The chances of you managing virtual teams are higher than ever in today’s globally connected work culture. Most employers nowadays are already aware of how beneficial non-traditional workplaces are. This is the main reason why virtual teams in business are becoming increasingly popular at present.
Managing a virtual team is favorable for employers because this allows them to choose the brightest and the best team members regardless of their location.
This digital scenario makes it possible for employers to enjoy quality work.
Virtual workers can also benefit from the flexibility and freedom of working remotely.
With that, it is no longer surprising to see forward-thinking employers who prefer running digital workspaces and virtual teams over traditional business operations.
However, there are a few challenges of virtual teams that you have to be aware of.
These include the following:
- Poor communication
- Lack of social interaction
- Difficulty in building of trust
- Challenges of maintaining high productivity
- Dealing effectively with cultural diversity
- Time zone differences
- Slow response time
- How to provide adequate training and support
- How to ensure proper structure and office culture
Understanding the major challenges of managing virtual teams and the different ways to overcome them can help prevent the development of large issues in the future.
Remember that to run a successful virtual team you must fully understand its special structure.
In most cases, there will be a need for you to create an outline for communication guidelines just to make sure that your entire team has a common goal.
You can create a well-structured digital workplace, one that allows all the members of the team to work together in a more cohesive manner.
Also, remember that to lead a successful virtual team, you need to prioritize communication.
Handling Virtual Team Communication
As indicated earlier, one challenge linked to managing remote employees is poor communication.
Fortunately, there are ways to overcome this challenge.
You can improve the way you communicate with your team with these tips:
Ensure That Your Intentions Are Clear
Communicating with others is now text-based.
The problem is if you use text-based tools that tend to produce a lot of interpretations, there is a risk for common biases and assumptions to arise.
This might lead to misunderstandings and unhealthy conflict, hurting the performance of the whole team.
To prevent this issue, make sure that your intentions in your messages are crystal clear.
Spend time reviewing your messages before you send them.
This is important in ensuring that your message carries the right tone.
Do not hesitate to emphasize relevant information by highlighting certain parts of your message that your team should focus on.
If necessary, the subject line should contain the words ‘response requested’.
You may also separate different requests into multiple emails.
With that, your team will notice the importance of each request or message.
Use A Communication Technology That Perfectly Matches A Task
To manage virtual team communication, several communications tools and technologies are at everyone’s disposal.
These technologies range from chat and email platforms to video conferencing and web conferencing.
However, you can’t just use a communication tool just because you are familiar with it or you find it convenient to use.
You have to consider matching a tool with a task or purpose.
Note that some communication technologies and tools are more suitable for certain tasks when compared to others.
Picking a wrong tool might only lead to problems in managing remote employees.
Also, remember that each communication tool is different.
They differ based on the richness of information they can convey or their ability to relay non-verbal or other cues that allow recipients to draw an interpretation.
They also vary based on the possible level of real-time interaction it allows.
Also, remember that the tasks of a virtual team differ as far as complexity is concerned.
This often depends on whether it is necessary to reconcile various perspectives, provide and receive feedback, or lower the risk of misunderstandings.
That said, it is necessary to understand the purpose of your message prior to choosing a delivery mechanism.
Take your specific goal into full consideration before sending your message to your team.
For instance, if you want to push important info in just one direction, then you can choose text-based and leaner media, like chat, bulletin boards, and emails.
An example is when you are trying to share ideas, collect simple data, or circulate plans and information.
For more complex tasks, like negotiations and problem-solving that require the perspectives and ideas of your team members, use more interactive and richer tools, like video conferencing and web conferencing.
Set A Regular Schedule To Communicate With Your Team
Setting a regular schedule for virtual team communication is also necessary.
There should be a regular time for your team members to report potential pitfalls as well as their progress.
Doing this is a huge help in keeping your team members on track.
This can also enhance their discipline.
Perhaps, you can schedule 30-minute meetings weekly so you can get in touch with your team.
You can actually accomplish a lot of things even with just a short conference call.
Just make sure that you already set expectations prior to your regular virtual team meetings or conference.
Let them know exactly the things you need to achieve in the allotted timeframe.
Understand The Communication Patterns Of Your Team
In most cases, instant messaging, text messages, and emails are among the preferred communication tools for virtual teams.
These are usually perfect for short messages as well as those messages that need to reach at least one recipient.
If you use these time-saving tools for virtual teams while keeping in mind the recipient(s) of your message, then you will find them effective in communicating with your team members.
The problem is that several team members and leaders today tend to send emails or text messages without thinking about how the recipient will interpret these.
If this happens to your virtual team then misunderstandings may occur.
Such misunderstandings might also cause some to question the effectiveness of the sender or communicator.
That said, it is essential to have a full understanding of the specific requirements of your team, especially the members whom you constantly contact.
Make some adjustments on the way you send messages to accommodate the preferences of others.
Also, adapt communication methods and styles that promote the correct interpretation of your messages.
Be Supportive And Responsive
It is harder to establish trust in virtual teams in business than in traditional workplaces because the members are dispersed.
Affinity and familiarity are among the driving factors in building trust in a traditional workplace.
However, these factors are not usually visible in virtual teams.
Members of dispersed teams will most likely develop their trust based on the way they work with others when trying to finish a task.
You need to develop their trust with each other, no matter how difficult, to build effective virtual teams.
One way to build trust in a virtual team is to encourage your members to respond promptly to each other’s messages and requests.
Everyone should respond to and support each other.
Also, spend time providing substantive feedback to your team. Suggest proactive solutions to any problem and make sure that you retain a supportive and positive tone in the way you communicate with them.
Despite the many challenges that you may encounter when managing a virtual team, it is still possible to overcome them with the right mindset and strong knowledge about this specific work setting.
In fact, you can benefit from the diversity of your members by putting your focus on more open and inclusive communication.
Ensure that you constantly involve them in important decision-making processes and communications.
Solicit their points-of-view, no matter how far they are, so you can show them how open you are to various approaches and ideas.
Also, when it comes to solving differences in judgments, make it a point to incorporate the best ideas of your team.
With that, you can manage effective virtual teams with members who trust each other and know how to communicate effectively.
Motivating Your Virtual Team
Learning how to motivate virtual teams is also necessary if you want to manage employees remotely. Note that motivating them is one of the challenges associated with leading or managing a virtual team.
It is quite challenging because you do not interact with them personally, making it harder to determine what exactly inspires them.
Fortunately, there are some effective ways to overcome the challenges linked to motivating your virtual team.
Here are just some of them:
Empower Your Team
One tip on how to motivate virtual teams is to empower and inspire your members.
Let them know that you have full trust in their ability to finish the tasks assigned to them.
Ensure that you provide them with all the tools they need to accomplish their tasks.
Having a development plan in place is also one of the secrets on how to manage remote workers and lead them to success.
Invest in them and their abilities.
By doing so, you can empower them, which is the key to improving their loyalty and commitment.
Make sure that you have a well-rounded development plan that is capable of supporting their path to success.
The plan should also let you promote your people internally, leading to a culture that they are always willing to be a part of.
Engage In Casual Conversations
You can also motivate your virtual workers by encouraging casual communication.
Catch up on their personal details or indulge in a chat that is not work-related.
This can provide a significantly refreshing change from what they do every day.
Also, do not hesitate to share some personal details with your virtual employees so you can encourage them to do the same.
This can establish a friendlier environment even if you do not personally see each other.
This kind of environment can motivate them to work even harder.
Despite not being in a traditional work setting, your virtual employees still want recognition.
Rewards are great motivators for your employees.
So make sure that you offer these to them, especially if they deliver an excellent performance.
The best rewards that you can offer them are those that are permanent and meaningful.
This does not need to be grand.
In fact, small yet meaningful gestures, like praising them publicly, are enough to motivate and inspire them.
You can praise them during a conference call.
You may also send a recognition e-mail to everyone in your team or create a LinkedIn recommendation.
These are enough to motivate and inspire them.
You may also use your social media account to praise an employee who has been performing well.
This can show them that you appreciate their hard work.
It can also build your reputation since your followers will notice how supportive you are.
Get To Know Your Team Members
Even if you have limited face-to-face interactions, it is still advisable to exert an effort to get to know the members of your team.
Spend time learning something about your virtual workers.
Get to know their individual strengths, working style, career aspirations, and development gaps. Doing this will let them know that you care about them even if you do not see each other personally.
Knowing that you are also interested in them can be a strong motivator.
Schedule Face-to-face Meetings
You can incorporate these meetings with team building exercises.
These are essential in providing your virtual workers with more opportunities to build personal connections and camaraderie.
You should also schedule subsequent live meetings regularly.
If your virtual team meetings are not that frequent, then you can try creating virtual team building activities.
With that, your team members will no longer feel isolated even if they do not work next to each other.
This promotes a bond between your employees even in a digital or virtual setting.
Invest In Technology
Spend on new software and apps that can help remote employees and offsite managers optimize their virtual workspaces.
Make sure to choose those that encourage collaboration, like web conferencing, file sharing, and instant messaging.
Software options and apps designed to create a virtual meeting space promotes ease in collaborating with your staff.
This can lead to the timely completion of projects.
The fact that you invest in technology that makes the life of your virtual staff easier can also motivate them to perform their job well.
Other Tips In Managing Virtual Teams
Aside from the tips mentioned above on how to manage remote workers, you can also implement the following to make the running of your virtual team successful:
Create A Workspace That Promotes Ease In Exchanging Ideas
Your team should inspire each other.
Make sure that the online workspace you built for them allows them to work independently while keeping track of the progress of each other.
Exchanging ideas should be easy.
Divide The Work Into Modules
This tip is crucial in ensuring that certain areas do not depend too much on another.
Depending on the kind of work you assign to a remote employee, you must design the workflow in a way that you can assemble contributions and ideas from various locations easily.
Set standards to shorten the amount of time required to produce desirable results.
Make it a point to define repeatable work systems.
This will allow your entire team to function with fewer questions.
This will also give them an idea about the time needed to finish certain tasks.
Make sure that the work systems you defined are standardized, thereby making them more effective. Moreover, they should be tailored.
Thereby, giving your virtual workers the chance to enjoy the freedom of accomplishing their task based on what they prefer and what they think is the best.
Set Overlapping Work Hours
While your virtual team members have different time zones, it is still advisable to set around 3-4 hours daily wherein most of them are online simultaneously.
Even if there are team members who won’t need the help of another to complete their tasks, it is still good for them to have similar work hours.
This can bring your team closer.
In addition, it also ensures that everyone has a quick route to solving problems since they can always ask for help.
Take Advantage Of Project Management Tools
These tools can be your friend if you want to monitor deadlines.
What is good about these project management tools is that they send reminders and alerts for deadlines.
In addition, it can provide you with a quick overview of the tasks that require the team’s attention.
It can also provide information about who should do a specific task and its deadline.
Time tracking apps are also beneficial if you want to be assured of your team’s productivity.
Also, remember that conducting a quarterly review is an effective tip on managing a virtual team. This review will give you an idea about how your remote employees are coping.
Make sure that they do not feel isolated and lonely.
Check and assess their progress from time to time so you will know if the digital workplace is working for them.
Furthermore, you need to hire the right people – those who are really interested in working remotely.
This can assure you that they have what it takes to work in a virtual team, including accountability and the ability to work independently.
By hiring the right people, you can increase your chance of managing a virtual team and leading it to success.
Have you picked up ideas and ways to manage a virtual team of your own?
Please leave us your comments!
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