The Challenges To Managing Virtual Teams, And How To Overcome Them

The concept of the ‘company office’ is not what it once was. Now, it can cross vast geographical divides, with team members not just in different cities but living on different continents. There are many advantages to having virtual teams in your company but from communication to motivation and productivity, managing virtual teams brings with it its own challenges.

There are some simple strategies to help steer clear of the potential headaches that having a single team spread across such large distances can create, ensuring you can still get the best performances and bottom line results.

Why Virtual Teams Are So Popular

Setting up a remote or virtual team has a number of clear advantages. It provides companies with the chance to recruit the best talent on the planet, not just the country, while also affording that talent the freedom and flexibility to achieve that oh-so important work-life balance.

Most of all, by embracing the employee preference to work from home, companies can gain a competitive edge over competitors. In a Sandford University study, employers were seen to save around $2,000 per employee on property costs while employees who remote work from home were less likely to take sick days.

Virtual teams are no flash in the pan. In fact, there are plenty of statistics to support the idea that either full or partial ‘work from home’ schedules is proving well worth the investment.  According to its 2017 Employee Benefits Report, SHRM highlighted the popularity of the trend, with 60% of companies offering employees telecommuting incentives.

Meanwhile, freelance jobs site UpWork revealed in their 2019 Freelancing In America Report that 35% of the US workforce (57 million) are freelancing, an increase of 4 million since 2014.

 

Challenges & Solutions

Of course, roses have thorns, so what are the key problems, and what can be done to solve them?

1. Communication

Remote workers are more likely to feel out of the loop. In the 2017 Vitalsmarts Survey, almost 65% felt colleagues didn’t fight for their priorities, compared to almost 59% of on on-site workers.

How can you overcome this? 

  • Managers should check in frequently with employees who work from home
  • Use face-to-face contact to ensure a ‘human’ connection is formed
  • Make the most of the communication tools out there for each project area, like Slack (chat) or Zoom (video conferencing)

2. Building Relationships & Trust

You already know how valuable relationships are in managing teams. When team members trust their managers, they are much more willing to collaborate. But when colleagues are not face-to-face, this can be difficult to foster. The best way to ensure of this is clarity at all levels and stages of a project.

How can you overcome this? 

  • Establish a mission statement, set shared goals and clear milestones to help unify virtual teams under a single banner
  • Encouraging collaboration helps team members get to know each other as they work together, and in doing so strengthens the unit
  • Set regular video conferences to maximize the virtual face-to-face exposure

3. Ensuring Good Productivity

At home, employees can lack discipline, or even overwork. What is needed here are clear procedures and realistic schedules.

How can you overcome this? 

  • Check in regularly to gauge progress, and provide regular progress assessments
  • Encourage staff to keep regular office hours
  • Commit to regular one-to-one meetings, every month or quarter perhaps

If you are unsure of how your remote or virtual team are getting on in their roles, why not bring everyone together and organise a team building activitiy or corporate day out. Try our virtual reality game ‘The Infinite Loop’ or create on an artistic masterpiece with our collaborative team activity ‘The Big Picture’.

Contact us today for team building suggestions or assistance on organising a fun, high energy staff day out.