Virtual Leadership

More and more companies successfully combine office and virtual work. However, effective management of a virtual team has its own peculiarities, which should be considered by every manager. Thus, if you’re one, you need to learn new team management techniques to help your employees work productively from home.

The rules for managing a virtual team are the same for fully remote employees and team members who combine office-based and remote work. In both cases, you will need to change your organizational structure, create effective communication, and develop new mechanisms to keep your employees productive.

How Virtual Leadership Differs from Regular Leadership

Successful management of a remote team is based on classic office work principles. However, even if your virtual team consists entirely of employees who previously worked in the office, they will still need some time to adapt to the new environment.

Not only does a manager need to teach employees the basic skills for productive remote work but also learn how to manage a team in such a new environment.

This means that, in addition to basic team management skills, you will also need to:

  • Learn how to effectively manage employees who work not only in different cities/countries but often in multiple time zones at once;
  • Develop mechanisms to help employees who work entirely remotely become a functioning part of a “mixed” team, consisting of employees who work from the office, partially remotely, and completely remotely;
  • Build confidence between all team members, even if they are now deprived of the opportunity to communicate and interact in person;
  • Learn to monitor how effectively all employees use their time when working remotely;
  • Learn how to move various elements of the office “routine,” e.g., meetings and interviews with prospective employees, into a virtual space.

Only if all of the above-mentioned tasks are addressed successfully will your virtual team perform just as efficiently while remaining highly motivated.

Even experienced professionals with excellent skills in their field can work less productively if they don’t have the right skills for remote teamwork. Therefore, your primary goal as a manager is to help your employees cope with uncertainty and adapt quickly to new conditions.

Key Challenges of Virtual Team Management

A manager who runs a virtual team has the important goal of creating a workspace and communication strategy that will help all employees do their job in the best possible way. The most important skills your team members will need in this case are self-discipline and time management in a home office environment.

All remote team management tasks can be divided into the following categories:

  • Training employees in skills that will be useful for partial or complete remote work;
  • Maintaining a high level of motivation among employees;
  • Developing and applying a more democratic and flexible management structure that will allow all employees to maintain an understanding of the team’s goals and be as independent as possible in a home office setting;
  • Selecting the right software solutions and apps to create a full-fledged workspace for remote employees;
  • Creating and implementing effective communication.

Now let’s find out how you can effectively handle these tasks.

Developing Collaboration for a Virtual Team

To ensure that team productivity doesn’t suffer when moving to remote work, it’s imperative to find a way to develop additional communication skills that will maximize team cohesion when dealing with various tasks.

Additionally, remote employees should also be fully engaged in the overall communication between team members. For this purpose, the following types of software can be used:

  • Video conferencing software platforms;
  • Messengers and file-sharing services, etc.

With the help of such tools, business communication becomes extremely productive, and all questions on tasks can be solved without delay.

Helping Employees Develop Their Remote Work Skills

To ensure that your team’s productivity doesn’t suffer, you need to make sure that all employees adapt to working remotely. For this, you will need to know if all your employees have the necessary knowledge and the following skills:

  • Self-discipline, i.e., the ability to independently control the productivity of employees and achieve goals set;
  • Quality time management in a home office environment and the ability to deal with distractions;
  • Shared leadership, i.e., the ability to take responsibility for achieving corporate goals.

It will also often require mastering new technologies, such as various video conferencing software.

Creating a Flat Organizational Structure

As a virtual team leader, you will need to create an effective organizational structure for remote work. A flat organizational structure implies a few (or zero) levels of management between the workforce and the highest-level managers, which leads to as little hierarchy as possible.

The basic steps for developing a “flat” organizational structure are:

  • Defining the goals, mission, or concept of the company’s work;
  • Distribution of roles and responsibilities in the team;
  • Creation of the rules of interaction in the team.

The next stage is the adaptation of employees to the new model of teamwork.

Transformational Leadership Style

Transformational type of leadership is the most effective way of managing a virtual team, which is based on control and strictness:

  • Emphasis on mentoring and trusting relationships with team members;
  • Delegation of work tasks and authority to the employees;
  • Discussing the goals, objectives, and results of work with team members;
  • Full-fledged feedback with employees.

As a result, all employees feel their maximum involvement in the company’s processes, even when working remotely. Also, this is a great way to increase employees’ responsibility for the quality of work and meeting deadlines.

It’s especially crucial when you have remote employees on the team. Thus, task delegation can help them become fully involved in the company’s goals and motivate them to be more self-disciplined and productive in their tasks.

Developing Effective Communication

One of the main components of the high performance of a virtual team is full-fledged communication. Not only does it make the discussion of work tasks as effective as possible but can partially replace full communication between employees.

That said, it’s important to develop in advance an algorithm for regular discussion of tasks and rapid problem-solving. It’s especially vital if your employees are in different time zones and there’s a need to prevent delays in decision-making.

Working with Remote Employees

In order for remote employees to become a full-fledged part of the team, you need to establish a trusting relationship with them and help them feel involved in the team’s work.

You can do this by:

  • Holding regular meetings via messengers, video conferencing software, apps, and systems;
  • Getting timely feedback to receive the necessary information about work issues;
  • Holding joint discussions of the project to help involve remote employees in the discussion of business initiatives that are important for the company.

Also, the motivation of remote workers for productive work will be high if the team leader provides the opportunity to know the results of the work on a particular project.

Tools for Productive Telecommuting

To create a virtual space for the productive work of the team, the following tools are used:

  • Software for virtual teamwork. These are video conferencing programs like Nextiva, Zoom, Ring Central, Google Meet, Skype, Microsoft, Slack, and others;
  • Time management apps. You can use Time Doctor or similar apps to control the efficiency of work time distribution, revealing the reasons that distract employees from their work.

If the productivity of the team decreases due to the inability to distribute the work time and avoid distractions (e.g., household chores or social networking), apart from deadlines, the manager can use more stringent methods of monitoring.

For example, this can be software that automatically takes screenshots of an employee’s computer screen during the workday. This can be done at certain intervals (e.g., every 10 minutes).

Holding the Entire Team Accountable for Work Results

In order for employees to have a high level of self-discipline, they must have a clear understanding of the deadlines for work tasks, as well as the sequence of stages of work on the project.

Let’s highlight the main stages of work on a project in a virtual team:

  • Planning. Clearly distribute who of your employees is responsible for what while working on the project;
  • Scheduling. Set deadlines in written form so you can track each employee’s level of performance;
  • Checkpoints. Evaluate and summarize the intermediate results of the work on the project.

Such a model will help improve the quality of work and the level of responsibility of employees. Also, everyone who is involved in the project is fully involved in teamwork and communication.


Managing a virtual team with remote employees requires a lot of effort from the manager, as well as certain skills necessary for effective remote work management.

The main problems that need to be solved are creating an organizational structure for remote work, maintaining a high level of employee productivity, creating a communication model for rapid problem-solving, and discussing work tasks.