Getting Started with a Virtual Team

Imagine having a business where you can contract staff with the perfect skills and experience that you require, regardless of where in the world they may be.

Virtual companies take advantage of the growing number of sophisticated online collaboration tools available in the marketplace. This allows them to contract whomever they want, and avoid the expenses associated with physical workspaces. Be aware, the management of one of these virtual workplaces is a little different than that of a traditional workplace — for employers and their employees.

Successfully Managing Expectations

Like with any business, it’s important to manage expectations and have clear boundaries. This is even more important with a virtual business so make sure that you have clear, measurable goals in place and that your processes and vision are communicated effectively. Your team always needs to feel supported.

Here are some useful tips for this change:

  • During your interviewing process make sure that you are being honest and clear about the challenges of a virtual company. It’s important to communicate the differences of the work environment. Good virtual professionals can then self-assess and remove themselves from the running if they want to. Have the same conversation with existing remote team members as part of the change process.
  • Make sure that your team is able to communicate with you via an open channel of communication. Whether they use video chat, email, instant messaging, or their phones, make sure that they have a clearly set way of giving feedback and suggestions from the start.
  • Make sure that there are milestones or benchmarks that can be clearly measured. Setting goals for your team throughout the project, transition period, sales cycle, whichever it is, puts everyone on the same page.

Process Management and Implementation

Some clients, and potential clients, may find it unsettling that they don’t know what their team is doing all the time, and the urge to micromanage from afar may suddenly kick in. Instead of emailing or calling your team for constant updates, let them get their work done while you put your focus to a longer term solution. In part, this is a very strong reason for a virtual assistant to terminate a client contract. We’re paid to get in there and get the job done. Interruptions and continual reporting only adds to the client’s billable hours. However, a seasoned VA will also know how to document their work so that the remote team and the client can point and click to get a status update. Project management tools like Asana are designed specifically for this.

Work on creating and implementing processes throughout your business. Not only will this help you to grasp exactly what your team do every day, but it will also help you to evaluate where your staff’s time is going.

Keeping Control of Productivity

Any business will experience changes in productivity. With a virtual workplace, it’s important to closely manage and measure them. Here are some tips for keeping control of your productivity:

  • Create and implement a company-wide set of quality standards and protocols. It can be weekly, or monthly, or any set period of time you prefer, but there needs to be a system in place to assess results. Rather than waiting until the end of a quarter, or project, make sure that you have benchmark checks along the way.
  • Assess your team after training and watch their output to assess their work. If there are improvements to be made, share your assessment with your team and explain changes to be made.
  • Be ready for any drop in productivity, and have plans in place to deal with them as quickly as possible. This could be new training programs, reward or commission systems, or improved processes.
  • If you see that the work of a team member is starting to slip, give them feedback and find a way to get them to improve before they genuinely start to underperform.

It’s Not All about the Money

Making the choice to have a virtual office can certainly reduce the overhead for your company, but there will most likely be an increased need for leadership. The change can be incredibly good for your business, but be prepared to give lots of direction to your team and be there to guide them when they need it. There is still a need for growth and sometimes this can be more demanding in a virtual environment than a physical one.

If you set yourself up with good processes and the right management team, a virtual work place can be a game-changer.