The virtual workplace offers employees many benefits that a traditional bricks-and-mortar office simply can’t. For one of our staff injury she sustained forced her out of a management position in the NSW government. She was no longer able to commute during her extended recovery, however she still had much to offer as a virtual worker.
When she discovered OURTEL and joined the team as a tele-agent. She felt that learning the industry from the ground up and understanding the experience of a tele-agent was vital for her to develop the perspective that she would need to transition into a virtual management role.
Managing virtual teams requires a different approach than she was used to in a physical workplace. Virtual workers run the risk of feeling isolated and forgotten by head office. They may also feel like they are not on a career path, which can cause anxiety and disengagement.
A virtual manager needs to overcome these challenges in a number of ways. Firstly, virtual workers need to feel connected to each other and given an opportunity to build social relationships just as they would in a bricks-and-mortar workplace.
At OURTEL, we encourage this with morning conference calls where all tele-agents are given 10 to 15 minutes to socialise before beginning a work session. And when work begins, tele-agents enter virtual classrooms in teams of about 10 where they constantly interact with each other throughout the day.
Gamification plays an important role here. Agents may be split into teams and awarded points that are aligned with achieving certain KPIs. High performers are often awarded small financial bonuses, but this about much more than money. It’s a chance for co-workers to cheer on each others’ achievements, feel recognised for their work, and connected to the team and its goals.
It’s all about encouraging our tele-agents to challenge themselves in a supportive environment where they have built caring social relationships with their co-workers and understand how they are contributing to a great cause.
This constant daily contact also allows virtual managers to get to know their teams on a human level. In this way can see how team members are performing day in and day out, who are the most supportive of others in the team, and how each communicates with our clients and understands the objectives of each campaign.
That makes it possible to identify the tele-agents who are best placed for a transition into a role as a trainer, or even promotion into the management team.
Without this approach, virtual employees run the risk of feeling like they are working in a vacuum and virtual managers will struggle to identify and nurture talent within their virtual teams.