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As we near the end of 2020, a milestone that couldn’t come fast enough for most of us, it seems that 2021 will bring more of the same trends we spent this unprecedented year getting used to; including continued working from home. As managers and leaders who are used to working with teams in person, the transition to Work From Home likely wasn’t an easy one – and it’s not any easier for your team members, either.

So how do you continue to manage in a way that not only gets the job done, but that ensures employees stay motivated and mentally healthy? I’ve put together some tips to help you through this difficult and unusual time:

Team Size
Research shows that the most effective virtual teams are small (less than 10 people) so if you typically oversee a larger group, you may want to consider dividing into smaller groups or having a second manager step in to support.

Establish Routine Opportunities for Engagement
Virtual teams don’t have the same opportunities for small talk as in-person teams do; it’s amazing how important those water-cooler conversations actually are to our mental wellbeing! To replace those moments of interaction, schedule regular team meetings and regular check-ins that allow for casual conversation as well as business talk.

Reduce Uncertainty
Uncertainty abounds in our lives these days, so help reduce the stress of change by reducing the unknown around work: clarify goals and expectations; clarify tasks and processes; and clarify guidelines.

Promote Open Dialogue
By speaking openly and asking the right questions, you can foster an environment that allows for open and honest dialogue, encouraging your team to open up about how they are feeling and if they need additional support. You can do this by:

+ Sharing observations and concerns
+ Speaking with ‘I’ statements
+ Asking open-ended questions
+ Actively listening
+ Summarizing what you’ve heard
+ Keeping the conversation alive

Ongoing Relationship Building
Set-up regular check-ins and one-on-ones, Make time for social gatherings (when permitted), and create a buddy system. The buddy system prevents people from falling through the cracks. Even when you set-up regular check-ins, be sure everyone has a buddy at the same level as them.

What have you done up to now to strengthen your virtual teams during the pandemic? What else can you do or incorporate into your system? I’d love to hear in the comments.