Working in a virtual environment

Virtual teams & operations are everywhere.

Being virtual is hard-wired into our firm’s DNA since we started as a virtual organization more than 15 years ago. Some of our thoughts on working in a virtual environment:

  • The company culture needs to truly value virtual collaboration and not just treat it as a benefit for some employees to work from home.
  • People need to be given the tools to be able to work virtually. Simple tools such as; web portals, screen sharing, chat, text, email & phone calls will do just fine.
  • Video conferencing is over rated. It’s generally more important to focus on the data of a collaboration (i.e. what was communicated) than be able to look at a room full of people with the latest 3D video conference toy.
  • Companies need to provide training so that employees develop virtual collaboration skills such as; managing email, IM etiquette, calendar management, or document collaboration.
  • Managers need to set clear expectations of what an employee is meant to do in the virtual work environment (i.e. be available, get work done, respond in a timely fashion, escalate issues, etc.).
  • Managers need to ensure regular checkpoints are put in place to maintain a rhythm to the work.
  • Managers need to hold team members accountable for the work they get done. This can be easier in a virtual environment since explicit check lists / task pads need to be maintained.
  • Managers need to setup mentoring sessions to ensure that the employee / manager relationship is not purely short term task-based.
  • Employees need to know that they are trusted to get their work done in a flexible but mutually acceptable timeframe.
  • Managers need to manage by objectives rather than just making sure that someone is “turning up to work”. This requires managers to be much more proactive and thinking about the future.
  • Employees need to understand both the benefits and the challenges of working remotely. They will have greater flexibility over their work hours but these might often be extended across different time zones. They may often feel lonely working on their own for extended periods.
  • Managers need to ensure their team members can always reach out to talk to minimize “virtual cabin fever” for people who have been working independently for a period of time.
  • Everyone needs to understand the limitations of the virtual environment and know when a face-to-face meeting is required.
  • A few face-to-face interactions will greatly improve the quality of subsequent virtual collaborations.

The Intellilink Team