Virtual Office Featured Article

Communications at the Core of Virtual Office Management

April 24, 2017
By Tracey E. Schelmetic - Virtual Office Resource Contributor

It’s often said that working a job remotely takes a certain kind of employee. This person has self-discipline, a dedicated work space in their homes and a self-starting initiative that doesn’t require a manager nearby at all times. While this is all true, running a virtual office takes a certain type of manager, and the skills aren’t necessarily the same as those required to manage employees onsite.

“You just can’t handle remote teams the same way that you do onsite workers and expect to get the same results,” according to’s Kevin Ballentine.

If you’re a manager used to “walking the aisles,” you’ll need to find a way to do that remotely, and it will center around a collaborative communications platform. Before you begin assembling a remote working team, establish your base communications and require all workers to become familiar with it and use it. If you’re used to having an “open door” policy in the office, establish a virtual one, perhaps in the form of “office hours” during which anyone can message you. In a hands-on business such as the contact center, your “office hours” may need to be most of the day.

For some “meetings,” typed messages may not be enough to ensure you have the full attention of the employee. For this reason, you may want to consider using video conferencing, since it lets you see the person on the other end and make sure that they aren’t working on anything else or goofing off while you’re on the call, according to Ballentine.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions to make sure you’ve been understood,” he wrote. “While you don’t have to blatantly accuse employees of not paying attention, asking for their opinions on certain details will usually reveal whether they’re keeping up. Given the importance of communication in remote work, be prepared to come down a bit harder on employees who don’t take communication seriously.”

You can also establish a baseline of regular communications by requiring your employees to submit progress reports at regular intervals. (If they’re not prepared to do this, they’re probably not the right person for a virtual office environment).

“Read through the reports and compare them to where other teams within the company are,” wrote Ballentine. “These progress reports will give you an idea as to whether the team is really focused on their task or if they’re just enjoying their time away from the office. If progress is slow without a good reason, don’t be afraid to hold people accountable for it. While their work situation is a bit different than your standard employee, they’re still being paid for the work they do and are expected to complete it in a reasonable amount of time.”

By establishing a regular means and timetable for remote communications with workers, you can help them build an infrastructure around which to center their working day. Don’t be too regular, however, or you may unwittingly be allowing them to skip working between regular check-in times. A “surprise message” now and again will help keep them on their toes. 

Edited by Alicia Young

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