By Mary Czarnecki
Being successful in a "virtual world" is more than just finding space to put your laptop and an available power outlet. As the majority of marketing teams around the globe transitioned to working remotely, whether "for now" or "forever," this transformation has created new challenges for both individuals and managers when it comes to effective time management and productivity practices.
Many professionals lack the training or experience to be effective with virtual communication, remote scheduling, and time management. Managers and team leaders are additionally challenged with developing new skills like remote team collaboration and virtual leadership.
As humans, we use visual and audio cues to effectively interact and communicate with others. Without them, our brains may not effectively process the information we receive. But the virtual world demands different skills than the face-to-face world, and organizations that educate their teams on the skills needed to thrive in a virtual work environment will create a competitive advantage by empowering their people to operate at their highest level.
So where do you start? There's no one-size-fits-all answer, but here are three keys to create a competitive advantage in a virtual world.
- Simplify communication. As organizations rely more and more on new platforms for virtual communication, it can be tempting to be lured by every new "shiny object." Keeping your communication toolset simple, however, will limit the amount of time employees spend trying to navigate the new tool and enable them to focus instead on the job at hand.
- Strengthen culture. Despite being physically distant, teams that feel connected to their organizational culture outperform their competition. Companies with a strong culture have lower attrition rates, higher returns, and are more profitable overall. Some effective ways to build culture with remote or hybrid teams include sending company-branded office gear to use in their remote office, creating mentorship programs, and establishing a level playing field where both those in-office and remote stand as equals.
- Train on time management. As teams adapt to working remotely — either temporarily or permanently — time management is one of the biggest challenges to enhanced team productivity. Business leaders and managers can overcome this challenge by helping their team learn and adopt effective time management practices, including options like time blocking and effective goal setting.
Whether you're adapting to being part of a virtual team or leading a remote team, learning and effectively implementing the new skillset it requires often proves to be challenging. However, by following the advice given above, your team can become more productive, engaged, and effective over time.
Some changes will be small and tactical (e.g., time management or communication platform training) while others will be strategic and high-level (e.g., building buy-in to company culture), but step by step your team can successfully transition and develop a competitive advantage in our new virtual world.
About Author: Mary Czarnecki is an instructor for the ANA Marketing Training and Development Center. For more on this approach, be sure to view Mary's workshop, "Enhancing Time Management & Productivity Skills for Remote Teams."