Remote Work: 5 Tips to Run a Virtual Office

One day you’re in an office, the next your whole team is working from their couch. In light of the recent global pandemic, many teams are now being thrown into the deep end of ‘remote work’ - and it’s not always easy to adjust. This is especially so for corporates who have hundreds of employees to face a crash-course with no warning.

Diving into digital, like any change, can take time. Some businesses who aren’t accustomed to online processes may be in for a rocky ride, whilst others may find it easier to get used to the shift.

So what happens to office culture, productivity and managing a team from afar? We delve into our top 5 tips to help you run your new virtual office.

1. Dear Diary: I’m Going for Lunch

Much office communication is done in person but with remote working, this is not an option. Remote teams, therefore, do most of their communication through written formats. This can be through email or messaging apps such as Slack.

Obviously, the inability to tap your colleague on the shoulder and ask them a question is difficult to get used to. But this is where communication guidelines come in.

Set your team clear processes for communication so they can get in touch with each other in ways that maximise productivity. These guidelines can be everything from obligatory morning stand up messages to setting custom Slack statuses for meetings or personal errands.

Not only this, make sure your team understands that each communication channel has a specific purpose. Setting these new norms is important to avoid miscommunications.

You can implement rules such as:

  1. Emails are only for client communication

  2. Slack is the ‘virtual office’ for team messaging

  3. WhatsApp is only for emergencies

These kinds of parameters may seem obvious but making sure the team knows exactly how, when and where to communicate reduces time-wasting and makes sure everyone is on the same page.

2. Trust in Accountability

Many team leaders who are suddenly thrown into remote working are burdened with the question:

“How do I make sure my team is actually working?”

This comes with the idea that because you can’t physically see your team, they will misbehave and take advantage of the freedom.

More often than not, employees actually want to work *shock* and find satisfaction in completing tasks. However, this isn’t easy when a team leader assumes otherwise. In other words, trust is incredibly important to ensure your remote team performs properly.

Setting weekly check-ins or using time tracking apps like Toggl are easy ways to make sure everyone is accountable for their tasks. Additionally, this keeps everyone in the loop about projects and what other team members have been up to in the week. It will become evident if one team member is slacking if their weekly check-in is lacklustre.

3. Hooray for Healthy Habits

Being thrown out of a routine, alongside not being in a ‘normal’ office setup, creates the perfect breeding ground for bad habits.

Staying in pyjamas the whole day, not breaking away from screens and snacking non-stop are small habits that can build up to impact your team’s overall health and in turn, happiness and productivity.

Why not sign your team up for weekly virtual workouts or yoga, give them water-break reminders throughout the day or even ask each team member to share a healthy meal recipe they made that week.

Showing you care about your team’s wellbeing is important for morale and builds a positive team culture that has great benefits long-term.

4. The Power of Video

Not all virtual office communication happens in a written format. Video is probably the closest thing to a ‘real-life’ conversation and is incredibly important to give teams the feeling that they are connected to the real world.

We find that scheduling in project ideation sessions or a Friday ‘after-work drinks’ Zoom call at the beginning of the week gives our team something to look forward to. Not only this, but it also gives the team a chance to interact outside of client meetings and weekly work check-ins.

There are many different apps designed for video communication such as Google Hangouts, Skype and Zoom. Test a few out and see which works best for your team dynamic.

5. Best Friends for Life: Meet the Apps

Communication processes and team culture are only two-thirds of the remote working pie. Straightforward project or workflow processes are also integral to ensure your team works optimally.

Project management apps can help teams keep track of daily, weekly or even annual tasks/goals. Trello is one of our favourite apps and has helped our team stay on top of their own tasks in real-time whilst also being able to see the company’s progress as a whole.

As well as Trello, file-sharing platforms such as Google Drive make project collaboration easy and allows team members to access documents they need, wherever they are in the world.

Much like communication channels, it’s important to create a structure for your team. Ensure all employees understand how to mark when a task is done, find the files they need and see which projects are a priority.

Organising your team’s workflow process is the best way to ensure no one is lost and helps you to see a project’s progress without being there in person. Keep in mind that it’s all a process - learn from your mistakes, make small adjustments and above all, remember to switch off!

Need a Helping Hand?

Without a doubt, transitioning to a flexible office setup is no easy feat. Sometimes all you need is a little direction to make shifting work environments a little easier. We’re here to help you reorganise your company remotely - contact us for a virtual training session to help get your internal systems and tools set up for success!

Kind Regards,

The JA. Team