Best Practices for Virtual Management 

Published on March 13, 2020.

Due to COVID-19, the University is responding to unique challenges that require innovative solutions, including a flexible outlook toward remote work. Faculty and staff will be looking to you for your guidance and strong leadership during this time. In cases where your faculty and staff may need or be required to work remotely, you may find these best practices helpful. 

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Best Practices for Virtual Management 

While the future is unknown, in the coming days and weeks many managers may be faced with a hybrid of in-office and remote team members. 

For many University supervisors, managing employees virtually is an entirely new experience, and with that comes many uncertainties—How will I keep our work progressing? How do I know my direct reports are staying on task? How can I support and connect with my employees who are working remotely? 

Managing employees remotely doesn’t require a different skill set, but it does require you to apply your skills differently. 

Carry on, but remain flexible. During this time, your faculty and staff will look to you for how to adapt in the face of stress, change, and uncertainty. You can build trust with your team by being honest about what you know and what you don’t know. The University has created a hub of information on the Safe Campus website, which is updated frequently. You can also check with your HR Lead for guidance on how to respond to an employee who is sick or needs to care for someone who is. 

Focus on the things that you can control. Resilient people find the most productive way forward by adjusting to new circumstances and finding resources to adapt.  

Get set for success. Establishing new norms and expectations will be crucial to ensuring your dispersed team stays connected. Talk with your team about how you will stay in touch. What tools and technology will you use? What are the guidelines for responding to emails, chats, or phone calls? 

Shared documents and online project management tools (e.g., Google Docs, Slack, Asana, Trello) are a great way to define and communicate goals, deliverables, deadlines, and progress. Also check out Information Techonology’s resources for Working and Teaching Off Campus

It’s worth noting that, in light of blended work environments, it may be necessary to revisit roles and responsibilities and make adjustments based on your team’s availability; capacity to complete the work; and the tools and technology necessary to accomplish any given task. It is important that the entire team is clear about every member’s role, not just their own.

Stay focused on goals. Now is the time to revisit, and revise goals for your team and the individuals on your team. Set aside time to talk about:  

  • Goals for the short and the long term. Discuss both what needs to be achieved and how to achieve it. 
  • The specific deliverables and timelines each team member is accountable to achieve. 
  • Expectations for communicating progress toward those goals. Set expectations for both what should be communicated and how to communicate it. 

Teams are successful when they are clear about and agree on the purpose of the team. 

Connect regularly. Maintain your regular check-in conversations with your remote workers. More than ever, your remote workers will need your feedback, coaching, and support to stay engaged and continue to move their work forward. 

You may even need to increase your check-ins to maintain a sense of connection and community.

During your check-ins, discuss progress towards goals and current projects as well as the challenges your team members are encountering.  If the work is time sensitive, don’t wait until the agreed-upon deadline, check in on progress ahead of time.

Also use this time to check the stress level of your employees. Find out what kind of support they need and do what you reasonably can to provide it. This might include adjusting workload or helping them gain access to University resources and technology.