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How to Create and Manage Virtual Teams and What Challenges They May Face

Virtual teams

Many organizations have moved to hybrid work – this means employees are establishing a new method of collaborating and communicating. Virtual teams undertake most of their work online rather than coming into the office and meeting with their colleagues in person.

Let’s look at what makes a strong framework for virtual team members to collaborate and communicate.

What is a virtual team?

A virtual team is a distributed team that can be found in different geographical regions. They usually collaborate using online platforms such as video conferencing, email, chat messengers, and more.

Virtual collaboration is becoming increasingly common. According to Harvard Business Review, 79 percent of 1,700 knowledge workers polled said they worked in virtual teams “often or regularly”. Many different types of virtual teams have emerged as the prevalence of virtual teams has grown.

How to create virtual teams in three easy steps:

According to BetterUp, you can start putting together your virtual team by taking these three steps:

1. Build your team with the right people

The easiest method to ensure that your virtual team is made up of the right people is to start from the very beginning.

Behavioral interviewing techniques and personality testing might help you find appropriate candidates.

The following are some attributes to look for in virtual team members:

  • Adaptability
  • Empathy
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Strong communication skills
  • Work autonomy
  • Cultural sensitivity

Assess the strengths and weaknesses before taking over a team. In case of any shortcomings, design training and educational programs to improve employees’ performance.

2. Get the right team size

Small groups of three to five persons are more efficient in general. They’re also easier to manage, so if you’ve got a big group, consider breaking it up into smaller sub-teams.

3. Establish roles and responsibilities clearly

Ascertain that your virtual team members are aware of their own and their teammates’ roles and responsibilities.

Importance of managing virtual teams

According to Indeed.com, it is important to consider various tactics for managing your virtual team for the following reasons:

1. Accountability

When working with virtual teams, you must establish methods to track their progress and ensure that they complete their tasks. Setting objectives and establishing clear expectations can assist you in ensuring that employees are fulfilling their tasks effectively.

2. Productivity

Staying effective while working remotely can necessitate personal accountability and inspiration. It is your responsibility as a manager to ensure that your team remains focused on their work.

3. Collaborative effort

Working in a virtual team might be challenging, but with the appropriate framework in place, you can be just as productive as if you were working together in person. Regular communication can assist you in determining how to function as a group.

Challenges virtual teams may face

1.  Decline in productivity

Although research shows that remote employees have a high level of productivity, this is not the case for every employee working remotely. Employers face a significant difficulty in ensuring that employees retain the same levels of productivity they do in the office, despite working without direct supervision.

2.  Problems with communication and teamwork

Collaboration challenges might arise because of your workforce’s physical isolation and dependence on remote teams. Employees, on the other hand, miss out on the kinds of unexpected interactions that often lead to innovative ideas. These varied challenges may therefore have an impact on your company’s intellectual stimulation.

3.  Employees may feel isolated

The social aspect that is incorporated into the structure is one of the great benefits of office-based employment. While businesses do not want any of this socializing to affect productivity, engaging with others on a regular basis is beneficial to employees’ psychological health and satisfaction.

4.  Problems with work-life balance

Work-life balance is one of the most difficult aspects of working remotely, and it has ramifications for companies. Overworking, in which employees spend too much of their time working, but also performing too little work, especially if there are distractions at home, could be a problem. According to Gartner, in the United States, employees prefer a proper work-life balance rather than health benefits.

How to effectively manage virtual teams

1. Schedule check-ins for growth

It’s essential to schedule daily or weekly check-ins to ensure that your workforce is always informed and up to date on their tasks and goals. It’s also critical that virtual employees believe they have opportunities for professional advancement and vertical movement within the organization. Scheduling regular meetings with your team can help them learn about their objectives, develop a growth strategy, and ensure that they are always encouraged to advance professionally.

2. Communication in the key

The first rule is to overestimate rather than underestimate when determining how much communication you and your remote team will require. Planning daily check-ins and opening the lines of communication, even if you don’t think you have anything to contribute, will ensure you don’t lose the collaborative value and insights of your team simply because you aren’t physically together.

It’s up to you to decide if these meetings should be held weekly across numerous teams or daily with just your team lead.

Once you’ve determined how much communication is required, the tools you use to communicate can have a significant impact on your workflow. For most virtual teams, one of the best tools to use is Chanty. It is an easy-to-use collaboration tool that helps teams communicate efficiently and effectively.

3. Create a space for virtual team bonding

Building trust and relationships in virtual teams is as essential as it is for in-office teams, however, it takes a more deliberate effort. Routine check-ins with your team will help you keep on track, but it’s also crucial to set out time for less formal interactions. Personal interactions will lead to greater professional relationships and higher job satisfaction.

4. Adjust expectations for your virtual team

Because your team can work from home, they have more time to focus on other areas of their lives. For instance, some employees may not be available in the morning due to a different time zone in their region, while some teams will have to work during the nighttime.  Due to children at home, it may also mean less availability outside of normal working hours.

Identifying and adapting to the specific demands and timelines for your remote teams will result in a healthier work-life balance and higher job satisfaction.

Motivating and rewarding virtual teams 

Managers should ideally decide whether to reward employees for the results they achieve or for the number of hours they work each day. It is considerably easier to maintain and supervise when incentives are clearly aligned.

Team development in virtual teams must be a continuous effort and commitment. The manager of a virtual team must compensate for the inherent benefits of team socializing and trust development by providing the means and chances for team building.

Moreover, managers should proactively and routinely communicate instructions to their team members. This will ensure that they feel valued without the benefits of informal contact and casual discussion.

Virtual team members should also be encouraged to feel that they have the same prospects for recognition and advancement as those in the head office. 

Takeaway

The answer to what makes a successful virtual team can be different for every employee and manager. However, some leading virtual teams can be used as a reference to take away the success lessons such as:

  • Effective communication between teams is essential as it leads to a better flow of understanding. 
  • A strategy for assigning responsibility to projects and activities, as well as clear expectations
  • Reinforced team culture and relationships through activities and celebrations of achievements

Both employees and their businesses can benefit from virtual teams. This is especially true if you know how to reduce the most common problems that arise when operating them. Choosing the right team members is the first step in forming a successful virtual team. Then it’s all about cultivating clear and open communication in a trustworthy setting.

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Ammara Tariq

Ammara is a Marketing Manager at Chanty - a collaborative team chat, with a plan to take her team to new heights. With an everlasting love for marketing tactics, she’s also very fond of research writing and hopes to spread delight and knowledge to her readers.

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