Navigating the Virtual Workplace

Jul 26 2019

For increasing numbers of us, “going to work” means taking a few steps down the hall. Working remotely from home can maximize our time (no commute!), allow us flexibility in setting our hours, and free us from typical workplace distractions. Of course working where you live provides a whole new array of distractions and challenges (family, pets, chores, neighbors, technology, etc), and an office of one can feel isolating at times. 

Whether by choice or by necessity, the Building Brave community brings helpful advice for making the most of your virtual office. 

Managing a virtual team

As a team, set clear expectations and establish team norms for how you want to connect (online group chat, conference call), how you organize and share documents, etc.


Consider using group project management tools like Basecamp or Trello.


Make time for non-work banter about holidays or vacations, forge interpersonal connections among team members.


Communicate more than you think you need to, and on different platforms–people receive and consume information differently.


Ask and trust: Ask your team how best to manage them–they know best and will appreciate your asking– and trust them to deliver.


Make room for face-to-face meetings a couple times a year. Facetime is key for team bonding and building trust/rapport.


Mentor Lu Borchardt  (Information Services Director, American Family Insurance) believes managing remote teams can truly be a success with time and effort. Her biggest recommendation is open communication:

Building Brave Mentor Lu Borchardt Information Services Director

Lu Borchardt

  • Schedule weekly (or biweekly) check-ins with each team member to discuss accomplishments, issues, concerns, and how you can help them succeed
  • Hold weekly staff meetings using Skype, video conferencing, or phones (so long as everyone can hear and participate)
  • Establish ground-rules for being online and available for chat sessions and meetings during business hours
  • Set expectations around work accomplishments–don’t micromanage, but hold people accountable for their accomplishments
  • Travel to their office at least once per year for a face-to-face performance assessment

Working From Home

Wake up and get ready for work. Get dressed (even if it’s clean yoga pants), make your bed, write your to-do list– whatever helps you transition to your workday mind-frame.


Establish start/stop times with social cues (like a fitness class in the evening that guarantees a hard stop to your day).


Designate your workspace: Even if you don’t have a separate room, establish a work area with everything you’ll need to be comfortable and productive (lamp, chair, office supplies, desk or table, etc).


Schedule time for “virtual coffee breaks” with coworkers (and in-person meetings when possible) to connect.


Schedule walking meetings, take a break outside, or try a standing or walking desk to energize and change pace.


Boost your creativity by varying your setting; try working from a coffee shop or bookstore a couple times a week.


Keep separate to-do lists for work and home (and limit home to only one or two items a day). Take turns with spouses or roommates for handling home maintenance, repairs, deliveries, etc. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you handle everything!


Enjoy the luxury of being home: prep dinner or do a short errand on your lunch, take a break and do some weeding or walk the dog. 


Download Building Brave’s Mobile Mentoring app for more advice from professional women at all ages and stages. Get guidance for your specific situation, or consider fresh voices and perspectives.



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About the Author

Meghan Wollack


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