The whole concept of “globalization” is pushing work all over the world, with independent professionals working anywhere and everywhere. Faster and more reliable communication and collaborative tools are allowing people to work on teams that are no longer co-located.
Whether you are a client contracting out to a virtual assistant or a virtual assistant sub-contracting to a team, here are some tips to manage work virtually, meet and exceed expectations:
1- Communicate, communicate, and communicate: Establishing communication guidelines will take you a long way towards effective communication. This will be by clarifying:
- which medium to use for regular communication (i.e email, Skype, weekly calls, web conferencing…)
- the response time requirements
- the criteria for prioritizing issues
When working virtually communication is limited by the lack of visual cues, which are important in developing trust and clear messaging. Build the trust from the beginning and maintain the human touch.
2- The right technology: The technology is already there to support virtual work and is moving fast with cloud computing. There is really no reason to be without it. This includes collaborative platforms and virtual project management tools (like Huddle, Basecamp etc…), audio conferencing, web based CRMs, and shared directories (like Dropbox, Sharefile …)
3- Set clear objectives: Especially when managing a virtual team – team members need to know and understand what they are doing together. If they understand only their own role and their own work, they will always be just individual contributors.
4- Short assignments: Breaking down a project into short assignments/tasks, helps with staying on track and meeting deadlines if more than one person is involved in the project. When working remotely, it is practically impossible to micro manage; it really is counter-productive, diminishes productivity and affects the morale. By having shorter task lists, and monitoring progress with weekly follow up calls, the workflow will be more effective.
5- Be extra diligent on workload management: Be precise and ensure that work is completed on time.
6– Adjust and compromise on time differences: One of the main advantages of working virtually is to meet tight deadlines on specific projects outside “traditional” working hours and in any time zone. However, it is important to remember that what’s convenient for you may not always be convenient to your client or your virtual team members.
7- Acknowledge and respect cultural diversity: Recognizing cultural differences between geographical areas can help minimize potential culture clashes and miscommunication.