As the leader of a virtual team, you know firsthand just how challenging it can be to keep your staff motivated and inspired.
You have probably had to overcome many challenges to ensure optimal collaboration between employees and make the best use of your resources. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for projects to reach the halfway point and suddenly grind to a halt. Your team becomes withdrawn and languid, productivity is plummeting, deadlines are being missed, and no one seems to be working together. Even more frustrating is that there’s rarely just one contributing factor.
By knowing the difficulties and setbacks that most commonly plague remote-work projects, you and your team members can be better prepared to tackle these challenges and reach optimal success. Below you’ll find five common challenges that virtual teams face.
Five Common Challenges of Managing a Virtual Team
- Poor communication: Virtual teams inevitably lack the informal, everyday banter that many centrally located employees take for granted. Because your team is deprived of these nonverbal cues, it can be nearly impossible for them to determine if one of their colleagues is feeling annoyed or disconnected. Virtual employees can also go days without contact, which leads to feelings of isolation and hinders employees’ innovation, energy, and effectiveness.
- Lack of social interaction: For extroverted individuals, working remotely can be exceptionally draining. Not only do team members miss out on the daily office banter, they also don’t have the opportunity to create the workplace friendships that keep employees motivated on tough days or excited for new projects. For remote team members, it’s difficult to see how their efforts and expertise play into the big picture.
- Scarcity of trust: Working remotely means team members can’t see what others are doing, response times are longer, and people rarely seem to work at the same time. These factors contribute to the scarcity of trust present in many virtual teams.
- Cultural clashes: Though miscommunication is common for virtual teams, it can be even more corrosive when the team spans across cultures. A message that might seem short and sweet to a team member in China might seem rude to an employee in Utah; likewise, a concise, typically polite message from an American might seem coarse to his or her Israeli counterpart.
- Dwindling team spirit: Co-located employees who work face-to-face each day have the chance to build team unity and grow team spirit. Virtual teams, on the other hand, don’t have this chance, as it’s difficult to build an ”all for one and one for all” mentality when people view themselves as individuals who just happen to work with others on the same project.
7 Apps That Will Help Overcome These Challenges
Now that we’ve explored some of the challenges that you and your virtual team may face, we’ll discuss seven beneficial apps that can help you overcome them. With tools to help improve communication, collaboration and team management, these resources are sure to make your virtual-team experience as positive and productive as possible.
- iDoneThis: This simple web app is all about celebrating your team’s achievements and keeping everyone in sync. At the end of every day, an email reminder is sent out to your team in which members reply with a simple explanation of what they did that day. Rather than “prying” into each member’s work, iDoneThis has been developed in a way that encourages trust and team unity.
2. Basecamp: Though email is a critical tool for virtual-team management, it’s not the ideal medium for project management. This is where Basecamp comes into play.
This tool adds an element of transparency to virtual teams and helps you achieve the following:
- Keep your inbox clutter-free
- Prompt focused discussions on a dedicated project web page for your entire team
- Track your team’s goal-oriented progress
- Manage to-do lists
- Share calendars and files
- Collaborate on text documents
3. Dropbox: As one of the most commonly used computer applications, Dropbox can be downloaded on each team member’s computer and used to share real-time files so that everyone is on the same page—no matter when or where they check in. Dropbox also backs up every file, so you’ll never have to worry about losing important documents. *If you want to compare cloud storage providers then you may want to check out this resource.
4. Google Drive: As Google’s answer to Microsoft Office, Google Drive allows users to create, edit, and share documents in real time. This app is ideal for boosting collaboration between team members because it allows for them to comment on shared documents or use a chat function to work together.
5. Skype: To thwart communication issues, turn to Skype. Not only does this essential app allow team members and managers to hard-call and video-call each other for free, it also offers instant messaging and enables team members to quickly and easily share files.
6. Skitch: Skitch makes team collaboration easy by allowing members to show rather than tell. With an easy-to-use interface and interactive tools, users can quickly take a screenshot of what’s on their desktop and add annotations like shapes, arrows, sketches, and text.
7. join.me: Lastly, for managers looking to include more interactive resources in their group, Join.me lets a user share his or her screen with up to 10 others. It also enables users to allow others to control their computers, live-chat, and quickly share files. This easy-to-use application is perfect for showing in-progress work or assisting team members with things that might be difficult to explain using voice communication alone.
Armed with these beneficial tools, you and your team can grow into a virtual powerhouse that constantly and continuously strives for success.
To learn more about increasing your virtual team’s success with management strategies, coaching, and leadership workshops, get in touch with us today.