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Leadership in the Virtual Office


With the increase of technology and sophisticated work tools, more and more people are working from coffee shops, couches, and the virtual office. While remote work is great for people as it improves flexibility and saves them the stress of a commute, it presents new challenges from a leadership perspective. A recent study found that employees tend to favor leaders they see face-to-face. Researchers found that people are biased toward and feel closer with managers who are physically near them. That means remote workers are less likely to view their managers as leaders, which can lead to power struggles, communication issues, and confusion. However, remote working isn’t going anywhere and it’s up to leaders to take charge of the virtual office. Find out how:

Focus on communication.

While many people assume there’s less communication in a virtual office than a traditional one, the opposite should actually be true. Constant communication is critical to success. Unfortunately, many remote teams don’t feel connected to leadership. Leaders should communicate often with remote workers to build relationships and make up for the lack of face time. Although email is the most used form of virtual communication, it won’t cut it with remote teams. Use a variety of methods so messages are seen quickly and aren’t misinterpreted. Tools like chat apps, phone calls, and video calls keep the team connected and on the right track.

Resolve power struggles.

When some people work remotely and others work in an office together, they’re more likely to encounter power conflicts. If a leader and the team are divided between a virtual office and a traditional office, leaders may have a power struggle on their hands. People who work together in the office may be more inclined to listen to each other, rather than remote leadership. If these conflicts arise, address them immediately—ignoring them will only make the problem worse. Talk it out with workers. Explain the reasoning behind disagreements and ask team members to discuss why they think differently.

Take input seriously and involve team members in the process of resolving the issue. After all, workers think exploring, talking and integrating to find solutions are the most effective approaches to conflict resolution. In general, stay open and transparent with remote teams. That way, people feel they can trust leadership and express any problems or concerns, instead of trying to resolve issues amongst themselves.

Start with details.

When people are spread out, things can get easily confused. Without the convenience of adjacent cubicles, information like who’s doing what, the status of projects, and more is lost or isn’t shared with the whole team.

A lack of clear responsibilities is rated among the top workplace stressors. This problem only gets more complicated when remote work is added to the equation. It’s up to leadership to sort out any confusion and keep the team on the same page. Give clear instructions and answer any questions before beginning. Leaders should follow-up with phone calls or a preferred method of communication to double-check that everyone understands the plan. Then, make sure tools, resources, and any other files the team needs are easy to access and find. Be available to answer questions and let the team know the best way to reach leadership if they need a quick response.

Virtual workplaces are only going to become more common and leadership must catch up and go digital. Good leaders must focus on constant communication, keep power struggles in check, and pay attention to the details for success. Ready to lead a team—virtually or in person? Take these tips and reach new heights as an EXIT Realty Massachusetts franchise owner. Give us 30 minutes to learn how to get started and we’ll give you every tool needed to become a successful entrepreneur.

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