Remote working provides a wide array of benefits to businesses, from reducing overhead expenses to boosting productivity to accessing the global talent pool, and beyond.
However, there are some challenges, including a lack of in-person interactions, that team members face in a virtual workplace.
If you’re struggling to get everyone in your team connected, you are not alone.
When your team is scattered across the globe, then there’s a pretty high chance that communication will suffer.
Not to mention that silos created when teams operate in bubbles lead to fewer opportunities to build trust.
But in spite of these and many other challenges, it’s more than obvious that the future of work is remote.
This is why I’ve decided to cover the five biggest challenges of virtual teams and how you can solve them.
We’ll also cover strategies, tools and tips to help your virtual team remove any stumbling blocks that may arise and improve communication.
Table of contents:
1. Poor Communication
Obviously, it’s much easier to have your team in a physical office when you’re assigning tasks or brainstorming ideas.
While in a virtual environment, communication practices can easily break down.
According to Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work, communication and collaboration are the biggest challenges for 41% of remote workers.
With a lack of in-person communication, inadequate instructions and untimely responses are bound to arise – unless you establish a robust communication channel.
How to solve: There are lots of tools out there that promise improved communication.
But virtual teams need something that enables them to take calls, make calls, text, chat, and collaborate on a single platform that’s reliable and easy to use.
One such platform is Avaya Cloud Office by RingCentral which provides a unified suite of communication tools for teams working in multiple locations.
You should also consider offering opportunities for communication by hosting regular meetings, including virtual coffee breaks and one-on-one meetings.
2. Technology Problems
While traditional teams benefit from face-to-face interaction, remote teams have to rely on technology to ensure seamless workflow.
Despite that, there’s hardly anyone you know who has never experienced technical hiccups at some point or another.
Without a backup plan, a whole series of communication or performance issues may surface due to unreliable or poor technology.
How to solve: When managing remote teams, investing in comprehensive technical setups is essential for seamless communication.
If a tool doesn’t work well or is unintuitive, you should have a backup plan that enables you to go for another one and prevent further hiccups.
Ideally, you should invest in dedicated bandwidth and an audio non-VoIP conference call to use if you experience network issues such as slow speed or weak Wi-Fi signal.
For important meetings, it’s best to rely on dedicated office space instead of your regular home office.
Even if you operate remotely, premium meeting rooms available on demand come with business-grade high-speed Internet, video IP telephones, and other essential tools you need to make meetings seamless and efficient.
3. Time Zones
If you manage a team that’s scattered across different time zones, finding a suitable meeting time for all team members may turn into a real hassle – especially if some members’ nighttime is your daytime.
That raises new challenges because time zone differences translate to misaligned working hours.
Not to mention that this can make it difficult to monitor how your team is working. Because if you’re in Melbourne you might find yourself waiting longer for a team member who’s probably asleep in Pretoria to handle urgent tasks.
How to solve: I previously wrote a 5-step action plan to improve your ability to work with remote teams across time zones.
In truth, those five tips actually fall under two broad themes:
- Striking the right balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication
- Using the right tools and software to help your team stay connected
Once you’ve learnt how to manage communication and workflow, your business can benefit in many ways from a remote distributed workforce and the ability to collaborate efficiently with no geographical boundaries.
4. Tracking Work & Productivity
When you can’t get everyone in the same room, it can be tricky to manage multiple projects and track productivity.
You need strong team leadership skills and a robust system of management in place to ensure your team members stay productive and operate independently.
Ask yourself, would you rather track your employees’ productivity by hours worked or tasks completed?
While many businesses choose to track productivity by the number of hours worked, that can foster procrastination and have the runoff effect that team members feel they are being watched by their boss.
How to solve: In most cases, productivity and trust take a hit with surveillance.
Tracking employees by the number of hours worked may even reduce your workforce’s productivity.
In fact, study revealed that certain types of monitoring do very little to promote good behaviour.
That’s why it’s best to measure productivity by providing clarity on expected outcomes, not how to achieve them.
When employees feel supported, not micromanaged, you will be recognised as a supportive leader, which can actually boost productivity and encourage team members to work more efficiently.
5. Building Trust
Building a good level of trust among team members requires a collaborative approach and a supportive work environment.
However, when teams are separated, building trust becomes more challenging.
In a remote work environment, trust can easily plummet especially when teams are unaware of what their colleagues are doing.
This may lead to communication problems and poor collaboration, as some team members may believe that others aren’t working as hard as they are.
That’s why as a leader, you have to create transparency at work and show through your actions that you trust your team members.
How to solve: As long as your team is completing tasks and meeting deadlines, try not to get caught up in the specifics of how many hours a day they work and what time they log in.
Trust should come naturally if everyone in the team is treated as a mature professional.
Make sure you improve your people skills in order to show empathy, transparency, and accountability.
Be sure to also
invest in building a strong business reputation, which is essential for earning your employees’ trust and keeping them motivated.
Just think – Would you trust an employer with a bad reputation? Or, would you really stick around with an employer that has zero online presence?
Even if you’re running a small business, it is essential to find ways to make your company look bigger than it really is and strengthen your reputation as an employer.
One convenient way to do that is by establishing a presence with a virtual office. In the digital age, flexible office space is an absolute must for businesses looking to build trust and reputation without a permanent, dedicated workspace.
You can find more information about virtual office services here.
Conclusion: Remote working can bring your business huge benefits.
However, overcoming the challenges en route to the success of your virtual teams requires patience and a well-rounded strategy in place.
Use these five tips to facilitate collaboration and avoid the common pitfalls that may prevent you from getting the most from remote working.
Looking to build a reputation as a top employer and get virtual teams right? We at B2B HQ are here to provide your business with the right services to thrive in a remote environment without spending large amounts of money on unnecessary overhead. For more information, do not hesitate to contact us – we’d be happy to talk to you!