Slack is our new office and Skype and Zoom are our meeting rooms, but what are the challenges of virtual working and how can we overcome them?
Operating virtually all the time can be challenging, especially if you are not a ‘digital native’. You don’t have a physical presence; it’s harder to manage interpersonal dynamics; people find it more difficult to express themselves and they sometimes lose focus. If you’re wondering how to make virtual working work for you and your team, Melissa Raffoni of Harvard Business Review responds to your concerns.
MAKE VIRTUAL WORKING WORK
The first step to becoming a successful virtual leader is recognising that you need to behave differently to when you’re there in person. Ask yourself:
- Am I being strategic enough? Virtual working means you need to be much more strategic about the way you communicate. Before each interaction, consider what you want to achieve with it. Make an extra effort to connect with colleagues. Ask more questions during virtual meetings and check in with team members on a regular basis to make sure everyone is on the same page.
- Have I revamped communication plans for my direct team and the wider organisation? Consider how you are going to communicate with different employees, clients and other stakeholders. What is the best mode of communication for each (phone, Slack, Zoom)? How often do you need to communicate? What is the purpose of the interaction? Who needs to participate?
- How might I reset roles and responsibilities to help people succeed? Evaluate team members’ performance during interactions. Check in with all team members regularly to see how they are getting on. Re-evaluate strengths and weaknesses. If necessary, consider redefining team members’ roles and responsibilities. Be sure to frame changes as opportunities for growth.
- Am I keeping my eye on (and communicating about) the big picture? Don’t allow day-to-day business operations to distract you from the long-term business strategy. Take time to regularly reassess strategy.
- What more can I do to strengthen our company culture? “Right now, teams need to feel connected, not only to the company’s mission but also to each other.” Create space for team members to share wins, and consider implementing new virtual team building exercises.
COVID-19 is forcing firms into unfamiliar ways of working, but in the long term the new skills and working practices you’re acquiring now will make your firm more adaptable and better placed to succeed in the post-crisis world.