Challenges of Virtual Teams (And How to Improve Them)
Updated October 31, 2022
Communication, trust, and collaboration are essential to a team's success, and may require more strategic planning for virtual teams. Remote jobs provide benefits for both employers and employees, such as a healthy work-life balance, more freedom and flexibility, the ability to reduce the office size and lower rent, increased productivity, and better recruitment opportunities. Understanding the challenges of virtual teams ensures you can prepare to manage them on your team. In this article, we explore the challenges of a virtual team and highlight some areas of improvement for virtual teams.
Challenges of virtual teams
Here's a list of the most notable challenges of virtual teams:
Digital tools that promote connectivity can help virtual team members stay connected but lack the necessary face-to-face interaction. For example, text-based communication, such as text messages or e-mails, may lack the required tone, body language, and other nonverbal communication techniques to enable you to complete an assignment effectively. Similarly, you may be unable to establish morale and motivate colleagues when necessary.
You may also misinterpret tasks or projects when an in-person conversation is no longer in use. Team members may be more reserved and less likely to participate in digital tools during a work meeting. This can prevent you from knowing when or how to help your team members regarding their tasks.
One of the significant challenges a virtual team faces is the delegation of duties. Using a digital tool may not successfully meet members' needs as there may be complications when assigning responsibilities. For instance, when delegating responsibilities as a team leader, members may not disseminate the information appropriately to meet the required standards. This can lead to reduced productivity and affect the quality of delivery.
As a team member or leader in a remote job, you may find it challenging to work effectively outside the traditional business environment. For example, if you work in your home, you may face everyday challenges like distractions from family members and friends, an out-of-date computer system, or a slow internet service. You may also have children present during work hours, distracting you from concentrating on your work. This can make it more difficult to complete tasks per deadline. You can also find it difficult to get the motivation to begin your tasks.
Lack of personal relationship
Social facilitation ensures that people of the same profession surround themselves to help motivate each other to work harder. This may be challenging to achieve in a virtual team. As a remote team member, you may feel isolated, creating a degrading effect on the overall team's unity. A lack of physical contact may reduce your team's cohesion and create a lack of personal relationships between you and your colleagues. For instance, informal relationships like chatting over coffee or in a hallway may be impossible to achieve as it's difficult to replicate in a digital setting.
As a team leader, you may have trouble organizing business meetings because of the difference in location and time zone of members. For instance, some team members may start work early in the morning, while others may start work later to attend an afternoon meeting. This can also make attendance during meetings difficult as team members have different priorities at each time.
Some areas of improvement for virtual teams
Here are some ways to improve your virtual teams and solve the various challenges that may occur:
Promote a culture of communication
As a team leader, it's crucial to develop a communication culture among individual members. You can lead by example by holding regular check-ins and providing regular updates to your team members. You can also apply a web-based tool for team members to increase communication between them. Consider providing opportunities for communication by hosting meetings, such as voice or video conferences, regularly. You can use calendar software to track each team member's availability and time zone to ensure the effective organization of meetings and conferences.
Read more: Four Types of Communication (With Examples)
As a team leader or individual member of a virtual team, it's essential to place teamwork on your top priorities because it helps to generate new ideas and encourage discussion among team members. To organize a successful remote team, ensure each member contributes to the decision-making process. You can also include team members in meetings, including sending regular e-mails that encourage them to participate and work together on projects.
Promote understanding of virtual team
A virtual team is usually a group of individuals who communicate and work together from different geographical areas. They use digital tools such as instant messaging, e-mail, project management software, and a voice or video conference to achieve this. A virtual team is now popular across various industries as members have realized the benefits of using telecommunication to look beyond their local community for talents. Ensuring team members understand the complexities of virtual teams ensures they can employ virtual team management techniques to promote effective collaboration and cooperation.
Members of remote work may find it difficult to create boundaries when trying to complete tasks, as their work is within their home. As a result, creating boundaries is vital to ensure a healthy work-life balance and avoid getting exhausted. As a team leader, you can consider organizing monthly one-on-one meetings to inform your team members you value their work. You can also encourage them to set positive boundaries regarding their personal and work-life balance and adopt a digital planner.
Take a break
As a team leader, you can virtually check up on your team to know if they're taking time off from work at intervals to avoid exhaustion. Encourage members to set an online plan with calendar software to take a break. In addition, you can also help team members take breaks by organizing fun team challenges, such as an ice breaker activity, and creating team incentives to make it more fun.
As a team leader, you can create groups within your team and assign tasks to each group to delegate tasks more effectively. Creating functions for each group promotes teamwork and ensures everyone knows when and how to begin the assigned projects. You can also introduce the time-blocking strategy to your team, including scheduling specific workday hours for particular tasks.
Read more: 9 Smart Ways to Work Effectively With Others
Using software can help improve virtual teams' productivity by enabling team members to work efficiently. For example, you can partner with the IT department to provide effective communication software that allows efficient conversations with team members. Researching project management tools is another way to improve your virtual team. For example, a communication management plan or project baseline can help virtual teams have one destination for tasks and provide feedback among team members.
You can build trust among team members by ensuring accountability for each decision and action taken. Create goals with your team members and express your commitment to helping them realize those objectives. You can host a team videoconference and encourage everyone to introduce themselves, as it creates a sense of professionalism and friendship among remote teams.
Promote quick response time
Suppose you want to promote quick responses to e-mails and instant messages, you can research issues that can cause slow responses. For example, consider team members' internet connectivity and try to provide solutions to it if they have a slow connection. You can also adopt automation for tasks, social media management, or bulk e-mailing to help team members save time so they can focus on concluding other core tasks. You can also provide a clear and concise virtual task expectation to inform team members of their responsibilities and how they can complete projects effectively.
Imitate an office setting
With remote work, there's no regular office setting because of the different work locations. As a team leader, you can use digital tools to imitate office settings, as it can help develop teamwork, collaboration, and commitment among the group. To imitate an office space, you can adopt virtual offices, adopt virtual daily scrums, and create working hours.
As a team leader, it's important to reduce distractions to a minimum level to ensure your team performs efficiently. You can set guidelines during team meetings, create clear expectations regarding assigned tasks, and suggest ways team members can reduce or avoid distractions in their remote workspaces. For instance, suggestions like muting cell phones when working, or working at a desk where they can focus.
Provide office supplies
Some businesses provide office supplies and encourage team members to use available digital tools to aid productivity. Ensure the company makes office supplies available so that team members can perform their tasks efficiently. For instance, you might request a stipend from the department to ensure all team members have access to a fast and reliable internet connection. This can help improve productivity and communication.
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