With the arrival of the pandemic came a revolution in our understanding of the workplace. To escape the deadly virus, work had to be transferred online, away from the cubicles and office desks where one could come into close contact with other people. Some businesses found the transition awkward and difficult, but luckily for digital enthusiasts like me, “online offices” were an already, at least partially, established practice.
My digital experience has taught me that online offices, for all their benefits, still require that attention be given to the “digital team.” In fact, employees working remotely might require more attention than regular workers because they tend to feel more isolated or easily distracted from work since face-to-face contact and supervision is limited.
Generally, it is up to the leader of the business to inspire connection, trust, clarity, as well as create a productive work environment through a well-developed employee management plan. This plan is just as important, if not more so, when you are running an online office. And if you are a woman leader, your job becomes extra challenging, as you go against gender stereotypes trying to assert yourself, all while inspiring employees and motivating them to work through online channels.
I bet you are as afraid as I am of miscommunication, which can easily occur online, or of coming off as “bossy” and “demanding” to the team. you might also be worried about employee work progress in this digital moment. But never fear, I have some tips based on years of experience that can help you successfully manage your digital team:
- Establish rapport. Communicate the strengths and unique skills of each individual. Express appreciation for the team, as well as the importance of their contributions to the success of the business. Make them feel involved, committed, and valued.
- Provide honest feedback. Whether feedback is positive or negative, it is necessary to communicate it to maintain or improve someone’s job performance. That said, honest feedback does not need to be harsh and threatening. It should focus on constructive criticism and guidance on how to improve performance.
- Celebrate success. Celebrate success on an individual and group level, acknowledging and rewarding teamwork especially. When working on projects together, step back and allow the employees to take ownership of the work, present it, and take the credit for success. Remember that their success is also your success.
- Allow members to pursue their goals. Encourage employees to pursue their goals through your business, allowing them to be creative at work and to choose projects they are passionate about. So long as company and employee goals align, and client value is achieved, then there should be no problem in aiding employees in their professional pursuits.
- Tolerate failure. To err is human and there will be times when a team member struggles or fails to deliver. It is important to tolerate occasional slips and know how to handle failure when it occurs. Work together with employees to examine the failure and take steps to turn them into an opportunity to improve overall processes and procedures. Encourage your employees to try again and support them to succeed.
- Hold team members accountable. Maintain clear expectations and hold team members accountable when expectations are not met. Expectations that cannot be compromised should be explained clearly during interviews and reinforced in orientations and monthly team meetings. For example, a priority of mine is customer service and I make sure my whole team knows this. If a customer voices a complaint, I have a candid conversation with the team to address these concerns. If the problem persists despite all efforts, leading to more complaints, disciplinary measures are taken.
- Empower your team. Empower your employees to make decisions on their own without having to refer to you about every detail. They should enjoy a degree of independence in their positions, as well as know that their opinions and thoughts are valued in the workplace. Not sharing ideas and thoughts in a team can actually hinder progress.
- Reserve one hour for a team catch up. Dedicate an hour in the week where everyone can jump online for a team call to ask questions, share tasks requirements and achievements. This online catch up makes your team feel involved in all company projects and goal achievements, where they are not just limited to what is required of them to do.
To recap, how you manage your team is a crucial part of running your business. The points listed above become especially true and necessary if most of the work is done online. Don’t allow remote work to come between you and your digital team, as there is no real reason to for the team to grow apart. Technologies can be used to complete tasks, as well as reinforce communication in a manner that creates healthy work relations and a happy, productive online office.
By Aleen Zakka, Founder of Net2work Branding, Activist in Women Empowerment Initiatives.