Clear expectations set the tone in virtual offices

Virtual offices, telecommuting and working from home are business models that would have been complicated and unwieldy just a decade ago. But with rapid development of mobile applications, online platforms and cloud storage, more and more companies are finding it feasible and desirable to manage a team of telecommuters, rather than a physical office. While the change comes to the benefit of employers and employees alike, supervisors usually find it necessary to adapt their management style.

Experts say one of the best tips for a cohesive virtual office is making your expectations clear. To do this, you must make the company mission, performance standards and goals explicit. If not, splinter interpretations of your office objectives may create conflict or ineffective toil. In company-wide conferences, set aside some time to check in with your organizational values, chart progress and indicate areas for improvement. This should all fall under the purview of making those expectations consistent and omnipresent in communications with employees. 

"Ensure that all the members of your team know their role and that all parties are on the same page," suggests Carol Cochrane of FlexJobs. "Be sure that everyone has the tools they need to be successful. Then, trust them to do the work while checking in regularly."

Employees also need a working understanding of how their day-to-day task management aides the company's long and short-term goals. When telecommuters function in disparate cells with no sense of community or belonging, they may lose sight of how their work is helping to drive their organization forward.

Striving for clarity in performance standards also gives workers a set of concrete goals of their own to meet. With the ability to budget their time at will, clear expectations pose a creative challenge to independent thinkers, who use their freedom to reach and exceed them. 

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