A couple of years ago when remote work came in full swing, a lot of companies were forced to opt for it for survival. It doesn’t come as a surprise that after experiencing the benefits of remote work, many of those teams soon chose not to go back to their physical workplaces ever again.
Managers across the globe continue to realize the cost and productivity benefits of having their teams work remotely, but it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, at least in the beginning. Newly remote teams face unique challenges and, therefore, take time to adjust to this new way of work, especially if they lack the right tools and resources. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Before we take you through the common challenges newly remote teams face, let’s start with what virtual teams are in the first place.
What are Virtual Teams?
The term ‘remote work’ and ‘virtual teams’ mean the same thing and are used interchangeably. Such teams aren’t bound to a particular workspace or workstation, which means they can work from any part of the world.
Common Challenges (And Solutions) of Working with a Virtual Team
Streamlining remote work can take some time, which means you may have to face some of the challenges dealing with virtual teams in the beginning, such as:
Not having the right tools at your disposal
One of the biggest challenges newly remote or hybrid teams face is managing the workflow, which is mainly because of not having the right tools. You need to coordinate with your team daily, assign work, monitor progress, conduct team-wide meetings, and do much more to keep your business running.
When you go remote, you need to have the right technology stack to ensure a seamless flow of work. A few examples include:
- For meetings: you can have your team install Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet on their desktops
- For managing projects, tasks, and their progress: you can use a project management tool, like Jira, Clickup, or Trello
- For daily team collaboration: you can use Microsoft Teams, Google Chat, or Slack
- For monitoring employee time and performance: you can use a dedicated time tracking tool, like timegram
Relying on four different tools to streamline remote work can become a hassle. Instead, you can opt for SaaS tools that group multiple operational features together for your convenience.
For instance, modern time-trackers come with useful user and project management features that allow you to manage most of your routine tasks from a single app. These routine tasks may include tracking employees’ time accurately, assigning tasks to users, monitoring individual and team progress, generating invoices, etc.
This way, you can efficiently manage remote teams and ensure effective outputs using fewer tools.
Not having a robust WFH policy in place
A common mistake most managers make is simply getting up and executing remote work for their teams. This gives rise to many questions you normally don’t have to address at a physical workplace. A few examples are:
- Will the employees adhere to a particular shift, or will they be allowed to work at their own pace?
- If there’s a standard shift time for all employees, what if one or more of them decide to move to a different time zone?
- What will their leave policy look like, especially since they’re already working from home?
- Will it be a BYOD (bring your own desktop) setup, or will you provide them with the essentials (laptop/desktop)?
- How will parameters like communication and accountability reflect in performance evaluations?
- Which software will your team use for meetings or daily coordination?
- How will you ensure that your remote team remains productive and doesn’t begin to slack?
The questions are endless, and not having answers to them can disrupt your entire workflow, affect individual and team productivity, and turn the entire effort into a disaster.
The best way to do it is to create a dedicated WFH policy that covers all potential problems with virtual teams.
Recommended read: Your Definitive Guide for Building a Remote Work Policy
Settling in the new workstation
Your employees are used to the workstation and the office environment they have at the physical office. When they move to remote work, it takes time for them to settle in, which may take anywhere between a week to a month.
During this tenure, your employees will deal with multiple distractions at home, like:
- Children watching their favorite cartoons on TV
- The lawn mower their neighbors decide to use every morning
- Routine household chores like getting groceries
The point is distractions while working from home are endless, and employees may take some time to build boundaries and get used to their new workstations. A lot of managers don’t give their employees this much-needed leverage and believe that their team has started slacking.
To truly benefit from the virtues of remote work, you need to give your employees time to make the transition. Once you’re out of this phase, you will experience the productivity perks of letting employees work remotely.
Most managers face a considerable dip in their team’s performance upon going remote, mainly because they’re unable to track individual performances or monitor daily working routines. This often happens because employees begin to slack at home for one reason or another.
Consequently, managers often resort to employee surveillance tactics that have been proven to further dip the entire team’s productivity levels.
To be honest, facing this virtual team challenge is common, and frankly speaking, okay too, especially during the transition period. But if it persists, there are ways you can get those individual and team productivity levels back on track.
For instance, you can opt for a project management tool that allows you to monitor and track employee activity without spying on them or use a time tracker that captures the time they spend on tasks. You also have solutions like timegram that combine time-tracking and project management features, presenting itself as a one-stop solution to boost team productivity.
Why Work with a Virtual Team?
The answer is simple: the benefits of having a remote team outweigh the virtual team challenges. We’ve already talked about the challenges. Now let’s look at why managers across the globe are adamant about working with remote teams.
You get to hire a diverse team
Remote teams transcend all physical boundaries since employees are allowed to work from the place of their choice. Since you, as a manager, are not limited to hiring employees from a specific geographical location, you can tap into global talent. Having a diverse team of people from different backgrounds and experiences further gives you an edge, especially when it comes to building unique business strategies.
Costs are reduced significantly
Having a physical office means you need to bear a number of expenses like:
- Office supplies
- Office equipment
- Repair and maintenance
… And much more! You can save all of that if your teams are working remotely. In fact, according to Fortune, you can save $11,000/employee annually, and that’s just if they work remotely for 2 to 3 days a week. This cost-saving can increase tenfold with bigger full-time remote teams.
It becomes easier to retain your employees
It comes as a surprise to most managers but offering a remote working option increases your chances of employee retention because they (76% of them, to be specific) want to have this flexibility. A survey conducted by Buffer in 2021 also found that over 97% of employees prefer working remotely. You give them this, and they’ll be willing to stay back to avail this flexibility.
The Ultimate Solution for Your Remote Team
An ideal solution to the challenges of managing virtual teams is streamlining the entire workflow, promoting accountability, increasing productivity, and shunning employee surveillance tactics.
That’s exactly what timegram offers as a privacy-first productivity tool. It allows you to track employees’ time, assign and manage projects, monitor working capacities, and generate accurate invoices based on billable hours.
timegram also shows you relevant team insights that will help you improve planning, make more accurate projections, and elevate the productivity levels of each team member.
Why do virtual teams fail?
Most virtual teams fail in the transition period. Once workflows are streamlined (which may take anywhere between a week to a couple of months, depending upon your team’s size), you can begin reaping the true benefits of a remote working model.
What are the 3 challenges that virtual teams face?
The three core challenges every virtual team faces are the decline in productivity, getting used to the new working environment, and communication gaps. You can overcome these challenges using the right tools to manage projects and resources.
How do you overcome challenges in a virtual team?
Overcoming the challenges of a virtual team is easy if you have the right tools at your disposal. You can read more about the virtual team challenges and solutions in our blog above.
What are the 3 C’s of successful virtual leadership?
The 3 C’s of successful virtual leadership are:
- Clarity: having a predefined policy for remote work that you and your team can follow
- Culture: building a culture of trust and accountability within teams
- Communication: ensuring seamless communication between teams