Scaffolding the ‘new normal’; how to support virtual teams

What seemed like a radical change to our way of working only a few months ago has very quickly become familiar. Social distancing means more people working from home, fewer opportunities for ad hoc team engagement and more chances to feel disengaged from workmates.

It’s important to recognise the impact of this change, not only on your team but yourself as their leader – to ensure everyone is supported to work safely and efficiently.


Begin with some self-reflection on your leadership style.

Consider whether your modus operandi has changed in lockdown. Your team, although remote, are still looking to you for leadership and that requires consistency on your part.

Avoid the temptation to ‘tighten the reins’, constantly checking up on employees, particularly if that is not what they are accustomed to. However, beware of falling into the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ trap. Allowing team members to be flexible and autonomous will reinforce trust, but accountability needs to remain part of that equation.

Communicate to keep the team together.

In what the Harvard Business Review calls an ‘anatomy of collaboration’ your team will organically change its behaviour in lockdown, but it’s important to remember that they are accustomed to being together, so a daily connection is vital. For many people, co-workers are their main source of daily human interaction.

The digital means of connection is up to you but making the focus of these get togethers varied enough to address both work-related and personal matters is key. As with any successful meeting, setting an agenda keeps everyone focussed, so consider specifying the work-related meetings then arrange other catch-ups for some levity – coffee morning chats, best home office competition etc. or give team members the opportunity to propose ideas emerging from their own experiences of remote working. In video conferences, be alert for signs that team members might not be faring well and follow up with one on one time.

Create a culture of support

No-one has a monopoly on work practices in the time of COVID. This means there has never been a better time to collaborate with your team. Managing change in this climate is difficult, so developing a mutual culture of support with your team is beneficial for all parties. Co-creating realistic expectations and goals with your team will strengthen relationships and exhibit your faith in their abilities. This is both inclusive and psychologically powerful offering opportunities for more cohesive and productive teams into the post-COVID future.