How to Lead and Manage in a Virtual Office Space

It seems like there’s always something happening in offices that change the way we do business.
Fax machines and e-mail made it easier to communicate with clients and co-workers. Smartphones have made it easy to always travel with a small version of your office.
Office culture has changed almost as much as the tech employees use in them. A few decades ago it was unheard of to work any hours outside of 9 to 5. Formal suits were considered work-appropriate. Now, people have flexible schedules and work in jeans.
The office space has had to change along with office culture. Now people are working in new ways that were only imagined in the past.

The New Office Space

Imagine what work would be like if you could work from anywhere. The fantasy is now the reality for a growing number of people in the United States. According to a Gallup poll 37% of people surveyed worked remotely.
Having a virtual office space benefits both the employer and the employee. Employers can save money on office space rentals and know that their employees are more flexible and reachable.
Some employees have reported that they feel like they’re more productive when they work from home. Others report feeling happier and like they have a better work-life balance. They also don’t have to worry about spending money on gas and tolls for long commutes.

Managing the New Frontier

A virtual office space is convenient for everyone involved. However, it’s also going to be a different environment to manage. Working in a virtual office space is different than working in a physical space.
You need to lead your team and manage your employees to best suit their needs.
When you move your office to the virtual space, you need to change your management style and techniques. If you follow these tips you’ll have and productive employees that can work anywhere they have an internet connection.

Hire the Right People

Every business wants to make sure they hire employees that are a good fit for their business. This is especially important for employers that plan on having people work remotely. Certain kinds of employees thrive in this environment and others fail.
Employees that work remotely are going to need to be self-starters. They’re going to be in charge of managing work throughout the day, you won’t be there monitoring them and making sure things get done. Someone that needs a lot of hand-holding may not be the best fit for the job.
You’ll also need people that are comfortable working with digital products. Tech literacy can vary among people, and someone that isn’t used to using smartphones or video chat apps may struggle in the virtual environment.

Set Expectations Early On

Employees shouldn’t be in the dark about proper performance and behavior protocol when they’re working. Let them know what you expect out of them when they’re hired. This way, you can ensure that your needs are met. Remember, you won’t be there to monitor them throughout the day. They’ll need to know what to do.
Do you expect to be sent a summary e-mail at the end of the day that outlines what they did? Should they expect to occasionally have to attend in-person meetings, or are they going to be using Skype or another chat services?
These are all important questions to have answers to. When you set expectations early on you’ll ensure that employees are well-informed and ready to work remotely.

Check-in On Schedule

You should expect your employees to be able to manage themselves, but they’ll still need to be able to reach you in case they need you. Consistent communication with your employees is important for managing a virtual office space.
Some managers find that it’s easy to check in with employees multiple times throughout the day to ensure that work is being done. Others are fine with an email at the end of the day or week.
The frequency of communication is up to you. Regardless of what you decide, make sure that your employees feel like they’re able to contact you when they need it. Get feedback from them and see what kind of schedule they prefer.

Find a Chat Tool

If you run a virtual office space you don’t want your employees to feel like they’re working on a team of one. It’s important to make sure that employees are keeping each other in the loop about work.
One of the simplest ways to do that is to give them a chat tool for office communication.
Gmail’s Gchat feature can work well for small offices that just need to use something to periodically check in. Larger offices that rely on frequent cross-collaboration may want to consider something like Slack that can accommodate a lot of people and groups.

Track Progress

Clocking in and out of work used to involve a punch card, but things have gotten a bit more advanced over the years. Now there are systems that can track time throughout the day. This can make tracking the progress of tasks and employee productivity a lot easier in a remote office space.
If you’re paying hourly employees make sure they clock the amount of time they spend on every task. That can help you ensure that employees are getting paid fairly, and can also help you gauge how much time should be spent on certain tasks.
Tools like BaseCamp can make project management simple. Everyone can have one place to place client notes, upload files, and communicate about finished work.

Learn from Employees

The easiest way to see if your management techniques are working is to see what your employees think. Check in with them periodically to see what they think about the way they’re being managed.
Ask them if they have the resources that they need to complete work and thrive. See if there’s anything they feel could be done better, or if they have suggestions about what they think could help.

Your Stories

How did you move into the virtual office space? Do you have tips for people that are new to working remotely?
Tell us about it in our comments section.
If you are interested in learning more about the virtual office experience, contact WorkSocial today.


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