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Creating a thriving virtual team environment while working through these unprecedented times might seem overwhelming, but it’s doable. Tim Snell, CPP APMP, business growth strategist and coach and APMP’s deputy chief examiner, presented steps you can take to do this in the free APMP webinar “Working Virtually Through Disruption.” Snell provided an in-depth look at what remote workers can do to enhance their productivity and ensure successful project completion, while keeping in touch with their colleagues from afar. Here’s a high-level view of what he covered and tips to get you started.
- Create a space to work. As tempting as it may seem to crack open your laptop from the comfort of your bed, Snell advises against it. Resist the urge to work where you rest, as that could eventually impact the quality of your sleep and ability to relax in that space. Set up somewhere at home that allows you to “go to work,” meaning you’re getting up and going into a space with minimal distractions, where you have everything you need to be productive and enough separation to disengage at the end of your work day.
- Establish processes and plans. Make sure your team agrees on protocols, workflows and escalations. Get clear on how your work is going to go. “One of biggest challenges I see when working in a [virtual] environment is version control,” Snell says. “This is an area where a lot of time is lost toward the end of the bid and proposal process, where a lot of confusion can be created and a lot of stressed induced.” In addition to outlining clear expectations for the team, create a daily plan for yourself that includes checking in on your objectives, breaks and meals. Also, set limits around your time so you aren’t working too many long hours.
- Communicate and connect. Feeling isolated is a real concern when working on a virtual team. Snell emphasized the importance of connecting with each other as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to turn on the camera when doing team calls. Pick up the phone instead of sending another email. Set up virtual coffee breaks that allow everyone to have a cup together and talk (via video conference) about something other than work. Keeping up the rapport is critical in sustaining team morale. In addition, make sure everyone knows what to do when things go wrong or what expectations are for checking in and reporting back.
- Trust your people. If you’re a team leader, Snell says to dial up trust, empathy and patience. “One of the things that can happen during this time is the assumption that people aren’t as productive, and it’s really a time for us to reflect on how we view each other in the work environment and how we trust each other to get this work done. This is an opportunity for people to assume the best.” He also advises dialing down micromanagement. “There’s a difference between checking in and checking on,” he says.
- Review each week. At the end of each work week, Snell suggests asking questions that allow you and the team to improve processes and communication with each other. He also says to be creative and experiment during this time because even the best-laid plans may not unfold as expected. Think about what your contingencies will be if something goes wrong and how you can make tweaks or change your approach to make things better.
View the full webinar recording and gain more insights on how you can guide your virtual team to success.