10 Mistakes to Avoid When Managing a Virtual Team

• Digital Workplace,Remote Work

Over 99 percent[1] of employees would choose to work remotely if they were given a choice. And all for a very good reason — Remote work gives employees the freedom to manage their schedule, avoid the daily soul-crushing commute and focus on their work in a better way, without the usual disruptions of the office.

But the rise of remote work has also come with its own share of challenges, many of which, can be easily avoided. If you are responsible for managing remote teams, here are some frequently occurring key mistakes that you should avoid.

1. Not building rapport with the virtual team

Good rapport and camaraderie form the very foundation of any successful virtual team. Without a good team rapport, your virtual team members can feel alienated from the rest of their colleagues which can directly affect their work.

When employees get to know their coworkers on a more personal level, they form a connection that goes beyond their work responsibilities and in turn strengthens their bond, all the while improving the collaboration in the team.

As a direct result, team members will have more confidence in reaching out to their managers with their problems and they will be more open to feedback and instructions as well.

2. Difficulties in aligning the remote team

Here’s the truth: No matter how well your employees are able to perform individually if they aren’t able to work collaboratively with the rest of the team to help you achieve your project goals and company goals, then all of those efforts would lead to no results at all.

As a result, it is important for managers to ensure their virtual team is always aligned. They should all have information about the overall project goals that they are trying to achieve and have access to all the work data and remote working tools that they need to streamline their work. More importantly, all the employees should be well aligned with the rest of the team in order to collaborate and work together effectively.

3. Bad communication

Poor communication among virtual team members can often lead to misunderstandings, incorrect assumptions, unclear expectations, and conflicts. When it comes to remote teams that get little to no face-to-face interactions with their colleagues, lack of communication or miscommunication can snowball into big problems and severely cause performance issues in the team.

It is up to the managers to ensure employees always know what is expected of them. All the remote employees on the team should have the same interpretation and understanding of deliverables, timelines, and preferences.

4. Not creating a culture of trust

Trust is the key to make remote teams work. The only way to see visible benefits from establishing virtual teams is by giving employees the freedom that they need to manage their work by themselves without constantly checking up on them or calling them. But without creating a remote work culture where employees feel trusted, it is easy for remote employees to feel demotivated.

Creating a culture of trust means managers need to believe that their employees are working hard to meet their goals, even when managers can’t see them working right in front of them. Managers need to avoid constant check-ins because that can indicate a lack of trust. Instead, you should encourage ownership of projects and tasks in order to strengthen autonomy in the virtual team.

5. Unconstructive or inconsistent feedback

All too often, managers don’t make consistent, clear, and constructive feedback a priority which can greatly affect team performance and morale. When employees don’t even know where they are going wrong or how they can improve, it can be incredibly difficult for them to perform their work as expected.

As a result, managers need to ensure there is a system in place to provide both formal and informal feedback to employees. Moreover, the feedback should highlight the shortcomings, strengths, and the areas of improvement for the employees. The idea is to keep your feedback as actionable and direct as possible so that remote employees can follow through on it easily.

Also, managers need to alter the remote performance review process in order to better represent the expectations, challenges, and goals of remote employees.

6. Trying to replicate in-office work process

When you are in a physical office, productivity is usually measured by the number of hours employees spend in the office. With employees working right in front of the managers, it’s easy to see how many hours they work and how productive they are. But in a remote work environment, there is no way to way to check how many hours an employee is actually working or whether they are even productive.

Managers need to realize that remote work is very different from working in an office and they cannot rely on in-office work processes for achieving productivity.

Instead, there is a need to shift the mindset to focus more on the output delivered by employees and not the number of hours they work every day.

7. Micromanaging the team

Most managers confuse micromanagement with necessary follow-ups. Just because managers can’t see remote employees doesn’t mean they can reach out to employees every other hour to get follow ups from them. Messaging your team members, or worse, calling them up too regularly can give them unnecessary pressure, affect their work, and inevitably lead to toxic work culture.

Instead, managers should give their team at least some leeway when it comes to setting their work schedule or deadlines, as long as they deliver good quality work. Also, set up communication guidelines that define the maximum response time so employees don’t feel compelled to respond to every message or call right away, especially when they are working on an important task.

8. Bringing the wrong team members onboard

Remote work is not for everybody. You can have the most skilled and talented people on your team, but even they will fail to deliver results when working from home (WFH Meaning) just because they don’t feel motivated enough to work from outside the office. Some people just don’t thrive in a remote work environment and that is completely okay.

But as a manager, when you are setting a virtual team, you need to make sure all the employees you are adding to your team have what it takes to perform in a remote work environment. It’s about getting people on board who have the right mindset, the ability to work independently while still actively collaborating with remote team members, and unmatched diligence to deliver great work, every time.

9. Issues with time zones

The downside of a virtual team is that you end up with employees working across different locations and time zones. When you add the freedom that remote employees get to create their own schedule to this, you may end up with team members who all work independently on their own, at different times of the day.

No matter how skilled remote employees are in managing their own work without any assistance from others, they still need to collaborate with the rest of the team members in order to contribute to the overall team goals. As a result, it is crucial for managers to take into account every team member’s time zones and their working hours. The idea is to find overlapping active hours among all the team members which can be used to collaborate and schedule meetings.

10. Using too many tools

Employees need access to numerous applications just to manage their everyday work and communicate with the rest of the team. On average, organizations use more than 16 SaaS apps in their digital suite.

With virtual teams, this number grows even higher as employees need more tools to collaborate with their remote team members. While there is no denying that we need technology to stay connected, too many tools can end up confusing and overwhelming the employees. Moreover toggling between multiple applications can lead to employees wasting over 60 minutes[2] of their time every day.

Instead, you can replace all the disjointed applications with a unified digital workplace that gives you access to all the work tools, data, files, and projects through a centralized dashboard. A digital workplace makes collaboration easier for remote teams by providing them with a virtual replacement of physical office space and integrating all the third-party applications.

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