Working with a remote team due to COVID-19?
The current pandemic has forced tons of companies to work as dispersed teams.
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! Is COVID keeping us from consistently releasing cool new features every week?
And 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 challenges of virtual teams 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?
- The 3 Key challenges of virtual teams (with solutions)
- Poor communication
- Difficult to manage projects
- Reduced Productivity
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 alley to alley, 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? Not a chance!
The 3 key challenges of virtual teams (with solutions)
When managed effectively, a remote team can provide tons of benefits to the company.
Successful virtual teams offer tons of benefits like:
- Lower costs as you save on office rent, supplies and utilities
- Access to 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
- Global virtual teams help businesses operate 24×7 across time zones without overworking any employees
However, this doesn’t mean that it’s easy to manage remote workers.
As you’re not in the same office space, you could face three common challenges that’ll leave you feeling like Professor McGonagall here:
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 Defence Against The Dark Arts!)
Virtual Team Challenge 1: Poor communication
In a remote team, one of the biggest challenges team members face is poor communication.
As remote employees are geographically dispersed, in-person face to face meetings become impossible.
Additionally, cultural differences and asynchronous working hours due to different time zones can create a communication gap between remote employees.
This can leave team members as clueless as poor Harry here:
Ineffective communication could cause:
- Conflicts among team members
- Missed task deadlines
- Inaccurate communication about project requirements
- Feelings of isolation and diminished social presence among employees
How can you overcome this?
Solution 1: Setting ground rules for communication
Establishing communication guidelines for remote team members is a core part of effective virtual team management.
It gives your 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!
Team leaders or managers can lay guidelines, like:
- Set core hours when all team members should be available for effective project collaboration
- Conduct weekly virtual meetings to discuss project progress or performance reviews
- Define response time limits for quick resolution of doubts
- Create a standard format for important official announcements to avoid misunderstandings
This way, you can enhance your team communication — which translates to better team productivity!
Solution 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 communication technology!
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.
With Slack, you can:
- Message team members for project related queries or casual conversations
- Make team-wide announcements over dedicated channels
- Share files, links and documents for easy project collaboration
- Use virtual team building Slack extensions like Donut to boost team communication
Team leaders and managers can even create a separate channel to plan team building activities to improve virtual team bonding. These informal channels are the perfect place for team members to connect and beat feelings of isolation!
- Flock: a communication platform that lets virtual teams discuss tasks and projects
- Fleep: a platform suitable for small project teams for team communication
B. Video calling 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 with your team members.
Additionally, having regular virtual meetings and conducting virtual team building activities can help keep the team spirit high.
So how do you do this?
With video conferencing tools like Google Meet!
It lets you:
- Host one-on-one sessions or team meetings for project discussions and announcements. For example, you can conduct your daily Scrum meetings using Google Meet
- Share your screen with team members for detailed explanations
- Conduct virtual team building activities like Break The Ice to improve team cohesion
- Zoom: a popular video conferencing tool for HD calls and virtual meetings
- Microsoft Teams: Microsoft’s video calling tool that supports screen sharing and call recording features
Remember, effective communication promotes knowledge sharing among remote employees, which in turn, improves virtual teamwork.
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 team meetings when you’re in the same office space.
However, when your team members are geographically dispersed or in different time zones, it can be difficult to manage your projects and work remotely.
Does that mean project collaboration impossible for a remote team?
Luckily, with modern project management technology like ClickUp, it’s not!
Solution: Use project management tools like ClickUp
Project management tools are like wands — they’re all you need for managing project related activities.
You can use them to organize projects and collaborate remotely with your team members – making virtual project management a piece-of-cake!
And ClickUp’s the Elder Wand among all tools — it’s super-powerful and unbeatable!
ClickUp is the highest rated remote project management in the world.
Widely used by 100,000+ teams in companies ranging from startups to giants like Google, Uber, Nike and Netflix –– it’s the only tool you need to manage your projects remotely. It doesn’t matter if you’re using Agile, Scrum or Kanban — ClickUp can handle everything you throw at it!
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?
Simple: By using ClickUp!
ClickUp helps you:
- Create and assign tasks to specific team members
- Split tasks into subtasks and assign them to members to help your team know exactly what to do
- Set priorities to ensure that your team knows which tasks are urgent so that they can tackle them immediately
For example, you can create a task to manage the onboarding process of new virtual employees and assign it to your team leaders or managers.
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 team members) 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 collaboration over comments
Each ClickUp task comes with a dedicated comment section to facilitate seamless collaboration in a virtual environment.
- Exchange project related information in real-time
- Easily share files and links to enhance 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 team member is working on
- Screen recording: record your screen and share it with your team for detailed walkthroughs
- 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 tools like Slack and Zoom to collaborate over chats and videos seamlessly
Virtual Team Challenge 3: Reduced Productivity
Due to COVID-19, your virtual 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 work!
Some common challenges 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
Plus, 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 virtual work from their homes without their productivity sinking to new lows. In fact, as I mentioned, the entire ClickUp team now works remotely, and we’re still knocking out amazing features every week.
And since we can stay productive, why can’t you?
Here’s what you can do:
Solution 1: Create a dedicated 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 workspace for virtual work helps you work undisturbed for better productivity.
Your family would learn to stay away from your 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 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.
Solution 2: Work around a schedule
Another important aspect of working virtually 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
Solution 3: 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 virtual teams:
- Track time spent on tasks, websites and apps during 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:
- Toggl: a simple time tracker that helps virtual teams track how long their tasks take to complete
- Everhour: a time tracking app that also offers budgeting and expenses tracking features
COVID-19 has forced teams to suddenly adapt to remote work.
And sure, working remotely in distributed teams 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 virtual teams in no time.
And as having the right 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 challenges and ward off unproductivity while working from home!