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Managing the Virtual Workplace

Colleagues in a team meeting with telecommuting member

The virtual workplace is where your team meets, collaborates and interacts with the different tools and technology needed to get their job done. Managers can utilize these resources to optimize their workplace.

Why a virtual workplace?

Thanks to technology, employees often have the tools to work from anywhere, while continuing to stay connected, collaborative, and productive, and uphold our mission of excellence in all that we do. As factors such as traffic congestion and the housing market influence how we get to and from campus, schools and units are exploring options to alleviate stress and increase worklife balance. 

For example, there are different types of Flexible Work Arrangements, such as Telecommuting or Flextime, that can work in a variety of combinations on your team. It's important to understand these arrangements and the accompanying policies and procedures that may apply. To learn more about these arrangements, visit the Flexible Work Arrangements page.

Aside from Flexible Work Arrangements, the university has also undertaken an experiment with a satellite office through a short-term lease at WeWork, a co-working space in downtown San Jose. The pilot has shown some successful results with commute times cut in half and managers reporting increased levels of energy and engagement among their employees who are participating. Read more about the pilot in this recent article.

Video conference etiquette infographic

Best practices when managing a virtual team

There are many things you can do as a manager to create and support a productive and collaborative virtual workplace. We've compiled a Managing a Virtual Team Tips & Best Practices guide that highlights the following areas and best practices you can implement

  • Determine your objectives: Whether your team is partially or completely virtual, or you are exploring virtual options to increase engagement and productivity on your team, clearly articulating your objectives will help you monitor and measure success and function as guideposts along the way.
  • Set and maintain expectations: From establishing clear performance goals to addressing missed expectations, a lack of regular face-to-face contact with your team may present challenges in keeping your team on track. Best practices in addressing expectations include setting SMART goals, checking in regularly and provide regular and timely feedback.
  • Identify your toolkit: Experiment with tools and create a system that works for your team. Create an "at-a-glance" chart to help onboard new team members and keep everyone current. Here's a sample chart that you can customize for your department with a description of how tools are used on your team. This includes:
    • Tools to communicate: Instant messaging tools can be helpful for you as well as team members. Applications, such as Slack, make it easy to send a quick question or answer, check in on a project or just ask how your employee's day is going. They help you stay connected and reduce email clutter.
    • Tools to meet: Use video conferencing tools, such as Zoom for virtual meetings. Establish etiquette for these meetings, for example, make it a rule that cameras are turned on during meetings so teams can see each other while they meet. The infographic to the right is a sample of how University HR has shared meeting etiquette recommendations from UIT. Feel free to use it with your own team.

Resources for managing a virtual team

  • University IT maintains productivity and collaboration tools that can assist your team, including file sharing, instant messaging and video conferencing. Support and training for IT issues is available through email, phone and an online knowledge base. The Stanford community can register for courses and programs on a variety of computing topics, and may be eligible to rent training facilities.
  • offers a wide range of videos on topics from Managing Virtual Teams to Time Management: Working from Home.