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6 principles to managing a virtual team

With more than 60% of business people in South Africa choosing to work remotely most of the week, the need to manage a virtual team has become more critical. People are also more concerned about work/life balance and are choosing to work remotely. The other advantage of having a virtual team is that you can choose the best talent for your organization from around the world, but there are some principles to consider.

1. Create a communication charter

Being a great communicator is an essential trait of a remote worker. Most communication is done through writing and speaking with your fellow colleagues. It is therefore critical to create a charter on how communication should happen in your business. Here is a basic outline on which tools to use for communication with your remote workers:

  1. Email should be used for short, neutral quick exchanges.
  2. Chat should be used for informal talks, group discussions and general announcements.
  3. Video chat should be used for long, detailed and potentially difficult chats. Here you could use
  4. Phone calls should also be used for long, detailed and potentially difficult chats.

2. Set clear expectations

It is important to give your workers clear instructions about what you expect from them. What are the deadliness for projects? What are the procedures for routine activities? By having clear instructions, your remote employees will be able to accurately conduct the tasks you request from them. You should also evaluate people on their performance to complete a task rather than on their presence.

3. Have one-on-one conversations

It is important to build rapport with your workers and this can be done through weekly or monthly one-on-ones with your employees. Ensure that you include small talk into these conversations as well as talking about the tasks which need to be done. By have small talk with your employees you are able to build rapport with them and then when you make less favourable decisions or a mistake they will be more willing to forgive you. It is also very important never to cancel a one-on-one. If something critical comes up and you can’t attend a one-on-one, then reschedule but never cancel.

4. Share schedule inconveniences

If you have employees from different time zones, it is very important to consider schedule inconveniences and to make sure you distribute the inconvenience evenly. For example, if you have meetings during the night for one employee ensure the next meeting is had during the day for that employee and at night for the others.

5. Make a virtual water cooler

Many important discussions are had around the water cooler in a physical business. You could create a chat group where your staff can go to have general conversations with their fellow co-workers and this will help to develop rapport amongst your employees.

6. Have a physical get-together once a year

It is important to organize an event once a year where all the employees can meet each other in a physical location. This will help to build camaraderie and you can also hash out the long term plans with your colleagues at these events.

By following these six principles you will be well on your way to managing a great virtual team.

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