Although virtual work has come to the forefront of business discussion today, there’s nothing new about it. While remote work has been around for decades, it’s more than just an accommodation today. It’s an entire way of working.

Productive, committed remote employees need highly developed virtual leadership, though.

While virtual leadership is still a mystery to many business professionals, recent research offers insights to help them lead their teams in virtual environments.

A virtual environment retrains employees to be more task-focused than a physical work environment. Many of the opportunities for interpersonal communication – the “chit chat” that shapes the average on-location worker’s day – are reduced or absent in a virtual environment.

As a result, leadership can become more task-focused and directive as well. Leaders often feel that because it is difficult to monitor a virtual employee’s actions, they must impose greater control and structure to ensure they do their work.

Unfortunately, this often does more harm than good. Virtual employees need to feel empowered and to have the autonomy to self-lead. In a remote environment, the results are more important than the actual means necessary to achieve them.

Working in a remote environment means virtual leaders need to learn trust. To align employees with your company’s mission, it’s critical to give them the self-leadership freedom they need to do their best work.

They also need to learn to relate to employees on a personal level. Remember, work is a means of socialization as it produces products and services. Employees often feel isolated and forgotten without the in-office interaction provided by a physical work environment.

Establish ongoing dialogues with your virtual employees. Doing so allows you to provide structured yet meaningful communication that helps them feel valued, understood, and heard.

In a virtual work environment, it’s also essential to facilitate meaningful communication among virtual employees. Because remote workers often feel “siloed,” they often lack the insights they need to effectively work with other team members – particularly those in other departments.

You can facilitate communication among team members in a structured virtual environment, such as a virtual “roundtable,” or in non-business virtual or hybrid events exclusively for employees.

The more time and effort you invest in better, more meaningful communication with and among employees, provided your virtual teams will be more effective. Just remember that virtual leadership is all about empowering those you lead, not about showcasing your knowledge, skills, and power.

Want help leading effectively in a virtual environment? Get in touch with us today!