The COVID pandemic has forced many businesses to work virtually. And many believe that the virtual work environment is here to stay. As such, managers must figure out how to keep their virtual employees as productive as possible.
One way to do this is to build strong relationships with them. So, how do you accomplish this? Read on to find out.
The Many Problems Faced By Virtual Teams
To begin, let’s discuss some of the problems that team members face when working remotely.
- Poorly expressed communication points: Not everyone is the greatest writer. And sometimes, with emails and other written communications, messages come across the wrong way. Without hearing the tone of one’s voice in written communications, it’s easy for recipients to misconstrue what the other person is trying to say.
- The Zoom fatigue: While getting on video conference calls with team members has its advantages, many remote workers have simply had too many video meetings and have become tired of them.
- The inevitable loneliness: Most virtual team members are working alone from their homes or apartments and are bound to become lonely and isolated.
- Poor collaboration: At times, it’s hard to substitute physically working together, gathering in conference rooms, and writing on whiteboards, particularly if your team members have worked this way for years. Take this away in today’s virtual environment, and collaboration between team members often gets lost.
- The lack of motivation: Many workers lack motivation when they’re alone and don’t have the camaraderie of a physical team environment.
- Working too much: Some virtual employees have noticed they’re working more hours virtually than when they commuted to their corporate offices. This is often due to factors such as lack of breaks in working sessions, having their kitchens close by for food and drink breaks, and eating lunch in front of their computers instead of doing so while talking with colleagues.
Overcoming Problems & Building Lasting Relationships
Now that we’re clear on the key problems remote workers face, here are some solutions to overcome them and build stronger relationships with your virtual team members.
Open Up To Employees About Yourself
The more honest you are with virtual employees about your life, thoughts, and feelings, the more they will trust you. You become more real and vulnerable to them. Sure, you need to choose what you tell them, but by opening up, they will bond with you as a person, and their performance, most likely, will also improve significantly.
Invest In Project Collaboration Software
Using a quality project collaboration software like Proofhub, your team will be able to collaborate better with one another. Every individual team member will gain a better understanding of their roles, responsibilities, and tasks. This will, in turn, reduce stress and anxiety and make them more productive.
Figure Out Their Preferred Communication Styles
Some virtual employees will like to communicate through your choice of project management software itself, some will prefer email, some text, some chat, some phone calls, while some video calls. While your company might prefer and require certain forms of communication, figure out what each virtual employee prefers most and use that mode of communication whenever possible.
To ease this process, you could also create a census to ensure that the whole team is on board with the certain chosen method of communication.
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Develop A Business Plan Stick To It
Virtual team members don’t do well right from the get go, nor should they, with these drastic changes. You want to create as much stability as possible. The best way to accomplish this is to have a written business plan detailing your organization’s goals and strategy.
Use a business plan template that documents your company’s vision and strategy for success, and shows your roadmap to achieving it. Likewise, work with each team member to set personal goals so they feel ownership of their position and work in the best interest of your company at all times.
Use Emotional Attunement
Emotional Attunement is when you not only hear the words your employees are saying, but you try to understand their emotions. This is clearly extremely difficult to accomplish with written communications, which is why you need to at least occasionally have phone or video conversations with virtual employees.
When they speak, think about whether they are happy or sad, stressed or relaxed, frustrated or pleased, etc. Once you figure out their emotions, act accordingly (e.g., if they’re stressed, tell them they seem stressed and ask how you can help relieve their stress).
Respect Your Team Members
When you respect your team members, you’re telling them that they carry value and that they matter. This is hard to fake. Think about each member of your team corresponding to their personal situations and you will find that you automatically develop real respect for them. They will sense it and work harder for you.
Have Zoom Happy Hours
Videoconferencing doesn’t only have to be for productive work meetings. Have fun with it too. Maybe organize a Zoom happy hour with your team at the end of the week. Have a drink or two with them and talk about their plans for the weekend.
Or better yet, have a round of team building activities with a full-blown virtual event once a month where you can conduct a number of fun games to help increase employee engagement.
As a manager, you should encourage your team to take 5–10 minute breaks each hour (or 10–20 minute breaks every other hour) to step away from their computers and stretch or go for a walk. This will show team members you care about them. They will generally be happier and become more alert throughout the workday when they do this.
Use the strategies listed above to build lasting relationships with your virtual team members. Doing so will dramatically increase employee engagement, satisfaction, retention, and productivity. As a result, your company will prosper.
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How to Build Lasting Relationships with Virtual Team Members was originally published in ProofHub Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
How to Build Lasting Relationships with Virtual Team Members