Struggling to get everyone on your team connected? Has the amount of virtual team challenges increased with more remote workers?
You're not alone.
In fact, remote work was on the rise before the coronavirus pandemic hit. However, now businesses are quickly realizing all the various challenges of managing virtual teams–thanks to stay-at-home orders and national lockdowns.
In a survey from Clutch.co, data showed that while nearly half of employees work from home five days a week post-pandemic, 17% were already completely remote before COVID-19 hit.
Workers who were used to in-person Monday morning meetings, chitchat around the coffee machine, and after-work drinks near the office. Now teams are forced to carry out their jobs from home, regardless of how many kids, dogs, or other distractions.
Sure, there are plenty of benefits that come with remote working. Some of the biggest reasons why virtual teams work well include:
Cheaper team outings and more affordable office space
The ability to hire talent from anywhere in the world
More flexibility in work-life balance
Less commuting costs for employees
But, like with anything, the pros come with a list of cons.
Virtual team challenges may vary from each company depending on team structure, types of projects, and company culture. But there are several problems that remote teams are facing as more employees go remote.
Don't stress just yet. We've highlighted the six most common virtual team challenges and how you can solve them.
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Let's get started!
1. Difficulty communicating across teams
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Obviously, it’s much easier to have everyone together in a room–especially when you're assigning tasks, developing a project plan, or trying to understand the sentiment of your team.
One of the biggest virtual team challenges is getting everyone together in the first place. Employees might be scattered around the globe, which makes booking a meeting all the more difficult.
In Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Working report, some of the biggest struggles were highlighted by the pandemic, but most issues were similar to the tenured work-from-home employees. But the struggle that grew the most for employees during the pandemic was communication and collaboration.
A dispersed team sometimes leads to breakdowns in communication–especially if employees aren’t looped into all relevant messages. Email threads get too long and confusing, which means messages get lost.
So, how do you fix your communication issues before they become a permanent nuisance?
Adopt an open communication and collaboration platform for your team
There are plenty of tools out there that promise better communication. But virtual teams need something that's not only reliable but effective at connecting employees and organizing team projects.
Far too often, teams rely only on email to communicate, share documents, and hold one-on-one conversations. Instead, using a platform like Teamwork Chat allows teams to have face-to-face interactions at the click of a button with video chat.
Google Hangouts doesn't always work well with file sharing and integrating into the project management software you already use. That's why so many customers and agencies trust Teamwork.
Our Chat feature allows teams to make decisions and communicate faster. Virtual teams can bring all parties together in a single channel, so projects are more efficient and organized.
Teamwork Chat even provides features like in-video chat, group video calls, and even employee timezones, so remote workers can easily tell whether or not their co-workers are available–no matter where they are in the world.
Make sure you have an open space where teams can communicate in real-time, so everyone gets the updates they need. Want to see Teamwork Chat in action? Try it now with a 30-day free trial!
2. Nurturing team relationships
Another virtual team challenge is having the chance to build meaningful relationships with co-workers and other team members. In the office setting, employees catch up on their lunch breaks, chat while getting coffee, and indulge in small talk at their desks.
Remote teams will find it a little more difficult to engage in quick conversations. In fact, a Smartsheet survey found 80% of participants felt less connected when working from home.
When teams feel disconnected and lonely, it has an impact on their motivation levels and overall happiness with an organization. So what can leaders do to build better relationships with virtual teams?
Create extra time in meetings for small talk or schedule virtual team-building exercises
Small talk may seem trivial, but it does big work for your teams' emotions.
Even during the pandemic, a recent study by Rutgers University found small-talk very beneficial toward employee's emotions. The research showed office chit-chat in the morning can lead to higher energy, excitement, and joy throughout the day.
If you're hosting weekly virtual team meetings, try to create some extra time so employees can catch up and discuss their personal lives. And for those who have camera-shy employees, encourage them to join or create dedicated chat channels to discuss their favorite hobbies.
Sometimes the small talk can run off course and the next thing you know, you're going through every single TV show your co-workers are watching. Instead, create dedicated time spots for team-building exercises.
These types of meetings never really sound appealing to your team, so make sure you're clear that this is to a time to talk and engage with other team members. Choosing a team-building exercise can simply help you stay organized or even spark communication.
3. Remotely managing tasks and projects
Managing multiple projects with different team members is tricky when you can’t get everyone in the same room. Trying to learn everyone's status on a single project or task can quickly turn into a timesuck activity.
When your team feels demotivated or unproductive, tasks suddenly take longer, which leads to unhappy clients. The last thing you want is to create a poor client experience with an uncommunicative team.
Track project tasks and team workloads
If you're struggling to get your team to complete tasks, it's smart to stop and reevaluate what has been assigned to who. More often than not, a bottleneck is created because one employee is overloaded, while another has much less to do.
Try a team management tool that allows you to assign tasks, split projects into smaller milestones, set priorities, and get a detailed overview of the entire project. Luckily, Teamwork has the features to empower teams to stay up to date, manage tasks, and track the progress of everyone's work.
Give your team the tools to manage their workloads and know exactly what's needed to complete the project.
4. Maintaining high productivity levels
Productivity is an essential ingredient in the remote working landscape. Without it, team members might find themselves getting distracted by Netflix, household chores, or anything else that allows them to procrastinate.
While it's often thought of as one of the more damaging virtual team challenges, the majority of workers actually find working from home more productive than working from the office.
A study from the TalkTalk Group found 58% of respondents believe they're more productive working from home than before the pandemic. But that still leaves a large chunk of employees who struggle to focus and stay on task.
In fact, another survey from Quartz found many workers during the pandemic have actually hit their "peak work-from-home productivity." The report discovered more people were beginning to feel less productive as they continued to work from home.
Share productivity tips, hacks, or best practices
All your team members probably have a trick up their sleeve to help stay productive. Try holding a virtual lightning lunch to get employees to showcase their productivity hack.
This will help increase engagement and also show the rest of your team a few tricks to get more productive. Be a resource of learning instead of a leader that only demands.
Whether it's noise-canceling headphones, timer tools, or website blockers, let your employees share their best ways to stay focused with the rest of the team.
5. Holding Teams Accountable
Virtual team challenges often come from miscommunication or when leaders don't hold workers accountable for project tasks. When everyone is remote, it's hard to make sure everyone single team member puts in the right amount of effort.
In general, remote teams rely a lot on trust. Whether it's holding your own weight on the team or getting a project done on time, leaders have to trust their remote workers.
As a project manager, it’s important that you hold every team member accountable. It’s easy to slip under the radar when working from home, which is why holding staff accountable is a huge problem for remote managers.
A recent Harvard Business Review study discovered several managers have trust issues with their remote team. In fact, 41% of managers agreed that maintaining motivation long-term for remote workers is challenging.
Monitor overall team output to increase motivation
Monitor, but don’t micromanage. Try team time-tracking tools to see how many hours your employees actually use on a task or project.
When the team can see the hours logged on certain tasks, the transparency of the entire project shines through. That's why it's important to identify any barriers in your team.
Determine what’s stopping your team from reaching their full potential and speak candidly to them. Your job is to encourage them to share their worries, while still building confidence.
The best way to do this is to instill transparency.
6. Boosting low morale
Let’s face it, the past year has been a rollercoaster for a lot of people. Lives have changed forever and many workforces have dramatically evolved into an entirely new beast.
It’s no surprise that morale among your team could be pretty low.
People are worried about their job security while juggling childcare, work, family, chores, and friends against the backdrop of a pandemic. It’s not been easy, and a lot of managers have struggled to keep morale high among their teams.
But don't let that get you down.
Support your team and show them appreciation
We understand it's not easy showing your team all the support and appreciation when they're miles away or in a completely different timezone. But you have to make it a priority to connect with everyone.
Encourage employees to take time off and keep a healthy work-life balance. Otherwise, promote employee-benefit programs so team members are aware of everything available.
Another thing to consider is offering rewards for great performers. Don’t just reward team members for completing a task. Instead, show them appreciation by highlighting their achievements.
Address any remote team issues before it's too late
Remote work has inspired businesses to be more flexible with hours and hiring. And as the number of employees working from home grows, it's up to leaders to ensure their teams are productive and getting tasks done.
Try Teamwork for a free 30-day trial to see how our software can help create more transparency on projects and track tasks across the team. Want to learn more? Talk to our talented sales team today to learn how Teamwork empowers remote teams to get work done.
Just make sure you tackle remote team issues early. Soon enough, you'll have a motivated, happy workforce, that knows how to communicate and use the necessary resources to succeed.