Managing Virtual Teams @Work at Home: COVID-19

The COVID-19 crises have made a significant impact on socioeconomic fabric of most of the countries. The most effective safety measure to curtail the spread of (COVID-19) pandemic has been found to self-quarantine and keeping social distancing. Most of the countries in the world have gone for partial or fully lock down the containment zones.

The countries may not be able to survive if consumption of resources will continue for a longer period of time without balancing the gaps. The human resources must be engaged in productive tasks to cover-up production and service requirements in this uncertain lockdown period. The crises have compelled organizations to engage human resources as virtual teams to work from home partially or fully keeping in view the nature of tasks and the restrictions imposed by the governments.

Managing virtual teams especially in social distancing, lock down and restricted interaction mechanisms become challenging. it’s easy for the executives to get obsessed and take advantage of this time at home or actually working. However, most office employees can be just as efficient at home as at work provided proper communication is done as a manager.

There is a need to suggest measures which are fruitful in enhancing the productivity of virtual teams working @ home environment which involves sharing a living space with spouses, children, and home work hours. There is also a requirement to take care of the emotional and social needs of employees during the lock down period and to ensure they don’t feel too isolated. The tasks which require more energy can be scheduled and completed in the morning and afternoon schedules.

The team interactions using web conferencing tools such as Zoom Cloud, Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, Face Time, Adobe Connect etc. should be regular with visuals and should be scheduled in predictable time intervals. However, ratio of fragmented to focused time schedule should be intentional. The focus should be for everyone to share what they are working on and what they need to be successful. This helps the managers to get the tasks completed in scheduled deadlines. The executives also get the opportunity to adapt themselves to their home and office environments.

The common and shared understanding in the physical office environment helps to socialize, bring trust, and reliable execution of tasks as compared to virtual team settings. The virtual teams can also be made more effective by giving them clear work processes, consistent expectations, and standard virtual meeting norms. The manager should make themselves available to answer questions as they arise in flexible timings. For effective monitoring, regular assessments, check-in at the end of defined schedules should be kept intentionally. Managing outcomes are more important as compared to activities in this virtual environment.

In this unpredictable and stressful time period, there is a requirement to extend cooperation, compassion and keep trust levels high to reduce anxieties of virtual teams. This will help to enhance productivity and to cover the loss that has happened during the lockdown period. The engagement of executives in valuable interactions and the execution and completion of tasks will lead to the effective management of virtual teams.

Susheel Chhabra