Over the past decade, the workplace has evolved. It's no longer necessary to come into the office everyday to build a business. Young professionals are more attracted to flexible or remote work than ever before. Companies can leverage technology to hire and manage an entire team virtually.
I run The Influencers, a community of about 1,500 of the world's top thought leaders, almost entirely through virtual assistants (VAs). Technology provides easy access to on-demand talent, however, managing a virtual team is not without its challenges. To build high-performing virtual teams, here are the top tips I have learned over the years:
1. Hire the right people.
It's always about the people. I once chatted with the commander of an elite Special Ops unit and asked him: "How did you keep your soldiers motivated to work so hard and perform at a high-level?
His response: "When you select the right people, they are already self-motivated." If people need monitoring, then they probably aren't the right fit. To be able to sit alone for hours and crank out work, you have to be internally driven. Make sure whomever you hire has an internal drive to complete their work and succeed. Remember it is not your job to instill this work ethic in someone, and it is one of the reasons I like to hire people from military families. Besides the fact that I can honor their contribution, they are mission driven and have incredible work ethic.
2. Put the best tools in place.
When it comes to tools for virtual work, there are countless options to choose from. You can start a Slack group. Organize and manage tasks in Trello. Create and share to-do lists through Wunderlist. Create contracts, send invoices and set up payments through Bonsai. Depending on the size of your team, you may want to use a platform like Upwork to track and monitor employee work. Remember, your systems will define your success, so make sure you build a system people will use.
3. Establish boundaries and accountabilities.
When you're part of a virtual team, you may need someone to clarify instructions, answer a question, or collaborate to complete a project. Depending on another person that you don't have in-person contact with can become a nightmare.
To prevent drama, have clear "office hours" to let your team know when you are available. Set aside emergency times, in which somebody can contact you if they must, but set boundaries. It is essential that people know the hours when it is not appropriate to contact you. Establishing time frames will also help foster accountability--a crucial component of any team.
Virtual teams work best when people are absolutely clear about what their responsibilities are and when they are to deliver them. It is especially important when using VAs. The last thing you want is to believe that work is being completed to a set of standards when it is not.
The best way to manage this is by setting deadlines and creating SOPs or standard operating procedures. They outline processes and give examples, so that anyone can complete a given task with little to no involvement needed.
4. Set aside time to socialize.
Whether you work remotely or manage a virtual team, it is easy to sit at home and not interact with another person all day. This may seem contradictory, but socializing is important for your health, well-being and performance. Many of us need social interaction to function at our best. However, socializing and working don't mix. Set aside separate time for hanging out with friends.
The workplace is no longer restricted to a physical office. Virtual teams and remote work are becoming more popular every day. They make it easier and less expensive to build and scale a business, but it still requires strong management to be effective.
Your team may be spread around the world in different timezones, which may mean communicating at odd hours. Remote workers need to feel like they are part of a team. Maximizing their productivity and keeping them as engaged as workers that you see in-person at the office are key concerns.