Managing Virtual Teams

Are you a work-from-home newbie? Keep your marketing team going strong with these virtual team tips and tricks.

Managing Virtual Teams

You’ve been managing teams for years and you have it down!  Stand-up meeting in the morning, drop by to say hi on your way to a meeting, weekly team meetings around the conference room table – and a happy hour to catch up on life outside the office.

Now… well, things have changed, and almost all teams are forced to figure out how to navigate the virtual world. How do you keep projects rolling?  How do you gauge if someone is on top of their work, confused by an assignment, or frustrated with a co-worker?  How do you know if someone is struggling with something personal and might need some space for a bit? You can’t see them – their face, body language or a group gathering whispering.

Check-In Meetings:  Whether it’s your team, a project group, or leadership team, the regular check-ins you were having in-person are still very important! They just have to happen virtually now. If you were having a morning stand-up for a project – schedule a daily video chat – ON the calendar, time blocked.  Project teams must put weekly (or more frequently, depending on the pace of the project) check-in calls on the calendar (even screenshare the project plan for increased visibility).

To video or no video?  Companies’ cultures vary greatly! Some love to see each other, others are more “get down to business” and fine with voice calls for project type calls.  The right answer is to do what is best for your team, as a general rule. That said, you do need SOME video touch points during the week.  Our recommendation is to use video for team calls. One-on-one video calls are also very helpful!

You can expect that your team may shy away from video when working from home (messy house, random kid walking by, didn’t do their hair this morning, etc.).  As a manager or team lead, set the expectations from the start – whatever it is, so everyone is more comfortable. We’re all dealing with the “extra” background noise/humans right now, so that’s usually a level playing field, but is it okay for team members to wear hoodies & baseball hats on your video calls?

Relationship Check-In – In the absence of in-person interactions, you may find yourself wondering if a team member is frustrated with something you said, disengaged from a project, or angry with another team member.  Because you can’t walk to their desk to gauge their mood, you now have to pick up the phone instead…and ask them directly.  Consider this call a pulse check – “Hey, feeling funny about our last convo – did it all make sense? Do you have any thoughts on it?”  Because there could be longer time between calls, you don’t want unresolved communication gaps to all negativity to fester.

Where’s the Water Cooler?  Especially for teams that are used to bumping into each other in the office kitchen, going to lunch or walking to Starbucks – there is an important connection that happens during social work interactions that will not naturally happen when a team is operating virtually. While not exactly the same, there are creative ways to replace this type of interaction:

  • A virtual happy hour at the end of the work day – hop on video, bring your favorite snack or drink and catch-up.
  • “Bring your kid/pet to work” Day – have your kid and/or pet join for the first (or last) part of a team call.
  • Give a webcam tour of your new workspace.
  • On your team call, have everyone answer a get to know type question or have them share a meaningful item in their home office.

Overall, we recommend promoting a healthy work-life balance for your staff, as leaving the house during the COVID-19 pandemic is becoming a rare occurrence. Set expectations for your teams productivity, but allow them the breathing room they would have had if they’d been at the office – space to visit the kitchen, gossiping by the water cooler – this time may transition to having lunch with the kids, or throwing in a load of laundry. Flexibility and understanding will promote positive relationships, collaborative virtual teams, and focused minds to keep your marketing train going.

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