Since this week, many managers have been confronted with leading virtual teams overnight. Suddenly, it is no longer possible to quickly visit the team’s office or to get an idea of how the employees are doing or what topics they are working on.

How much uncertainty can I as a manager endure, or how much control / feedback is needed as a manager not to get nervous?

This topic has a lot to do with one’s own personality development and one’s own image of man.

Do I believe that my employees will act in the best interest of the company and do their job, even if I cannot control it myself, or do I insinuate that my employees regard home office as “extended leisure time”?

Do I succeed in agreeing on goals and rules with my employees, how much communication everyone needs in order to do their job, or do I try to make sure that everyone is sitting at their computers by controlling attendance?

How do the manager and the team organize themselves to define a new form of standard communication and ensure that the distribution of tasks works?

Distributed working requires different rules than working in the same office. Some examples:

How quickly do we respond to queries? 

Which communication channel is suitable for what. (e.g. difference between chat vs. e-mail)

Is there a virtual daily to briefly discuss what topics everyone is working on and where they need support from colleagues?

Is there a common task board in a planning tool (e.g. via MS Teams) so that everyone can see what is being worked on?

Are the employees waiting for “work assignment”, or does everyone take a topic for themselves?

How can you as a manager establish the four-eye-meetings with the employees in such a way that they take place in a similarly pleasant atmosphere as if the manager was physically sitting together with the employee.

Personal communication with employees should not suffer under any circumstances. Established structures for 1:1 appraisal interviews should be maintained and, if possible, should be handled with a video call. In order to be able to concentrate on the conversation, it is necessary to deal with the supporting tools so that they do not cause “stress”. 

How to maintain the team culture and find rituals so that the teams do not lose their “sense of belonging”.

When a team has been working together for a long time, very often rituals develop which the team cultivates together – be it a morning coffee or lunch, which people like to share.  If a team suddenly has to work in a dislocated way, it is important to either find new rituals or simply move the familiar rituals into virtual space.

The morning coffee can be drunk together via a video call in the same way, and I can also talk to each other on the way. For this purpose it is helpful to have a technical solution available, so that people can meet together in one room, but then retreat in smaller groups to discuss topics that they would also clarify over coffee in the morning.

A joint lunch in front of the camera can also be organised. Some examples have even been published in the social media. As a manager, however, you should definitely assume that we are not “only” in a situation where work is being carried out at different locations at the moment, but that the employees also have their children at home, so that the slots in which work can be carried out may also shift somewhat. Here, too, the rule is: “Where there is a will, there is usually a way”.

What does the manager in the organisation have to do if there are “show stoppers” that the team cannot clear away on its own? 

The main task of a manager is to ensure that the teams of experts can work in peace. That means the manager should remove show stoppers. 

This job remains the manager’s even in this special situation. But the show stoppers are definitely different at the moment than in a daily routine before Corona. Prudence, calm and a little humor will bring solutions even in these challenging times. Maybe not in the way you are used to, and at the same time – together it is easier than alone.

Do you have questions or would you like to know more about the topics?

Feel free to contact us, and together we will find the right format to support you as a manager, or as a personnel developer whose managers are currently facing quite a few challenges. 

Our Office Manager, Margit Darnhofer, will be happy to help you with specific questions.