees remain productive.

Working Together

As a nation, we can collectively slow the spread of COVID-19. To aid that effort, we need to take proactive measures that limit exposure. Virtual team management could be an effective way to reduce exposure while keeping businesses up and running. And since telecommuting is a growing trend, this is an opportunity to test the waters and see how your employees perform in a remote work environment. You can use this time to expand your management skills while aiding in a nationwide effort to contain the spread COVID-19.

 

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