With technology advancements and business globalization, telecommuting is becoming one of the top workplace flexibility options. Regardless of whether your organization operates in one U.S. location or in multiple countries around the world, virtual working arrangements can be the key to attracting, retaining and engaging today’s top talent. 

 

5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Managing a Virtual Team

With technology advancements and business globalization, telecommuting is becoming one of the top workplace flexibility options. Regardless of whether your organization operates in one U.S. location or in multiple countries around the world, virtual working arrangements can be the key to attracting, retaining and engaging today’s top talent.

According to Global Workplace Analytics, approximately 3.3 million people, or 2.6 percent of U.S. employees, work remotely full time and 50 percent of the country’s workers telecommute part of the time. With the rising popularity of these flexible working arrangements, today’s managers face the challenge of leading teams whose members are separated by borders, time zones and cultures.

“The increased need for workplace flexibility has made working remotely an attractive benefit to offer employees who have that option available to them. Working remotely can mean a significant improvement in work-life balance and can result in significant savings in time and commuter costs. Many employers are also increasing their virtual workforces in an effort to reduce their physical footprint and the costs associated with maintaining multiple offices and buildings. Telecommuting can be a win-win benefit for both organizations and the people they employ,” said Sharon O’Brien, Vice President, EAP WorkLife Operations at Ceridian LifeWorks.”

While telecommuting has its benefits, managing virtual workers comes with its own unique challenges. Below are five quick tips to help you customize your management style to fit the idiosyncrasies presented by virtual working arrangements.

5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Managing a Virtual Team

#1 Assuming Everyone is Equipped to Work Remotely

Virtual Workers Tip 1When selecting individuals to telecommute, carefully consider their personality and work style. In addition to having the right technology and atmosphere in their homes, remote employees must be independent and comfortable communicating their ideas through various media. Those who thrive on daily human interaction, are distracted easily or need immediate feedback may have difficulty performing in a virtual environment.

#2 Failing to Establish Ground Rules

Virtual Workers Tip 2Since interactions with virtual employees can be sporadic, it is imperative for managers to clearly communicate their expectations and evaluation criteria. Do you expect them to work specific hours or in a specified location? How should they touch base with you? How will they be evaluated? Ideally, your company’s employee handbook should outline these and other telecommuting details.

#3 Neglecting Face Time

Virtual Workers Tip 3Virtual workers may not be in the office, but their days should not be void of human contact. To help create team cohesion, invest in video conferencing software and arrange a few in-person meetings a year. As a manager, you should also schedule regular one-on-one meetings to discuss each employee’s broader challenges, goals and career dreams.

#4 Overlooking the Importance of Trust

Virtual Workers Tip 4Virtual employees must be confident of the trust you have in them and their ability to do their job. Give remote workers guidelines for reporting project updates and refrain from micromanaging their efforts. You can also build trust by using a variety of communication methods to openly share information and insight regarding the strategic direction of your department and the company as a whole.

#5 Underestimating the Importance of a Company Connection

Virtual Workers Tip 5Due to their limited interaction with the company culture, remote employees can often feel disconnected from the organization that employs them. Discuss with each employee the company’s mission and goals and how these elements influence their role. It is also important to offer professional develop opportunities and develop career paths for your virtual workers.

For more information:

  • View a summary of Ceridian’s 2013 Pulse of Talent survey results
  • Read Ceridian’s Human Capital Management Blog