11 Tips for Managing Virtual Teams
I also like to be familiar with the space where my team members work; whether it is a cubicle in one of our facilities or their living rooms. It sounds crazy, but I recently sent Unmana a photo of my cat because, when I'm at the home office, he likes to jump into my lap just as I get deep into writing. She got a view of my office and that sparked a whole conversation on making the work space pleasant and conducive to productivity. If you can't always see a person, it's nice to be able to envision them during a conversation.
6. Keep in mind what you can and can't do from a distance
Since I can't personally be in the office with my team, I try to make sure they have all they need in terms of tools, space and support. They have designated contacts at our facilities to help them with these kinds of requests and I also consider things like where they are situated so they can be close to other employees for professional support personal connections. No one wants to be treated like a badge number.
7. Don't replace conversation with written instructions.
We've all experienced a situation when someone misinterpreted a line in an email or the intended tone of a note. For that reason, it is critical to have frequent live conversations so your team can better understand your speech patterns, slang, sense of humor, etc., especially when they are in different countries. And if you are in doubt, clarify and confirm understanding frequently (see Unmana's post on working virtually).
8. Consider snail mail.
Even when team members are on the other side of the world from you, you can distribute publications, books and even gifts and mementos as yet another way to connect. When working in the same office, it's easy to pick up a box of donuts to for the group. You have to try harder when people are remote. I still haven't found a way to share my cookies and cakes with the team but they are probably happy not to deal with the extra calories.