Working with a remote team due to COVID-19?
The current pandemic has forced companies to work as a distributed team.
And when your team is remote, managing them can be incredibly difficult.
But just because this change was unexpected doesn’t mean you can’t ace virtual team management. After all, our entire team at ClickUp is working remotely too!
And is COVID keeping us from consistently releasing cool new features every week?
To help you become a remote work wizard, let’s enlist one of the smartest wizards, Hermione, to help you out.
In this article, we’ll discuss the three key virtual team challenges and how to overcome them. We’ll also highlight the technology your remote team needs to boost their productivity.
This Article Contains:
(Click on the links below to jump to a specific section)
- What is a virtual team?
- What are the benefits and challenges of virtual teams?
- How do I manage remote teams virtually?
Let’s get started!
What Is A Virtual Team?
A virtual team is a group of individuals who work via the internet from a remote location, like their home.
What kind of work can they do?
Almost any task that can be done remotely!
But honestly, remote workers are capable of managing most of the tasks an in-office employee can do!
Some of these remote tasks include:
- Software development
- SEO and digital marketing
- Legal work
- Content writing
- Accounting and bookkeeping
However, as virtual team members can’t use Floo Powder to pop from fireplace to fireplace, they’re limited to tasks that don’t require them to be physically present.
Writing articles for the Daily Prophet? Definitely possible!
But physically inspecting the security at Gringotts Bank? Not a chance!
What Are The Benefits And Challenges Of Virtual Teams?
When managed effectively, a remote team can provide tons of advantages to a company.
A successful virtual team offers benefits like:
- Lower costs as you save on office rent, supplies, and utilities
- Access to a global virtual talent pool as you’re not geographically limited when hiring
- A healthy work-life balance for remote workers, making them happier and more productive
- A global virtual team helps businesses operate 24/7 across any timezone without overworking any employees
However, this doesn’t mean that it’s easy to manage remote workers.
As your organization isn’t functioning as a co-located team, you could face three common challenges that’ll leave you feeling out of your depth.
So let’s look at the three common virtual team challenges and how to deal with them easily:
(Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as learning Defense Against The Dark Arts!)
The common virtual team challenges are:
- Poor communication
- It’s difficult to manage projects virtually
- Reduced productivity
Let’s take a look at each:
Virtual team challenge 1: Poor communication
In a virtual workplace, one of the biggest challenges team members face is poor communication.
As remote employees are geographically dispersed, any face to face communication or team meeting becomes incredibly difficult.
Additionally, cultural differences and asynchronous working hours due to different time zones can create a communication gap between remote employees.
This can leave remote team members as clueless as poor Harry here:
Ineffective virtual communication could cause:
- Conflicts among team members
- Missed task deadlines
- Inaccurate communication about project requirements
- Feelings of isolation and diminished social interaction among team members
Virtual team challenge 2: Difficult to manage projects
Defeating Voldemort wouldn’t have been possible without effective planning, monitoring, and execution, right?
Similarly, planning and monitoring are critical aspects of any virtual project!
Sure, it’s easy to strategize over a regular team meeting when you’re in the same office space.
However, in a remote company culture, where your team members are geographically dispersed or in a different timezone, it can be difficult to manage your projects and work remotely.
Virtual team challenge 3: Reduced Productivity
Due to COVID-19, your remote employees are working from their homes.
And while working virtually from the comforts of your home may seem convenient, it’s not an ideal place to work from.
There are tons of issues that could distract you from virtual work!
Some of these common challenge include:
- Working from unproductive places, like your bed
- Facing sudden power or WiFi outages
- Lack of a fixed work schedule
- Losing track of time when working on your projects
Additionally, you might even have noisy family members around.
Imagine working around Fred and George!
But since you’re surrounded by distractions, does that mean you’re doomed?
Many teams perform telecommuting or virtual work from their homes without their productivity sinking to new lows. In fact, as we mentioned, the entire ClickUp team now works remotely, and we’re still knocking out amazing features every week.
And when we can stay productive, why can’t you?
How Do I Manage Remote Teams Virtually?
With effective virtual team management practices and collaboration tools, managing teams in the virtual world is a cakewalk.
Here’s what you should do:
- Set ground rules for effective communication
- Use communication tools
- Use project management software
- Create a dedicated virtual workspace
- Work around a schedule
- Use productivity monitoring tools
Let’s take a closer look at these steps:
1. Setting ground rules for effective communication
Establishing communication guidelines for remote team members is a core part of effective virtual team management.
It gives your virtual team members a structure to easily collaborate over and manage their work with each other.
Just like how Professor Umbridge created decrees for managing Hogwarts!
(Except nobody’s going to hate them.)
While it was tough for Filch to hang those decrees, setting guidelines for managing virtual teams can be easy!
Virtual team leader or managers can lay guidelines, like:
- Set common business hours when the entire team should be available for effective virtual collaboration
- Conduct weekly virtual meeting to check in with project progress or performance reviews
- Define the response time limit for quick resolution of doubts and decision making
- Create a standard format for important official announcements to avoid miscommunications
This way, you can enhance your team communication skills and skyrocket your remote team productivity!
2. Use communication tools
When you’re working with geographically dispersed teams, how do you ensure that everyone’s on the same page about a task or project?
By using virtual communication technology!
Virtual communication tools also provide the perfect platform for conducting team building activities, helping you overcome several virtual team building challenges.
Here’s what you should use for effective virtual team communication:
A. Instant messaging tools like Slack
Instant messaging tools like Slack help virtual team members communicate with each other to quickly discuss an assignment or resolve doubts or concerns.
With Slack, you can:
- Message remote team members for project-related queries or casual conversations
- Make team wide announcements over a dedicated communication channel
- Share files, links, and documents for easy virtual collaboration
- Use virtual team building Slack extensions like Donut to boost team communication
A virtual team leader or manager can even create a separate communication channel to plan team building activities to improve virtual project team bonding.
These informal channels are the perfect place for building trust and beating feelings of isolation.
You won’t miss those water cooler conversations now!
- Flock: a communication platform that lets any virtual team discuss tasks and projects
- Fleep: a platform suitable for small project teams for team communication
B. Video conferencing tools like Google Meet
While instant messaging can be your go-to virtual communication technology, you also need to have face to face interaction for detailed conversations or brainstorm sessions with your team.
Additionally, having a regular virtual meeting and conducting virtual team building activities can help keep employee motivation high.
So how do you do this?
With video conferencing tools like Google Meet!
This video conferencing tool lets you:
- Host team meeting or one-on-one video chat sessions for project discussions and announcements. For example, you can conduct your daily Scrum meetings using Google Meet
- Share your screen with any remote team member for detailed explanations
- Conduct team building activities like Ice Breaker during virtual happy hour to improve team cohesion
Learn which virtual team building activity works best for your team.
- Zoom: a popular video conference tool for a virtual meeting and HD conference calls
- Microsoft Teams: Microsoft’s video communication tool that supports screen sharing and call recording features
Remember, effective communication promotes knowledge sharing among remote employees, which in turn, improves remote employee engagement and teamwork.
Does that mean project collaboration is impossible for a remote team?
Luckily, with modern project management technology like ClickUp, it’s not!
3. Use project management software like ClickUp
A project management tool is like a wand. It’s all you need for managing virtual teams and all project-related activities.
You can use them for project planning and collaboration with your remote team members, making telecommuting a piece-of-cake!
And ClickUp is the Elder Wand among all tools; it’s super-powerful and unbeatable!
ClickUp is the highest rated remote project management tool in the world.
Widely used by 100,000+ teams in companies ranging from startups to giants like Google, Uber, and Nike, it’s the only tool you need to manage your projects in a virtual environment.
We’re pretty sure that if the Ministry of Magic used ClickUp, they wouldn’t have failed so miserably, and would have actually become one of the leading virtual teams in the world!
Here’s how ClickUp helps your remote team manage their tasks and projects:
A. Assign tasks to your team easily
How do you assign tasks when your team members could be hundreds of miles away, like Sydney, when you’re in New York?
Simple: by using ClickUp!
This project management tool helps a team leader:
- Create and Assign Tasks to specific virtual project team members or the entire team
- Split tasks into Subtasks and assign them to members to help your remote team know exactly what to do
- Set Priorities to ensure that your entire team knows which tasks are urgent so that they can tackle them immediately
For example, the human resource management team can create a task to manage the onboarding process of any new virtual employee and assign it to a virtual team leader.
The task can be split into multiple subtasks that correspond with the stages in your company’s onboarding process. This charts out things for the assignee in detail, ensuring that their onboarding process proceeds smoothly!
B. Track task progress with custom statuses
Most task management apps come with statuses that are irrelevant to your project.
I mean, wizards don’t do stuff the Muggle way at Hogwarts, right?
Neither should you!
ClickUp lets you create Custom Task Statuses that correspond to your project’s needs.
This way, you don’t have to be limited to boring and irrelevant task statuses like “In Progress” or “Done!”
Plus, you (or your remote team member) only need a glance at the task’s status to instantly determine what stage the task is in!
What if you’re not a fan of Kanban boards and would rather view your tasks in a list format?
Simple: just switch to ClickUp’s List view!
C. Seamless virtual collaboration over comments
Each ClickUp task comes with a dedicated Comment Section to facilitate seamless collaboration in a virtual environment.
- Exchange project related information with team members in real time
- Easily share files and links to enhance virtual project team communication
- Assign Comments to team members to ensure that they don’t go unnoticed
However, those aren’t all of ClickUp’s features!
This powerful project management tool also gives you features like:
- Profiles: easily see what each remote team member is working on
- Screen Recording: record your screen and share it with your entire team for detailed walkthroughs
- Goals: create a common goal for your virtual team and monitor goal progress in real time
- Collaboration Detection: know when someone is commenting or viewing the same task as you
- Project Management Automation: automate tons of project processes to save time
- Notepad: a personal notepad to quickly jot down ideas and convert them into tasks later
- Communication Integrations: integrate with collaboration tools like Slack and Zoom to collaborate over chats and videos conference seamlessly
4. Create a dedicated virtual workspace
If you want to get things done, you shouldn’t be working from your bed or couch.
As our brain associates the bed or couch with leisure, it makes you feel lazy and unfocused.
And these two cook up a spell for unproductivity!
So what should you do instead?
Creating a dedicated work environment for virtual work helps you work undisturbed for better productivity.
Your family would learn to stay away from your virtual workspace during your remote work hours. Moreover, you’ll be working in the correct posture without straining your eyes or back.
It’s also a good idea to set up a desk corner with your work essentials like your personal computer to ensure that you have everything you need in one place.
This way, you can avoid frantically looking for that important file that suddenly went missing!
Because when you lose things at home, it can be as difficult as finding a Horcrux.
5. Work around a schedule
Another important aspect of working in a virtual environment is having a fixed work schedule.
While being available 24×7 for pings and calls is great, it can also lead you into a maze of all work and no rest, pushing you to burnout.
What should you do?
- Identify your productive hours and utilize them for important virtual work
- Take breaks at appropriate intervals to boost your spirits
- Do some light physical activity like yoga to keep your mind fresh and focused
Sounds great, right?
This will help you maintain a proper work-life balance, which translates to increased team effectiveness and job satisfaction.
6. Use productivity monitoring tools like Time Doctor
Sometimes, we wish we had McGonagall’s Time-Turner to gain back the time we wasted watching Netflix, right?
Luckily, you have productivity monitoring tools like Time Doctor to help you out here.
No, it won’t help you turn back time. But it will help you make the most of it!
Time Doctor helps any virtual team to:
- Track time spent on tasks, websites, and apps during remote work hours
- Avoid wasting time by remaining idle (and not doing any work) during work hours
- Avoid visiting unproductive websites and apps, like Facebook or Netflix while working
- Identify what’s taking them too long to step in to take measures to boost productivity
You’ll be able to keep your working hours and breaks in check without losing track of time.
Something like your very own Marauder’s Map which tracks:
- ClickUp: yes! Clickup can also help you track the time you spend on your projects. Just use the Native Time Tracker to quickly check how long each task takes, even on your phone.
You can also use the Time Estimates feature to ensure that everyone knows how long a task should ideally take.
- Toggl: a simple time tracker that helps virtual team members track how long their tasks take to complete
- Everhour: a time tracking app that also offers budgeting and expense tracking features
Want more tips to help your virtual team stay productive in a wfh setup?
Check out these articles:
- Top 10 No-Nonsense Work From Home Tips During COVID
- Nine Ways to Stay Productive When Working from Home
- 15 Home Office Tips to Boost Remote Work Productivity (2020)
COVID-19 has forced teams to suddenly adapt to remote work.
And sure, working remotely in a distributed team has its challenges.
But it doesn’t have to be as difficult as catching the golden snitch in a Quidditch match!
Just follow the tips mentioned here, and you’ll overcome the various challenges of managing virtual teams in no time.
And as having the right collaboration tools is an essential part of managing any virtual team, why not sign up for ClickUp today?
It’s got all the features you need to become your team’s Patronus to tackle these virtual team challenges and ward off the unproductivity!
Erica is ClickUp’s Senior Content Manager and professional beach bum. She spends her days creating emails, blogs, landing pages, and more to help people increase their productivity so they can save one day every week to do more of what they love.