Remote Working

6 Challenges Every Virtual Team Faces (Fixes Included)

By
Derek Abram
|
CEO of Prio
|
7 min read

In the last 2 years, a lot of companies have switched to hybrid or virtual working due to the pandemic. In fact, according to PEW Research, “59% of working Americans whose jobs can be done remotely are working from home all or most of the time.” With this trend continuing to grow, virtual teams are becoming a norm for many companies. Some are even calling it the new normal. In this article, we will look at the benefits of having a virtual team and some of the challenges of a virtual team (with solutions included). 

Why build virtual teams?

A virtual team is a group of people who work together from different locations (or geographies across the globe) using digital communication. Some companies have policies restricting remote working within geographical limits whereas others are actively hiring globally. There are different types of virtual teams, some common ones being production, freelance, customer service, offshore information system development (ISD), and management.

Companies usually build virtual teams for the following reasons:

  • Their business needs international employees.
  • It is easier on their budget to be a full virtual team.
  • They require the expertise of a team member in a particular geography. 
  • Brings diversity and culture to the company. 

Managing remote employees can sound challenging, but it is something that is considered by many organizations. Having teams spread across locations helps particular businesses. For example, a customer service team that is virtual and across the globe can help the business attend to customers 24x7 since there are service agents available from different time zones. 

Furthermore, one of the main reasons companies opt for virtual teams is that it is cost-efficient. They save on office space, rent, facilities, and hiring costs. Additionally, employees also spend less on office wear, transportation, and other office-based expenses.

Benefits of virtual teams

As seen above, building a virtual team is done for many beneficial reasons. However, there are more advantages beyond cost efficiency and timezones:

 

  • Increased productivity: According to the Remote Work Report 2021 by GitLab, 42% of remote workers stated increased productivity as a top benefit of remote working, with increased efficiency coming a close second at 38%. When working in the office, there are often social breaks with colleagues or fatigue from long commutes. Working virtually has helped employees manage their time according to their comfort, increasing productivity. 
  • Work-life balance: With the ability to work virtually from home, remote workers can take breaks to attend to personal chores, cook a fresh meal, or go out for a short walk. This gives them the mental break from work to refresh their minds and refocus. There is no added stress of a rush-hour commute, being stuck in traffic, or staying in an office late at night. Plus, they get to spend time with their family and friends leisurely at home.
  • Access to diverse talent: Hiring virtual teams means hiring teams across any geography. This gives the employer a bigger talent pool to interview. With options from all over the world, literally, you have access to diverse perspectives and insights, and even specific geographies if your business requires that aspect. Additionally, this large talent pool also provides opportunities to people with disabilities or chronic illnesses. 
  • Scale your business faster: By saving overhead costs and having access to a larger talent pool, you can take on more clients and scale your business with a virtual team. 

Challenges of a virtual team

While there are a number of advantages to building a virtual team, it is important to take note of the challenges that come with managing one. However, there is no challenge that cannot be solved. Here are some of the challenges of a virtual team with possible solutions:

Communication challenges in remote teams

One of the challenges of a virtual team is the lack of face-to-face interaction. In-person meetings can make a difference in how we communicate and understand each other. Because virtual teams are spread across the globe, they are in different time zones. This can cause a gap in communication or a delay in project deliverables. Additionally, with team members using tools such as email and chat to communicate regularly, important information can be lost in chat logs and long email threads. This can result in conflict between team members or missed deadlines.

 

These communication challenges of a virtual team can be solved with appropriate processes in place through the right tools and platforms. Holding a weekly collaborative session where team members can catch up on specific task deadlines and priorities can help solve the communication gap about tasks and deliverables. In addition, having a communication protocol for urgent deliverables can help address any potential issues regarding deadlines. 

 

Helpful tools: 

  • Google docs to create communication guidelines.
  • Zoom, Teams, or any other video conferencing tool for virtual collaborative sessions.
  • Slack or any other collaborative chat tool to communicate urgent deliverables. 

Managing projects virtually

Communication challenges can lead to poorly managed projects with virtual teams. With no clear communication or delayed communication, project tasks can be incomplete. Making sure that each team member is on top of their assigned tasks can be challenging if they are not in the office with you for a quick chat. 

 

Luckily, there are plenty of available tools online to help you manage projects for virtual teams. You can use project management software to manage tasks, projects, and clients. Every minute detail about a project becomes available on a single platform and updated in real-time for all virtual team members to see.
At Prio, we’ve taken steps in this direction with our time-tracking tool for contractors and remote teams. Coupled with our automatic invoicing module, this can help your virtual team to organize projects and specify and assign tasks. With a project management tool, Every minute detail about a project is available on a single platform and updated in real-time for all virtual team members to see.

 

Helpful tools:

  • Prio for project management, time-tracking tasks/projects, and automatic billing.
  • Asana, Monday.com or any other task-based project management tool to keep track of project timelines.

Building healthy team relationships

Working remotely without meeting team members can make one feel a bit disconnected from the team. Virtual teams usually meet through video conferencing tools once or twice a week, and spend the rest of the time on chat tools and emails. It’s not like in-office bonds where they can grab a coffee together or have a lunch break together and catch up. 

 

Nurturing healthy team relationships with a virtual team is not easy. However, with a few creative solutions, it’s possible. Holding virtual team-building sessions is one way to approach it. This can be done by holding weekly/bi-weekly/monthly virtual get-togethers where the main task is to not talk about work. The point is to get to know each other through informal conversations. Team members could play virtual games, have a virtual cocktail/mocktail party, or just have casual conversations about their favourite TV shows!

 

Helpful tools:

  • Zoom, Teams, or any other video conferencing tool for virtual team-building sessions.
  • Slack with an informal channel to share funny articles, memes, or non-work-related information. 

Building a team culture

Similar to building health team relationships, it is not easy to build a team culture when a team is across the globe in different cultures. Sometimes, virtual teams can go days without talking to each other. 

 

Building a team culture comes from building the company’s and brand’s culture. It starts with onboarding. When a company hires new virtual team members, it is the right time to talk about the company culture, values, goals, and mission. This information can also be circulated within virtual teams through email, chat, and virtual team-building sessions. Create a “team environment” virtually. For example, when you work in an office, there are people who wish each other “good morning” at the start of the day. Try this with virtual teams through chat messages or even treating each other to virtual coffees once in a while. 

 

Helpful tools:

  • Emails to communicate company culture, values, missions, and goals. 
  • Slack with an informal channel to share funny articles, memes, or non-work-related information.

Productivity

While remote working is said to have increased productivity, some companies still want to know where productivity is at its most and where it can be improved. A team member could be working on a project that is not a priority over something that is urgent without knowing it. This lack of insight can lead to a downfall in productivity. 

 

Tools like Prio can help assign and time-track tasks to understand how much time is exactly spent on a project or specific deliverable. You can also manage tasks, projects and clients in a way that integrates with your team members’ time tracking and gives insight into where they spend their effort. Assigning tasks in order of importance and tracking time spent can help improve productivity and gain insights into which areas of the project can be improved. 

 

Helpful tools:

  • Prio for project management, time-tracking tasks/projects, and insights on time spent. 

Building team accountability

Holding people accountable for their actions is not easy when they are not in front of you. They can take longer to respond to emails or messages, or downright stop answering calls. It gets particularly challenging when they are in different time zones.

 

This ties back into keeping track of tasks, timelines, and project management. The right tools allow you to assign tasks to specific team members, track their progress, and communicate everything on one platform. This can help streamline processes and close the gap for errors. 

 

Helpful tools:

  • Prio for project management, time-tracking tasks/projects, and insights on time spent. 
  • Slack for urgent communication. 

Manage your virtual team with Prio

Prio is your solution to the challenges of managing a virtual team. The tool makes it easy to organize time entries by category, project, and client, giving you access to insights on productivity and income values. It allows you to assign projects to remote workers and accurately track time spent on tasks while improving productivity with insights into where team members spend their effort. Prio also automates invoicing by letting you predefine the process for each worker and client, so invoices are prepared on a schedule ready for your adjustments and approval. Get started with Prio and simplify managing your virtual team today!

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