How To Overcome Challenges With Virtual Teams

If you have remote workers on your team, you know the advantages of building virtual teams. You get to tap into an individual's talents with reduced overhead and access a skilled workforce beyond your local community. Research shows that working remotely can even improve productivity, indicating that your remote team members may even outperform your in-office staff. However, working with a dispersed team also presents some challenges.

Senko Duras, co-founder of Diversis Digital and Point Visible digital marketing agency, says virtual teams can maximize their success by addressing some common issues. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we explore his suggestions for overcoming the most common virtual team communication challenges.

Focus on real-time. Duras says that a study published in the Academies of Management Discoveries journal found that, when it comes to dispersed teams, 'burstiness' was key to success. 'Burstiness' means rapid, real-time 'bursts' of information sharing through a chat tool. This year, consider moving beyond email and getting everyone on your virtual team to install a team chat app.

Provide big-picture awareness. Since they're not in the office, remote team members can sometimes feel isolated. Help them see that they're part of something bigger by ensuring all members of the team know how they fit in with the department or organization goals. Take time to outline the team's combined efforts to encourage each team member to take an active, enthusiastic approach to their work.

Commit to cultural understanding. On a virtual team, you might have people from all over the globe coming together to work on a project. Whether it's language or culture differences, this makes communication a little more difficult. Duras suggests that companies explore cultural awareness training, which covers aspects such as human factors, religion and socioeconomics, to help improve team communication.

Give access to business information. There's a growing need for virtual team members to have access to important business details. Duras says that in order to improve communication, all team members need access to the same data at the same time. Cloud storage is one way to achieve this. You can remove the need for your virtual team members to store their data locally. Duras recommends exploring Google Docs, Box and Dropbox to make everything accessible to your team.

Oversee your team and provide regular updates. You don't oversee virtual teams the same way as in-office staff, but both groups need regular check-ins. These meetings allow the whole team to share progress updates and collaborate in real time. Face-to-face communication can also help managers ensure their virtual team members are staying on track.

Manage time-zone differences. Make sure all members of your team know the location of others so they're aware of time differences. This can ensure due dates and meetings are scheduled accordingly.

Strong communication remains vital in any team project—and especially when working with a virtual team. Use the tips above to address challenges and take advantage of the many benefits of hiring remote workers.

Source: Senko Duras is a co-founder of Diversis Digital and Point Visible digital marketing agency. He's passionate about digital marketing, entrepreneurship and growth.

filed under February 2019
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