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10 Challenges of a Virtual Team And How To Overcome Them

Virtual Team Challenges

The challenges of working in a team are always there, no matter where it is located.

Apart from its significant advantages, virtual teams have their share of challenges.

Specifically, the top virtual team challenges that companies often face relate to collaboration across different time zones, communication gaps, building relationships, and lack of team engagement. (CultureWizard)

In this blog post, we’ll be looking at ten such real challenges of virtual teams and see how to tackle them in the best way with the right strategies and tools. Continue reading to find out.

10 Common Virtual Team Challenges & Their Solutions

1. Communication

Almost all businesses rate communication as the top challenge facing them vis-à-vis managing a virtual team. Unlike physical offices, there are no in-person, informal conversations and non-verbal communication as in body language. Sometimes, virtual teams remain without contact for days, which can make them feel isolated.

In addition to a lack of communication, the chances of miscommunication are high while working with a virtual team.

What you can do

Thankfully, there are now many powerful communication channels that you can use to overcome these virtual team communication challenges.

  • Platforms such as virtual classrooms, video conferencing, live chat, digital whiteboards, and screen sharing can help bridge the communication gap. They ensure transparency in communication and break down complex ideas. So, before you start working with a virtual team, make it your priority to deploy as many of these tools as possible.
  • Along with this, hiring the right people with excellent communication skills can make it a lot easier for you.
  • Also, promote a culture of communication in your teams. Encourage open communication and make yourself accessible at any time.

Read More:- What is Virtual Classroom, How to Use It, and All the Advantages

2. Absence of Social Interaction

Another virtual team challenge is the lack of real social interaction. Team members, no matter where they are, like to interact with each other. They enjoy talking casually about their work, personal life, hobbies, and so on.

When work becomes demanding and stressful, employees tend to turn to their colleagues for some relief. Those water cooler chats and conversations during tea or lunch breaks are a regular part of daily work life.

Virtual workspaces lack this kind of person-to-person interaction except for video calls, which are far from relaxing.

What you can do

  • Encourage your teams to exchange instant messages during free time to catch up with each other.
  • You can also introduce some social time in your work calendar where the teams can interact with each other on any non-work related topics.
  • Brain games, quizzes, and puzzles can also be an excellent way to develop bonding among your virtual teams. Divide the team into small groups and let them pit against each other for some rewards.

3. Distrust

Virtual team challenges

It’s not that difficult to see how working with virtual teams can eventually give rise to trust issues. Team members can’t see what others are actually doing, they usually don’t get responses instantly, plus all of them are not awake & working simultaneously. 

If this isn’t not tackled immediately, it can be a productivity killer over time.

What you can do

  • Create shared goals and highlight the contributions of each member in achieving them. It can be a weekly, monthly, or even quarterly activity.
  • Motivate the team to collaborate and help each other out whenever possible. You can rely on virtual team collaboration tools for the purpose. This will assist them in building respect for and trust in each other.

Watch How to Choose the Best Virtual Classroom Software

4. Cultural Differences

Now we’ve come to what looks like an unavoidable reality embedded in our DNA.

Cultural diversity is often encountered while working with a huge team with members from different regions of the world. Different cultures have different languages, religious beliefs, food habits, and customs.

Sometimes, conflicts may arise out of:

  • ignorance or  insensitivity towards other culture
  • miscommunications between team members
  • making assumptions on the basis of cultural identity
  • not understanding what encompasses diversity in others

In a study conducted on working with multicultural teams, a case discussed how cultural differences between Turkish and Western managers as well as differences in their perception caused conflicts.

In the joint venture between a German-American company and a Turkish company, conflicts began to appear because the culture of Turkish managers showed low individualism but a higher power distance and higher uncertainty avoidance level than the German-American company managers.

If your virtual team management responsibilities don’t include taking care of these potential conflicts, they can even lead to costly lawsuits, both monetarily and reputation-wise.

What you can do

Even before your virtual team becomes operational, it is important to train them on workplace ethics and diversity. This will educate them on the seriousness of the issue and laws governing it. This, in turn, will check the development of a hostile work environment.

5. Lack of Team Spirit

You can call it one of the saddest virtual team challenges.

Accomplishing business projects of any size is rarely a one-man show. It is often a result of consistent teamwork. For that, the camaraderie of a team is essential. Team members need to remain cohesive and keep their spirits high.

Sadly, globally dispersed remote teams often lack team spirit. Somewhere along the way, the connection between team members seems to get lost for one reason or another.

What you can do

  • To counter this, it is vital to make it clear early on the link between the individual goals of each member and the common, overall goal of the entire team.
  • You can organize regular virtual meetings to share work progress and success stories. This will help keep the teams tied to shared visions.

6. Distractions

Like in traditional offices, virtual workplaces have a number of distractions – kids who need attention, family members who require care, hundreds of device notifications, and so on.

While you may not be able to eliminate these common distractions completely, you can definitely try to minimize them.

What you can do

  • Make it a point that your virtual teams stick to a work routine similar to what they would do in a brick and mortar office. This will enable them to dedicate a fixed amount of time to office work only each day.
  • Time and productivity tracking applications such as DeskTime can prove useful in increasing the focus of your teams and understanding how your teams are utilizing their time daily.
  • If possible, you can also request your team members to set up an office-like zone in their home or from wherever it is they are working. Preferably, it can be a quiet room free from distractions.

Virtual Team Challenges

7. Time Zone Difference

This is a challenge that people have talked about over and over again. It is not uncommon for companies to witness a group of team members in one time zone getting ready to call it a day while another in a different zone is just starting theirs.

This can lead to a sense of disconnect among the virtual team members.

What you can do

  • To overcome this, it is important to deploy robust collaboration tools like Google Drive. They can help streamline team communication and stay connected anytime, anywhere.
  • Time overlapping is another solution for virtual teams to adjust to time zone differences. Whenever possible, teams in different time zones can identify common hours when both sides are available and working concurrently. During this time, they can schedule status meetings and other important activities where both teams need to be present.
  • Another solution is to leverage video conferencing recording software and transcripts, so that team members who couldn’t attend a session can catch up later on.

Watch How To Set up Your Virtual Classroom in 5 Minutes

8. Delayed Responses

In the absence of face-to-face interaction, you need to communicate with your virtual teams via email and other similar means of online communication. Add to this the fact that different people work on different schedules or timetables.

This can lead to delayed responses, misunderstandings, disorganization, and chaos. Sometimes you need to send multiple reminders to get the information you need.

What you can do

Considering this, keeping a common time slot when everyone is available online for communication can be helpful. This system will support everyone and make workflow more efficient besides helping you avoid delays & setbacks.

9. Lack of Workflow Structure

Lack of Workflow Structure

It is true that working virtually brings unmatched flexibility and convenience, but it should not become so fluid that it turns unstable. Sometimes people take liberties with such a setup, which ultimately affects the workflow.

What you can do

Successful virtual teams are characterized by discipline as far as following a process strictly is concerned

  • Give some structure to your day-to-day tasks and make your teams abide by it. This is how you standardize different tasks – from initiation to completion.
  • You can conduct a workflow analysis and optimize it for efficiency, productivity, and success.
  • There are several workflow management tools that you can use to ensure better collaboration and better project management.

10. Low Productivity

This can be among the top virtual team challenges.

Absence of an office environment, not utilizing time wisely, and no set boundaries of when one can start and finish a task — all of this can lead to low productivity.

When productivity becomes the casualty in a virtual teamwork setup, it is time to take a step back and look at what you can possibly do to rectify it.

Read More:- Best Docebo Alternatives that You Need to Know About!

What you can do

  • Create Accountability – Each team member should be clear about their roles and responsibilities, and deliver on them.
  • Motivate judiciously – Take slackers to task but don’t forget to praise the top performers. Keep them motivated as it is closely tied to productivity.
  • Streamline the processes – Ensure that everything is transparent and everybody is on the same page. Make it a practice to conduct regular check-ins to track work progress and completion.

Deal With The Challenges of Global Virtual Projects Easily

Managing virtual teams comes with a lot of challenges, but luckily there are strategies and solutions to overcome them.

Depending on the type of challenge you face, you may implement the solution discussed in the post.

In this context, you’ll find ProProfs Virtual Classroom Software helpful. It is a complete online training software and learning management system.

Take a quick tour. For a free, no-obligation consultation, call (855) 776-7763 (toll-free).

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About the author

Michael Laithangbam

Michael has more than eight years of experience in the enterprise software and eLearning industry. He is passionate about online training and has a deep understanding of how organizations can leverage online training for maximum success. In his free time, he enjoys power walking, zumba, and reading.

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