Many managers are currently in conflict over the decision whether or not to use a home office. The biggest barrier here is not the technical hurdle, but the feeling of loss of control. Many bosses are of the opinion that working from home does not suit their job, because presence in the office is absolutely necessary for productive work results.
But is it really so? Is it really more productive to be in the office from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.? Is productivity really dependent on the place of work and the presence of a manager? What does the quality of work have to do with how long your employees have been sitting in the office?
Of course, we can be wrong, but actually the factors "what your employees do" are completely independent of "where they do their work". In our opinion, the decisive factor is not the "where" but the "how".
However, this "how" is very decisive and influences the productivity of the team members:
Every beginning is hard. With the right preparation and work structure, the start is made easier for all parties. To avoid the team getting stuck in an hour-long discussion right at the beginning of the virtual collaboration, the following aspects should be carefully considered and then communicated within the team:
Who should be responsible for area XY? First assign responsibilities in your team and leave your team a certain amount of room for manoeuvre so that they can make certain decisions themselves - keyword "empowerment". These responsibilities may well exceed the responsibilities in the office. Convey to your employees that each individual is all the more important. In this way, you can avoid giving your employees the feeling that "nobody cares anyway what you actually achieve here".
Imagine how it would be if every team member ran to the team leader with every little question? He or she would be busy 24/7 only with clarifying questions and not with his or her actual tasks - namely team leadership. This would in turn lead to a work stoppage, because the team leader would no longer be able to keep up with his or her tasks.
Let's be honest, even in the best team: it doesn't work completely without rules. This is also the case in virtual teams. Without fixed rules, work ends in uncertainty, chaos and ultimately dissatisfied team members.
So the first question you should ask yourself is:
Here you have to pay attention to whether all team members are possibly in the same time zone and whether there is a "core working time" in your industry in which customers, suppliers and partners are available and which team members are affected by this. If the times are flexible, there is a "danger" that your team members will be at work longer than usual, because the home office often has a different perception of time than the office. Of course, overtime is not always bad and cannot always be avoided - as a start-up, we know that only too well. But even we ourselves notice after 4 days in a row that a 12-hour working day in the home office is not really target-oriented: Not only the mind and body suffers from it, but also the environment. Nevertheless, even after a 12-hour day, good results are still achieved. So it is important to find a good balance here.
Breaks are also important! Because unlike in the office, you don't have a colleague at home with whom you go to lunch. Nevertheless, regular breaks are essential in the home office as well, so that concentration and creativity do not suffer.
Basically we recommend to set up a schedule for the team with fixed timeslots:
Organisational framework conditions must be created. In virtual teams, misunderstandings often occur when either too little information is received or it is misinterpreted.
Therefore, depending on the complexity of the information, the right medium and tool should be chosen. However, the basic rule is: it is better to give a little more information than too little.
Target agreements are also made in everyday office life. So why not in the home office as well? Daily, weekly or monthly targets are essential for a virtual team. How, for example, is someone supposed to take on responsibility if he or she does not know exactly where he or she is heading?
Depending on the size of the team and the project, we also recommend agreeing separate goals with each team member at the beginning of a working day or week. One option is for the team leader to set the goals (possibly with his or her board of directors or leadership position above him or her) and then discuss these goals with the team members. Dialogue is always advisable in non-critical situations. In crisis situations and tight schedules, there is rarely time for discussion, so clear objectives must be set. Furthermore, goals should not only be communicated verbally, but also be presented in writing or visually.
Now many managers are afraid that despite having agreed on targets, the team members "lie lazily on their skin" and nothing productive comes around at the end of the day.
Of course, "trust" is an important factor here and trust in virtual teams must first be built - especially when it comes to team members who have just joined the team.
Depending on the activity or goal, the results can then be measured with different methods and instruments. These "measuring instruments" must of course be defined in advance and, if necessary, included in the team rules. Of course, there are also digital time recording tools for home use, but that brings us back to the topic: Is his "time serving" really productive?
Nowadays there are many ways to measure quantitative and qualitative results. For example, team members can submit daily or weekly reports that summarize "What did I do today/this week?" and then link the points to the results accordingly. In addition, there are great monitoring tools available today that not only show website visitors, leads, signups, conversions and sales, but also activities such as "who edited file XY or code snippet XY". Of course, the quality of the results can be consulted: Does the function work as it should? Does the campaign meet the requirements?
Every beginning is hard. That is why especially at the beginning the physical, temporal, technological and psychological barriers have to be overcome.
Each team needs a certain amount of time to get used to the new environment. At the beginning not everyone will immediately follow the rules 100%. It usually takes about 3-5 days for the rules to be internalized and actually implemented. So don't be too harsh in the beginning, but be understanding and simply remind your team that you please follow the rules.
At meetings you should also allow time for technical problems, because the laptop, smartphone, internet connection are not always the most reliable "partners". What worked in theory and in the past may look different in 10 minutes, due to unstable internet connections, server overload, defective devices, different settings, changed security requirements, etc.
Personal contact is also just as important in virtual teams. The team members are not machines - even if they are only perceived virtually at times. It is important that the team members can and are allowed to exchange information about other things than just work. Because informal conversations contribute essentially to team cohesion. That's why you should plan 10 - 20 minutes more time in chats or video conferences.
Also regular evenings, where the team meets in chat or video meetings to discuss everyday matters or maybe even play team games, contribute an important part to a functioning, satisfied and motivated team.
Author: Nicole Smuga