Your business has grown and you have hired a great team member but they are working virtually. Here are tips to help nurture this unique but common work environment. The Virtual Office.1) Determine the work hours: The strength of working virtually is that the work can be completed almost anytime. Having set days or hours will allow you to set expectations and avoid wondering about your team member’s availability.
2) Create a detailed job description that outlines the responsibility of the team member. If the team member is an independent contractor or a service provider make sure that your agreement contains a job description or scope of work.
3) Outline objectives: Based on the job description, develop a work plan that outlines the following
a. Goals; expect your virtual team member to make them happen professionally and efficiently in conformance with your expectations, standards, and schedule.
b. Procedures; Outline policies and procedures that are important to your company and include procedures for dealing with unexpected contingencies and emergencies.
c. Milestones; Define milestones to make sure that projects are heading in the right direction and accomplished on schedule and within budget.
d. Materials; Specify materials and equipment that you will provide, such as laptops, software, graphic files, or supplies.
4) Check inwith your virtual team member on a regular basis and get feedback. Make it a point to check in via phone or Skype, this will allow you to “feel” them better than just relying on email.
5) Nurture your new relationship. Remind your virtual team member that they are still part of the TEAM even though they are offsite. Be sure to include them on what’s going on with the company and invite them to company events. Most of all be patient, flexible, trusting, and respectful.
6) Evaluate performance within the timeframe specified in your agreement and work plan. Also, provide feedback (positive and negative) on an ongoing basis so that your team member is aware of the work they are producing.
7) Most importantly, communicate, communicate communicate. Be mindful that working virtually precludes critical non-verbal communication. This means it’s more important than ever to have good verbal and written communication with your virtual team member.
Technology tips to help
1) Online meeting tools
Skype: A great inexpensive tool to have face-to-face meeting with your team via live video
Gotomeeting: A web-conferencing tool that allows you to work with anyone anywhere. It also allows you to share any application on your computer. Great tool for training.
2) Task collaborating software
There are various internet-based team and project management software that make it easy to organize, manage and track projects. Your team members can be located anywhere as long as they have internet access.
Here are a few
Deskaway: a web-based project collaboration software .
Basecamp: web-based project collaboration and management
Box.net: web-based collaboration and content management for enterprises
Creately: collaborative online diagramming software used by teams around the world to communicate more effective
EditGrid: online spreadsheet with real-time update feature that allows multiple users to collaborate on one spreadsheet
Huddle: web-based team collaboration and project management; centered on virtual workspaces
Pivotal Tracker: agile project management and collaboration tool
Smart Meeting Pro: a collaborative meeting software that connects two or more desktops/laptops or interactive whiteboards in the same meeting room, or across distances when using Smart Bridgit software. Users write over soft copy documents using digital ink and pass the document to the next interactive whiteboard or laptop.
Smart Bridgit: a data conferencing software that connects multiple parties across distances and allows users to share their desktop/laptop or interactive whiteboard screen with all participants. Smart Bridgit includesVoIP, webcam capability and digital ink.
3) Shared document storage:
There is no need to email documents or pictures back and forth. Your team can access the documents from a central place online using one of these tools.