What are the Challenges of Managing a Virtual Team?

Even as we gradually reopen the economy and ease the population back into normalcy, the virtual element of employee interaction is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

We may find ourselves in the second and third wave outbreaks of the now infamous COVID-19. In this instance, getting a good handle on how to manage virtual teams, how to organize virtual events all while maintaining productivity can be tough.

What are some of the challenges of managing virtual teams and how can you overcome them?

1. Communication

 

Virtual communication in the form of instant messaging is a convenience we have gotten used to. However, the tones with which messages are read or phrased are highly subjective, and can be easily misconstrued. This can lead to misunderstandings, ill feelings and even arguments. 

A good way around this is to ask for clarification. Learning not to react without rereading the intention of the message as a whole is also a good tip. However, wording isn’t the only issue virtual communication may pose.

Avenues of communication can also be an issue. Some employees may prefer email correspondence while others lean towards instant messaging for faster results. Choosing the right tools for communication is equally as important as to how a message is relayed.

A good way to tackle this is to set business hours, during which instant messaging is acceptable. When employees are off the clock, encourage email communication to afford them a sense of privacy.

In a virtual world, communication could be more daunting for certain individuals. Always encourage open communication and foster a communicative culture to ensure efficiency in the work place.

man choosing between email call and text

2. Maintain Productivity and Work Ethic

 

Another apparent challenge that many of those in managerial positions face is lack of productivity and work ethic. It’s easy to be more lax in a comfortable home environment. This could lead to incomplete tasks and subpar quality work.

While this may not be true for some individuals with a strong sense of self-discipline, it’s important to know how to handle those that don’t.  To combat this, short of undergoing a large employee turnover, is to assign the right tasks to the right people.

This would require you to get to know your staff members on a whole new level, identify their strengths and weaknesses and tailor the scope of their work to your advantage.

If you are hiring someone for the first time, it may be helpful to have a probation period. With this, both parties can get acquainted with each other and those involved can get to know the workplace environment.

Employee burnout is a huge culprit of lowered productivity and morale. Organizing group events and initiating a work-life balance plan of action can make all the difference. 

Virtual races and challenges such as those offered by atlasGO can do wonders. Not only will you and your team be raising awareness and funds for a good cause, but the encouragement to share sweaty selfies and virtual high-gives will foster a sense of community and unity, which could carry over to the workplace.

girl stretching in front of a window

3. Trust

 

It’s easy to let your imagination run rampant with negative thoughts when you can’t physically keep an eye on your staff members. Out of sight out of mind, right? Not quite. In this case, the more out of sight your employees are, the more on your mind they can be with a growing sense of distrust.

As with any relationship, trust is one of the fundamental cornerstones to a successful outcome. Trust should be given and received both ways, with employees and managers relying on the other to do their jobs. This can be hard when face-to-face interaction is difficult. 

Communication, team building, and shared goals can help foster trust between both parties. Give your employees a very clear picture of what is expected of them, provide freedom of communication, and undertake challenges together outside of work. Virtual challenges that can be done on certain platforms like atlasGO is a great starting point.

4. Hardware and Software Issues

 

When employees work from home, they won’t have a computer engineer on-call to help with technological setbacks. Unfortunately, the productivity of your team heavily relies on the functionality of your employees’ home devices.

If you have the budget, you could opt to provide the necessary tools for your workers to reduce the risk of breakdowns. You can also offer to upgrade their software or to install the necessary programs into their computers at no cost to them.

video call to a girl at work

5. Organization

 

The structure of the company will have to go under a complete overhaul to be 100% virtual. This could lead to a lack of office culture, slow response times, mismanagement and tons of distractions. 

Keep in mind that it’s next to impossible to have a seamless transition without any issues, so learn to give yourself a break. What’s most important in this case is to have a foolproof system. Deadlines and schedules cannot be flouted and you should not be more lenient than you would be in the office.

Set up regular working hours that are appropriate for employees, taking into consideration their time zones and locations. As for implementing office culture, requiring meetings with mandatory live video streaming could simulate a work environment.

Organization and scheduling could also pose a challenge because your team may have varying schedules due to personal circumstances. Compromise is the best resolution to organizational conflicts.

man writing on colorful posting to plan

Conclusion

 

Digital workplaces are gradually becoming the norm across the board, and the demand for remote workers and jobs are at an all-time high. With this new avenue of cooperation comes many challenges that we need to overcome day by day.

Focus on the benefits of taking your company online such as being able to hire the best and brightest individuals regardless of their location. The sense of freedom working from home affords workers could lead to higher productivity and employee satisfaction.

A critical step an employer should take to grease the wheels of this new work structure is to understand the unique needs of each employee and find the best course of action to ensure a smooth transition.

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