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The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world of work upside down when, for the sake of the safety and wellbeing of employees, it forced companies to go partially or completely remote. Those who were used to watercooler conversations with coworkers to talk about their weekends or meetings sat around a board room table suddenly found themselves leading presentations and brainstorming sessions from their kitchen table.
For many companies, remote work is the future of working, at least for the time being. But with many managers accustomed to face-to-face collaboration and leadership, virtual management has proven to be a challenge. Business guides outline the skills and tips needed to be an effective virtual manager.
The American Management Association’s white paper outlines the “5 Skills Every Virtual Manager Needs to Succeed.” Skills such as delegating tasks and providing feedback to team members are expected, but in a virtual environment, communication is key. Without it, leadership can fall through the cracks. The white paper’s four qualities of effective communication are clarity, accuracy, completeness, and timeliness. Ensuring your communication is clear, concise, and delivered in a reasonable time frame reduces the risk of misunderstandings in a virtual environment. While we’re not exactly face-to-face, a wide variety of virtual tools can keep you connected to your team, ensuring smooth and consistent communication.
There are direct steps virtual managers can take to adapt management tasks in the virtual environment. Online HR compliance training company Emtrain’s guide on how to “Effectively Manage Your Remote Team: Adapting to the New Norm” has helpful tips. For example, it’s important to get into a cadence, whether having daily team check-ins or setting firm start and stop times so everyone has room for a break. Practicing empathy and setting attainable goals are also concrete steps to take.
If nothing else – turn your webcam on! Most of us are in casual clothes, anyway, so make the most of connecting with your colleagues by showing your face. Medium’s article on turning on your webcam explains that doing so can help us understand each other better when we can see each other’s facial expressions, while seeing our colleagues can help with feelings of isolation. Better yet, we may even see the occasional pet that brightens our day.
The day may soon come when companies around the world can finally weigh whether to officially return to the physical office space. For workforce mobility, returning to work safely will require a holistic approach that considers elements such as duty of care, travel, and workforce planning. Until then, virtual managers can more effectively lead in the remote environment by prioritizing communication, consistency, and connection.
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