How To Be A Better Manager In A Virtual Work Environment

Larry Margison

Business Coach

Executive Contributor

Working remotely can be challenging for managers and their reports. A powerful part of a group or team’s effectiveness is the togetherness they feel being co-located or at least meeting frequently face-to-face. The challenge that managers face today is how to re-create that camaraderie in a virtual world. When you are managing a team of remote workers, you have to be intentional about creating a similar environment so that everyone continues to be productive and feel that they are contributing meaningful work. Here are five ways you can be a better manager in a virtual work environment:

1.     Hold regular team meetings via video.

Working remotely eliminates the shared physical environment with your colleagues, which can make it difficult for people to feel like they are working together and part of a team. 

Your job as a manager is to keep the team together, no matter the environment. Schedule meetings via video on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Allow your employees to see each other and remind each other that they are part of a team.

 

2.     Ask your reports what they need from you.

You don’t know what you don’t know. This is particularly the case when leading a group of people remotely because you can’t physically see people’s workspaces or environments.

Your job as a manager is to make sure that your employees have the resources to properly carry out their role. Employees may not always be forthcoming with what they need. They may feel uncomfortable asking for resources that could help them with their work, whether it be a second computer monitor, updated software or a printer.

Be proactive. Ask your people if they have the resources they need to work efficiently and effectively. You will perform better if your team members can work better.

3.     Inspire your people.

Some employees don’t feel as motivated when working from home. They may feel alone and have other distractions competing for their time and attention. 

As a manager of a remote team of people, you need to do more than simply carrying out supervisory logistics. You need to inspire your reports to do their best work and be the best professionals they can be. Demonstrate excitement when talking to your employees. Clearly communicate the purpose of the work in which you are engaging in. Give them responsibilities and opportunities for growth. Great managers help their people to achieve meaning and mastery from their work. Great managers are more than managers. They inspire their people to do their best work.

4.     Give your reports an occasional break.

Research suggests that workers are struggling to balance work and their home life during the coronavirus pandemic. According to a study, when working from home, women are spending more time than men performing housework, including child care and homeschooling while in quarantine. Moms working remotely during the pandemic are more likely to report feeling anxious and lonely than telecommuting dads. 

Stress over balancing work and personal lives is running high, which can result in unintentional mistakes or miscommunication. Try not to make quick judgements, conclusions or assumptions. Recognize that your employees, like you, are under additional pressures. Give your employees the occasional benefit of the doubt. They are human, just like you. If and when an issue becomes reoccurring and a real problem, then address it.

5.     Get personal.

For some, working remotely can feel rigid or transactional. Your work centers around email and scheduled meetings. You may feel like you lack the opportunities you would have at the water cooler, lunch, break room or hallway to chat informally about work or about topics unrelated to your work. Working remotely can feel impersonal.

A manager’s job is to make sure their reports do not feel detached. One way to maintain a connection is to get personal. Ask your employees how they are doing in terms of their well-being or about the book they are reading, as examples. Take the time to occasionally connect on things that are not associated with work, and tap into what makes them happy or excited outside of work. Your reports will sense that you care about them as people, not just as workers. And when your employee knows that you care about them, your employee will care more about you. When they care more about you, they will be more receptive, respectful and responsible employees.

 

Take intentional steps to be a better manager when your team is working remotely. Initiate video meetings with your team, inquire about what your reports need, inspire, give them the occasional break and get personal. Being a better manager means being a better leader.

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