Merge's Blog

If you have a virtual team, set “office hours”

It’s been a long time since I’ve discussed the challenges that are inherent in leading a virtual team.  In fact, my most recent post on this subject was Leadership from afar – four keys to making long-distance leadership work back in 2015!  Which is ironic considering that today there are even more employees working offsite and remotely than there were two years ago.  Which means that leading a virtual team is far more complex than it’s ever been.  If you have staff that work in other buildings, out of their home offices, or even out of their vehicles while on the road, the challenges of leadership start to multiply and compound.  Add different time zones to the mix, and long-distance leadership of a virtual team begins to take on a life and personality of its own.  The reality: physical distance between you and your employees will make them feel increasingly isolated UNLESS you take deliberate and thoughtful steps to give your virtual team a greater degree of support and feedback.

So this is the inspiration behind my next series of short 2-minute video tips, starting today, and airing every week or so until I either run out of ideas, or sense that interest from you, dear readers, is waning.

Today’s tip: set “office hours”

Remember when you went to university or college and your professors would set office hours – specific times during the week when you would be guaranteed to find the professor in his/her office and available to talk to you.  Same idea.  Set office hours – specific times during the week when your employees know they can call and that they will get you “live” in your office.  Even if the phone switches over to voice mail, they’ll know it’s because you’re talking to another employee, and so they can count on you calling them back fairly soon.  Block this off on your schedule so that no one else schedules meetings during this time, and treat this blocked time like gold.  This simple step of setting office hours can make you significantly more accessible to your off-site employees and make huge inroads toward decreasing their feelings of isolation.  Heck, this is a good leadership practice even if you don’t have off-site employees; it works just as well with on-site employees!

This is my first instalment in my new series of simple strategies to lead a virtual team, and I’ve got a few more to share in the weeks coming.  But don’t wait for me, share your ideas with all of us please.  Tell us what you’re doing to improve the working relationships between you and your remote employees.  Add your comments below.

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