Advantages and Challenges of Virtual Work Teams
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Virtual work teams could be a great asset for your company, but they also face bigger challenges than on-site teams in areas such as communication, motivation and personal relations. Let us analyze the main advantages of virtual teams, the challenges they encounter, and the ways you can resolve those challenges and get the best out of your team.
Advantages of virtual work teams
Virtual work teams allow for a greater amount of flexibility and autonomy in terms of time management - i.e. the team members are in charge of their own time. This allows them to structure their work schedules according to their workload and project priority.
Freedom to travel
With no need for a working visa, permit or transportation to a physical location, workers can access their virtual office from anywhere in the world, which gives them the freedom to choose their physical work space. Today, many digital nomads claim to be more productive in a virtual work setting as compared to being in an office, and even argue that the freedom to travel motivates them to fully apply themselves to their work. Our experience confirms that!
By not having a physical location, the company saves money that would have usually been spent on office space and facilities, utility bills, technology, and furnishings. Similarly, the virtual work team itself saves money (and time!) on transport to and from the workplace.
Working from home or from wherever a virtual worker chooses allows for a greater comfort level, from minor aspects like the way they are dressed, all the way up to the person's choice of a preferred workspace and timetable. The lack of the typical office buzz can also improve focus and allow for a greater deal of efficiency.
Work-life balance potential
While certain tasks need to be done during the working hours of another, non-virtual business, meaning that they come with a fixed work schedule, others grant a greater deal of flexibility. Virtual work offers people the leeway they need to improve the balance between their work lives and their personal lives.
Digital work is greener
- No transportation fumes - By eliminating the need for a daily commute for virtual work team members, companies contribute to a cleaner environment.
- No paper, no problem - In a virtual team, all communications take place online, and all documents can be shared in a virtual file format. With no need for printing, companies save money and do not produce environmentally harmful paper waste.
Challenges of Virtual Work Teams:
Any type of work comes with a certain amount of challenges, and working in a virtual team is no exception. The most common issues virtual workers face are:
- Physical distance: - as there is no face to face contact, in-team relations can get quite impersonal, which can in turn bring about a lack of motivation for the team members.
- Time zone differences - virtual workers from different countries might struggle to find a meeting time they can agree on.
- Communication - miscommunication or lack of information is the most common problem in the virtual world.
- Routine - - one of the main enemies of motivation is routine, and this poses a major risk to productivity, especially in the virtual medium. Putting in long hours in front of a computer can lead to exhaustion, stress and a bunch of unmotivated employees.
- Personal life and work life imbalance - while the flexibility offered by virtual work can help team members achieve work-life balance, not having a clear separation between working space and living space can disrupt it, which leads to an increase in stress and a decrease in efficiency.
- Diverse multicultural teams: more often than not, virtual teams are made up of individuals from different cultures, each of which has their own customs, values and work habits. This can pose a challenge if each person automatically follows their own way of working and interacting with others.
Overcoming virtual work team challenges
While the described challenges can and will happen, there are ways of approaching them, overcoming them and improving your virtual team’s work processes and overall satisfaction:
- Pay attention to the team’s needs and implement strategies that will help humanize the virtual medium.
- Focus on building in-team relationships, promoting understanding between the members, and creating a collaborative culture in the virtual work setting.
- Use online collaboration tools to minimize the number of virtual meetings and actual time overlap between team members. If you want to make sure you are choosing the right collaboration tools for your team, schedule a free consultation with our experts.
- Make sure you are using the right communication channels at the right time, with the right message. Your management skills will prove crucial in overcoming this challenge.
- Provide the team with positive motivation on a regular basis to keep the members from feeling like they have fallen into a monotonous routine.
- Give your employees guidance on balancing their work life with their personal life to ensure that they can give their best performance in your remote team.
- Learn to find common ground between diverse team members to enrich and strengthen your work processes.
“Communication is arguably one of the most difficult aspects of business, especially with virtual employees and members spread across all of Indiana. Managing Virtual Teams (MVT) provided workable solutions that could be implemented right away for long term success. I went into the course hoping to grab a few tips and tricks but instead experienced a hands-on workshop that was tailored to my organization's needs. Not only was the course helpful, it was inspiring and gave me a new vision for my organization's communication future. ”
Megan West, Digital Communications Manager. Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI)