How to Make Your Virtual Workforce Act Like A Team

Virtual work environments are becoming increasingly popular with companies of all sizes. Remote workers increase the available talent pool, reduce overhead costs, and improve sustainability. Virtual workforces have many advantages for both employers and employees, but one of the biggest disadvantages to a virtual workplace is that remote workers can feel disengaged from the organization. Brick-and-mortar offices have a distinct “team” feel to them, and it can be a challenge to bring that same level of camaraderie to a geographically disbursed staff. Here are three things to keep in mind when developing a virtual workforce:

1. Communication is Critical

Remote workers can often be the last to know what’s going on in company news. Daily touch points and virtual meetings with leadership can help remote staff feel included and connected. A commitment to connectivity should begin from day one, and should be part of the onboarding plan for new virtual workers. But communication isn’t just about sharing what’s new. Virtual workers often don’t know who to reach out to when they have problems or concerns. If they don’t know who to call, issues can go unresolved for long periods of time. Remote workers are far more likely to reach out to someone they have been introduced to, and whose voice they have heard on a conference call.

And it can help to take a step beyond communication and focus on relationship building. When managers have calls with virtual workers, they should be encouraged to spend time forging real relationships. In a traditional brick-and-mortar office environment it is easy to get to know individuals on a deeper level, but it can be very easy to overlook proper relationship building with teleworkers. When managers take the time to learn about virtual employees’ career goals, strengths, and development needs, it can positively impact engagement.

2. Incentivize Strong Work Performance

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Virtual employees often feel as though their work is not seen by leadership or valued in the larger organizational picture. Onsite employees have the benefit of being physically close to leaders and influencers, but virtual workers may not ever come in contact with these key individuals. Keeping remote staff engaged can be as simple as recognizing a job well done. Encouragement can make an employee feel valued and appreciated. If they see their name and their successes printed in a companywide newsletter, they know that their work is important, and they feel more connected to the organization as a whole.

Competitions can also incentivize performance while building strong teams. When virtual workers are placed into teams for a contest, it helps them get to know one another and it helps them to see where they fit into the structure of their department. It also allows virtual workers to connect with each other and make friends. Peer groups are important for maintaining employee satisfaction, and virtual workers can often have a hard time forming relationships with other employees. But team competitions can foster these coworker relationships, reward performance, and boost morale.

3. Schedule Coaching Sessions for Your Virtual Workforce

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Regular coaching sessions are important for all employees, but virtual workers can often get left out of this critical development practice. Managers should be checking in weekly to go over remote employees’ performance, help them with areas of development, and to hear from those employees about what they need in order to do their jobs well. These coaching sessions keep everyone plugged in to each other’s needs, and can make virtual employees feel that the company is invested in their career growth and development.

And when possible, leaders should schedule face-to-face time with virtual workers. This could be a monthly Skype call, where managers and employees can see one another, or it could be actual in-person meetings where remote workers are invited to company headquarters for team building exercises and training sessions.

These ideas may seem overly simple, but these small actions and commitments can have a major impact on keeping a remote workforce engaged. Even the smallest efforts can go a long way toward promoting morale among virtual workers, which will have a lasting impact on the organization as a whole.

Micah Laughlin

Micah Laughlin is the founder of Canvas IT and a leader in technology management services, supporting organizations of all sizes and helping them to thrive in spite of IT challenges and organizational changes. His first-hand experience with Service Desk Outsourcing companies led him to create a better way of doing IT outsourcing, the way he’d want it done. Today his philosophy carries on at Canvas IT as he creates a custom solution for each client just the way they’d want it done. Micah’s service desk management philosophy has supported dozens of growing businesses, adding value to the IT services they provide. Prior to founding Canvas IT, Micah spent more than 24 years managing IT operations – with 18 spent balancing the need for open, flexible systems with the restrictions of the highly-regulated healthcare industry.

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