How to Effectively Manage Virtual Teams
How to effectively manage virtual teams and avoid common challenges
Since COVID-19, virtual team culture has been adopted in most parts of the world. While it is a cost-effective solution, it comes with its own challenges. Though virtual teams can be very effective and enhance an organization’s productivity if appropriately managed, both employers and employees are bound to face some challenges in this work setting.
Regular communication and appropriate systems are the keys to the success of any functioning team, whether in person or virtual; however, it’s even more crucial if your team is working remotely. Setting goals and assigning roles are not enough. You need to clarify the tasks and processes. There are higher chances of miscommunication in the absence of physical presence.
Some common challenges among mismanaged remote teams include:
Loss of work environment/connection with colleagues
Blurred boundaries between personal and professional life
Miscommunication due to lack of interaction between team members
Here are some tips that can help with managing virtual teams effectively to reduce these obstacles:
Implement Collaborative Systems
Keep all your team members on the same page by implementing collaborative tools for project management and documentation.
Use web-based software such as Trello and Jira for project management, task allocation, and tracking. This lets you set due dates for tasks and view your progress on projects over time, helping you stay on track and meet deadlines.
Communication software like Microsoft Teams and Discord makes real-time communication and file sharing among team members faster and more efficient.
Other web-based software such as Google Workplace, Microsoft 365, and Dropbox are fast sharing tools for collaborative documents and project files.
Most web-based applications are free or can be purchased for a minimal fee. They enhance the efficiency of collaborative teams working remotely by simplifying the information exchange.
Keep the Virtual Teams Intact
When individuals work remotely, they can feel disconnected from the rest of the team. This can create feelings of disassociation and increase the chances of miscommunication. Schedule regular check-in and update meetings for project progress updates and allow employees to connect with each other. This helps employees stay informed with the project updates and keep their enthusiasm high as a team. Dedicate a section of virtual meetings for team members to share problems and discuss solutions among the group.
According to a survey by Hitachi during the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft had a 500% increase in online team meetings, calls, and conferences to fill the gap for in-person work environment and coordination.
Conduct Cross-Cultural Training
Every new process requires training to be mastered. Cross-cultural training can enhance creativity and increase productivity, but initially, it requires some training for the team members to start healthy collaborations.
Cross-cultural training is focused on understanding different work ethics and cultures in the team, communication gaps, and stereotypes.
Besides cross-cultural training, you can also organize group training sessions focused on problem-solving, collaboration among team members, trust building, and goal setting to strengthen the teamwork among the team members.
Be Considerate of Different Time Zones
If your team members work from different time zones, consider being more flexible with virtual meeting timings to support work goals and have a sustainable work-life balance.
Boundaries between professional and personal life are often blurred when individuals are working from home. In most cases, work-life takes precedence over personal time, and individuals end up working more hours than they should. This can result in burnout and can lead to demotivation.
Furthermore, you can use time management software such as Clockify to track each individual’s schedule and avoid overlapping tasks or meetings.
Schedule One-On-One Meetings
To stay on top of the project, you must keep regular check-ins with all team members on a one-on-one basis. This allows the employees to build trust in the leadership and the leaders to understand the employees’ strengths and weaknesses.
This one-on-one meeting does not have to be strictly agenda-based; they can be on a friendly note to check in with the employees about how working from home impacts them and the obstacles they might face. In what areas they could use support and enhance efficiency.
Keep track of the progress and results, including the time spent completing the task. Regularly readjust the time frame and processes to align with the goals. Evaluating the results matters a lot to keep everyone on the same page and track the project’s timing, quality, and success.
Prepare a checklist at the beginning of the project.
Keep deadlines for completion of the tasks.
Measures qualitative progress using client’s feedback.
Ask for regular updates from employees.
Conduct regular project management meetings.
Organize Recognition Incentives
Working in isolation can impact an employee’s productivity and drive. Plan incentive and recognition programs to encourage employees and keep them motivated. This helps with maintaining high morals in virtual teams.
Plan recognition meetings to congratulate employees for completing projects.
Give employees incentives for their efforts.
Reward employees with days off for working extensive hours.
Send thank-you gifts/ goodie bags to employees.
Plan yearly getaways for employees to catch up in person.
Create a system where employees don’t feel isolated, feel connected to the team, and feel recognized. Recognition also leads to positive competitiveness, which enhances employees’ drive to excel at their roles.
Virtual teams can be a very efficient and cost-effective solution for organizations when appropriately managed. However, leaders must be flexible and implement modern, efficient systems to generate successful results.
It might seem a lot in the beginning to implement all these steps. You can start with a few steps and slowly integrate the most relevant measures into your organization. When you begin to recognize employees for their contributions, connect with them as a leader, and create a healthy working environment, it will be a lot easier to implement the new systems.
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