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5 Virtual Management Best Practices to Keep Your Team Engaged

Claire Beveridge

The traditional workplace structure is changing, and leaders are under pressure to keep employees motivated and engaged. But how do you execute management when teams are remote? 

Virtual management doesn’t need to be complicated. Follow along as we share five best practices for managing virtual teams.

Remote team management: 5 steps for success

Managing virtual teams requires a few vital steps in order to ensure that employees are engaged, motivated, and performing at their best. 

1. Establish clear communication guidelines

Good communication in the workplace is essential for teams to collaborate effectively. And when employees understand each other and communicate clearly, this prevents blockers and helps improve productivity.

Keep teams on the same page and create communication guidelines that outline:

The best channels for different types of communication 

Outline how you’d like your team and direct reports to communicate. It’s important to explain tasks and processes, not just goals and roles.

This will help keep your communication consistent and organized, which is a challenge with virtual teams—especially those living and working in different time zones.

For example: 

  • What’s the process for sending work updates: email or Slack? 
  • Do you have an internal intranet system that employees can use for communication?
  • Do you prefer synchronous or asynchronous communication?

This information can be presented in a simple table or chart for easy reference. 

Reasonable response times

It’s also helpful to clarify expected response times for work communication. This helps create a less stressful working environment and helps employees manage their time effectively, which leads to a positive work-life balance.

For example: 

  • Do you expect email replies within a certain timeframe? 
  • Do instant messages on Slack need an instant response?
  • Do employees need to respond promptly to company bulletin board posts?

Outline this information in your communication guidelines.

There will be exceptions to this rule. For example, when teams work on an urgent deadline or launch a new product or marketing campaign. 

A great tip is to use response-based acronyms and add these to messages to communicate you expect a faster-than-usual response. For example, urgent response needed (URN) or four-hour response (4HR).

Remember that it’s okay for employees to create their own boundaries around communication and share these with you. For example, some people might not have the time to respond to messages after 5 p.m. due to other commitments.

Communication code of conduct

How we speak to people has a long-lasting impact. Negative interactions can quickly derail employee morale, which has a profound effect on an organization’s ability to retain employees and produce consistent, high-quality results. 

Include a communication code of conduct in your comms guidelines. There will likely be a reference to this in your overarching business handbook, but it’s always worth taking the time to set communications expectations. 

Here are a few ideas:

  • “I will communicate with truth, honesty, and accuracy.”
  • “I will communicate with empathy and compassion.”
  • “I will communicate with respect and kindness to others.”

2. Hold regular one-on-ones

One-on-ones are the perfect time for employers and leaders to connect and discuss work projects, employee performance, and career development.

One-on-ones are an essential part of effective performance management and help improve manager and employee relationships.

Plan regular one-on-ones with virtual team members to keep them engaged and create feedback opportunities.

Use performance marketing software with a built-in one-on-one tool to schedule meetings, create agendas, take notes, and set OKRs. You can easily share this information with direct reports, streamlining the process and helping you communicate async.

Feeling unsure about the topics to cover for impactful one-on-ones? Check out this one-on-one template.

3. Allow for flexible working hours

Flexible work allows employees to focus and work when they feel they operate at their peak and can productively work through tasks on hand. 

For example, some employees are natural night owls and perform their best work after dark. So why force them to be alert and at their desk at 9 a.m.?

Flexible working has significant benefits for work-life balance. For example, flexitime allows employees to spend more time with their family, focus on hobbies and interests outside of work, and keep on top of life, which helps promote happiness and well-being—two crucial factors for positive workplace engagement.

Create guidelines around remote work expectations and flexible working. For example:

  • Can employees work at any time during a 24-hour period?
  • Do employees need to be available at certain times of the day? For example, core working hours between 10am-4pm. 
  • Can employees fulfill their hours four days a week instead of five?

4. Budget for in-person events

Virtual management doesn’t always need to be virtual. 

Get together team members for in-person meetings and events. For example, if some team members live locally with each other, give them a budget to have lunch together or attend an industry conference.

On a broader scale, you could organize an annual or bi-annual team retreat and collaborate in person to keep employees motivated and engaged.

5. Use employee engagement surveys

One-on-ones only hold so much weight when it comes to knowing the needs, thoughts, and feedback of employees. 

To understand how employees feel about their role, the company, and virtual management on a deeper level, conduct regular employee engagement surveys.

Engagement surveys provide data-rich insights that explore topics such as employee burnout, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and remote work. 

Having this information at hand helps leaders make data-driven decisions about where to focus their engagement efforts and identify issues or concerns before they start affecting performance and morale.

For example, if a direct report shares signs of overwork and employee disengagement, you can take steps to improve the volume of work assigned or strategize re-engagement strategies.  

When you use performance management software that comes with built-in employee engagement features, you also compare progress across time to ensure your engagement strategies have a positive impact.

Ready to improve engagement for virtual teams and position yourself as a virtual management expert? Sign up to 15Five for free to get started.