Common Challenges in Leading Virtual Teams
Are you interested in the basic virtual team challenges and solutions? It is happening everywhere. Managers are being asked to manage virtual teams of people who may or may not have direct reporting relationship with the manager. Some find it very challenging while others seem to get it easily done.
Managing a team virtually may seem quite challenging as some managers find it difficult to manage accountability, create a strong bond and build trust with a team they can’t see physically.
There was a time when a team was supposed to sit at one place within the organization. But, these days, team members are being allowed to work from home or remotely.
Some companies have attested to it that offsite work increases the productivity by 13% and saves lots of infrastructure expenses. But, before you say yes to the offer as a team manager to manage a team virtually, have you considered the challenges that may occur during the different phases of the project?
Challenges and Opportunities of Managing Diverse Virtual Teams
Managing virtual teams come with a bigger challenges compared to team within an organization in areas like motivation, effective supervision and communication.
Below are major challenges team managers face managing virtual teams;
- Lack of Everyday Face to Face Communication
The biggest challenge virtual teams face is the communication. When there is less face to face communication among team members, it often reduces the flow of communication for the work process to be well-organized.
When team members work on a project for days without contacting each other or consistent communication, they feel isolated and it reduces motivation.
In 2006, Watson Wyatt concluded that “communication is a critical element in creating successful business results. The more effectively a company communicates with its employees, the better off its shareholders will be.”
Roadblocks in communication with virtual team includes time zone differences, culture norms, internet connections issues, the team members do not get immediate responses etc. This situation can degenerate into other challenges to leadership in virtual teams.
- Access to Expertise
Studies show that people face many difficulties in accessing the skills they need to succeed. Sometimes organization requires multiple skills at the same time or need to upgrade with the latest technologies.
It is very easier to involve the physical team in learning while the team is free, but not possible same with virtual teams.
- Staff Training
Virtual teams experience the challenges of being trained. With the team scattered outside the vicinity of the workplace, there is absent of a central location where the work of the team occurs. This is one of the common challenges of a virtual team.
This problem can lead to poor performance of individual team members as their struggles and challenges are not seen by their team manager. Aside that, managers from experience has claimed that physical team members are more trained than virtual team.
- Technical Management
Telecommunication technologies are the enabling force for virtual teams. There are surplus of technologies for virtual team at their disposal ranging from email to teleconferencing and others. The only issue is technical management. This is their biggest hurdle.
In the official workspace, we have teams sitting altogether. But, while working with virtual teams, people face many technical issues in systems which waste lots of time and hence, reduce productivity.
Again, the cost of setting up these hardware and software to support virtual workers are very expensive and may lead to disorganization in a workplace. This problem appears to be one of the many challenges faced by a project manager in managing virtual project teams.
- Lack of Social Interaction
This is another challenges of managing virtual teams. Building social interaction among team members is very important. But as the members are scattered in different locations, it is hard for them to get to see each other and interact with each other to see how the project they are working on fit together.
- Lack of Trust
This challenge along can lead to the breakdown of a project. Working remotely often creates mistrust among the team members as they rarely work at the same time, see each other or receive immediate response from among themselves and team manager most times.
This is a big challenge faced by team members. The working environment at home makes one feel fatigued sitting at one spot with the computer for long hours. Whereas working on a daily routine boost up motivation especially in daily office going teams.
- Physical Distance
Distance is always a barrier in working virtually, unlike when working together in an office environment. Less face to face to interaction among members means cold relations, and this is a big risk for a productive working condition.
- Lack of Team Spirit
A virtual team generally feel lack of team spirit as they barely interact with each other. Not every team member can keep up a high spirit by themselves. Activities that encourages high team spirit and boost morale like official trip are missing in virtual teams. This is one of the challenges of working in virtual teams.
This ends up demotivating team members because they miss all the fun and social activities which is somehow required for them to be very productive.
How to Overcome Challenges of Virtual Teams
Despite all these challenges in managing a virtual team, there are many ways to avoid these situations. Manager or team leader can handle virtual teams in a better way by avoiding these challenges. The leader shall create a balance between the team by pinging in the respected time zone, creating a positively loaded team nickname or communicating a success story, by rewarding the team with incentives, creating the ground rules for the way in which they interact etc.