How bloggers and freelancers can manage a virtual team effectively

By Mark Zeni - 2 minute read

Businesses of all sizes often struggle to manage many aspects of their day-to-day operations, including blogging, design, and social media. Fortunately, technology is making it easier for businesses to access the skills they need without having to add permanent staff members to their payroll.

For this reason, many businesses are opting to outsource tasks and responsibilities to external agencies and freelance professionals. Bloggers and website owners are also going into this trend and outsourcing tasks related to their business. But how can they effectively manage a team that doesn’t share a workspace?

Define expectations
Employees will be more productive and are far more likely to succeed when given a clear set of guidelines and shared goals.

Providing detailed briefs that outline the expectations of the business, company etiquette, and establish clear standardized work processes will help remote workers feel like part of a team, rather than a group of individuals.

Utilize a range of communication solutions
When managing a virtual team, maintaining regular communication is vital. Assigning specific communication channels for different tasks can help define business processes and provide a sense of structure, which can often prove difficult in a virtual environment.

It’s important to use the appropriate platform of communication for the situation at hand. For example, sensitive interactions, such as performance reviews or disciplinary measures, should be handled via a face-to-face video call (or, when this is not possible, over a phone call) to maintain professionalism and give your team members the level of respect they deserve.

Use a virtual phone system

Deploying a virtual phone system is a simple way for small businesses to communicate with customers and colleagues without the worry and expense of installing a landline setup. This type of service can also be scaled up or down with the rate of the business.

There are many that include several other value-adding features such as hold music, voicemail transcription and ‘click to call’ buttons. Some providers also offer an automated receptionist solution, meaning each caller is greeted in a professional manner and handled with a consistent level of efficiency.

Video conferencing
Video conferencing can be a great way to connect virtual teams. Holding regular conference calls with all team members present helps keep everyone updated with each other’s progress. It also provides an opportunity for any questions to be raised, brainstorming exercises or sharing content ideas, so that everyone leaves the ‘meeting’ feeling energized and with a good understanding of the tasks at hand.

Create virtual coffee breaks
Humans are social creatures, but as part of a virtual team, members often miss out on all those daily interactions traditional office workers take for granted. Ensuring there is an informal company-wide chat platform in place can help maintain a feeling of social connection. If your team gets to know and trust each other on a personal level, they’ll be far more productive as a workforce.

Project management tools

When projects require the participation of several remote employees working in different locations, project management software can help streamline processes within the same project, so that all members have a clear timeline of completed and pending tasks.

Time tracking tools, such as Trello or Asana, provide a valuable overview of resources, giving key insight into how employees are spending their time, and highlighting areas where resources could be used more effectively. This can be particularly useful when several members are servicing one client.

Store it in the cloud

Manage documents in the cloud, so that team members can access and collaborate on files, at any time or place. This also avoids any potential for mistakes when team members are all working from different versions of the same document.

A shared cloud is an ideal space to keep a master plan or project overview. This should include important details such as the purpose of the project/main objectives, the core work hours of team members, and each member’s individual responsibilities. This enables all team members to understand their position and importance within the team as a whole.

Meritocracy is key

It can be easy to lose momentum when working as part of a remote team. Putting incentives in place will show your virtual team that you value them as much as an in-house employee and help them to feel less isolated.

Where possible, set goals, conduct performance reviews, and offer the same benefits that in-house staff receive.

As the world rapidly becomes increasingly interconnected, remote workforces are set to become commonplace. However, distance doesn’t have to be a barrier to success. With the right tools and management techniques, businesses can continue to enjoy the rewards of leading a productive and cohesive team, even when those team members are physically far apart.

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