The Challenges of Managing a Virtual Team

The Challenges of Managing a Virtual Team

Technology and the proliferation of communication tools have shrunk the world and made possible global virtual teams. This has brought many benefits but there are also many challenges to managing a virtual team.

Four Major Challenges of Managing A Virtual Team

In this post we will highlight four common issues often raised by people when discussing the challenges of managing a virtual team. Without doubt effective communication is paramount.

 

Communication, Communication, Communication

In the aftermath of losing the brilliant Stephen Hawking, this quote of his is both relevant to the topic and worth remembering:

“For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen. Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.”

Some of the benefits of being in the same office include the ability to speak to your team without necessarily having to leave your chair, or having the ability to go out for lunch or after-work drinks to help with the bonding process and camaraderie. To help counter this it is essential to have regular meetings with your team over Skype, or similar technology, either individually or, better yet, all together if logistically possible. Meeting and speaking with your fellow team members, albeit virtually, is a great way to bond, allay concerns, share knowledge and train staff.

 

Access To Expertise

Though a virtual team can theoretically supply you with the best the world has to offer, it can still be difficult to find specific skills or people with the requisite experience to carry out the tasks. Moreover, having the expertise you need, when you need them can be incredibly useful.

While having those expertise on hand in your office is great, having them in the same country or timezone can be just as handy, but what if those expertise are 10 hours behind? They may be asleep, just putting the kids to bed or out for dinner – in other words, not available when you need them. This isn’t anyone’s fault, it’s just a fact of managing a remote team. Finding workable solutions that allow people time to have a life (what a luxury!) are essential in overcoming the challenges of managing a virtual team.

Using apps like Slack can help by creating a virtual meeting room of sorts. Communication tools like this are a much better format than email threads where it is far easier to lose track of a conversation or forget to ‘reply all’ for example.

 

Lack Of Training & Support

Delivering training to a disparate team clearly has its challenges. The only viable option is to deliver it online, and even doing this live and, therefore, collaboratively can be challenging depending on the timezones in which your team members are located. Training and ensuring your team has the skills it needs to carry out tasks to the best of its abilities is essential to producing top-quality work for your clients or your business.

Support is often an extension of training, as largely more support is required when people need help completing a task. The best ways to work around these issues revolve around communication and creating regular meeting times. Regular communication ensures work timelines are on track, skill shortages can be addressed and training administered.

There are a number of ways you can work around these challenges of managing a virtual team.These including using apps like GoToMeeting that are great for training webinars. This allows users to log in at specified times, or afterwards to watch a replay. Skype and Google Hangouts are two tools you could use for regular online chats, as has been mentioned, to keep in touch and have face-to-face communication individually or as a team. Without wishing to over egg the pudding, regular communication in critical.

 

Lack Of Trust & Transparency

Is work actually being done? Is research being carried out effectively? How will I know if writing is just being copy-pasted or not? And so it goes… These are some of the many recurring questions that people ask when faced with trust and transparency when it comes to the challenges of managing a virtual team.

It can be quite easy, for example, for people to check off work and tasks as completed if it doesn’t need to tracked or signed off upon until it’s submitted. Then, in stereotypical undergraduate mode, it can all be reeled off, last minute, resulting in errors, poor research and sub-standard work.

Staying on top of ongoing work, in a manner that’s not intrusive or inherently misstrusting of remote employees, eases concerns around trust and transparency and is ultimately good practice. When managed effectively this promotes a strong bilateral relationship.

Though difficult, and never 100% effective, the hiring process should be viewed as an early step in this process, as should a good company culture: freedom to work as you need, good remuneration, and regular and positive feedback are some examples. In short, the better people are treated the better they will treat you and therefore perform in their work.  

 

Communicate Effectively – The Key To Managing A Virtual Team

Effective communication is the key to success when it comes to the challenges of managing a virtual team. Pretty much every other issue, including the three highlighted above, are consequences of poor communication. Nail your communication, and you’ll limit the issues.

Being able to draw upon a global talent pool located in different timezones can bring the best the world has to offer on a 24-hour work schedule. But managing a virtual team, who may speak many different languages, have different skill sets, gaps in knowledge, and training needs can bring with it communication barriers.

Understanding and embracing the diverse nature of a remote team in order to communicate effectively is paramount in dealing with the many challenges of managing a virtual team.

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Self Care for the Entrepreneur

Self Care for the Entrepreneur

As an Entrepreneur or Business Owner, it can be incredibly hard to switch off from your business. Every minute not spent on your business almost seems unproductive. But it is equally important to take care of yourself and adopt some easy self-care practices.

Self Care for the Entrepreneur

I’ll admit, I’ve fallen into the trap of constantly working and feeling guilty if I’m not working. But as I reach total burn out, I realize that if I don’t take care of myself then I can’t take care of my client’s needs.

Another issue is the financial cost of investing in self-care. I’m still in start-up mode and every penny counts. Like everyone else, my priority is to keep a roof over my head and eat. I still worry about spending money on self-care even though I completely understand how valuable it is. After speaking to other entrepreneurs about this, I decided to list a few budget-friendly ways to ensure self-care is part of the entrepreneurial lifestyle!

Fitness:

Barre

I LOVE keeping fit and am a big fan of the various Barre workouts available. Heading to a barre class is a fun yet challenging experience, but it can be quite costly. Luckily they do have online classes for $19USD per month and you can find some barre classes listed on sites such as Class Pass.

HIIT

There are also lots of free work out videos online. The current favourite is The Betty Rocker 30-Day challenge! It’s only 15 minutes per day of either an HIIT workout, strength building or yoga and it’s free! You can also sign up for the 30-day meal plan for $37USD (price may vary depending on when you are reading this). You have access to a well laid out meal plan with grocery lists, easy recipes, and a day-by-day menu.

Yoga

As a former yoga teacher, I can usually pull my own little yoga routine together but I love being guided by another teacher and there are so many free yoga videos online. One of my recent favourites is Yoga with Adriene. Adriene has many videos from beginners to flow to yoga for anxiety and stress. She even has videos that go into detail on one particular pose.The videos vary in time so you can choose according to how much time you have. Perfect for the busy entrepreneur!

Hiking

If you are lucky enough to live in a city that’s a stones through from a rainforest (like I am), then take a hike! Hiking in the great outdoors is ideal but if you can’t go that far then just go for a walk around your neighbourhood. Walking keeps you fit, clears your mind, and gets you away from your computer! And it’s free!

Wellness:

Massage

There is nothing better than going for a massage! Seriously! I do believe that finding a good Registered Massage Therapist who aligns well with your needs is of utmost importance, however, as an entrepreneur with no extended health benefits, it’s a price that can be a wee bit above the budget. Until you are making enough money, you can always check out Groupon for some massage deals or go to the closest school or college that offers massage training and sign up with one of the students!

Meditation

I do my best to take 10 – 20 minutes per day for meditation. Despite my yoga background, I still suck at meditation. As I sit there, 1000 thoughts run through my mind at what feels like light speed but I still try and when I do, my head feels clearer, I feel more relaxed and focused. It serves me and my clients because I do better work. Meditation can be done in silence or using some sort of guide. There are lots of free guided meditations online or you can use an app such as Calm. This is my favourite new meditation tool as it has lots of different guided meditations for various issues (focus, sleep, anxiety, etc.) You can get the basic app for free or upgrade to premium for as little as $4.99USD per month.

Take a Virtual Retreat

Schedule at least one day per month for a virtual retreat. A virtual retreat means no computer, phone or tablet for the full day. Take yourself completely offline. Perhaps stay at home and read a book or meditate and relax. Or head off on a hike with a friend through the park or rainforest (if you are in Vancouver) and enjoy nature.  No Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. No email or Messenger. You can of course take phone calls, or not – but make sure to let friends and family know so that they don’t worry about you!

Take Time Off!

If you don’t take time away from your work, you will burn out, your work will suffer and your clients will notice! Give them as much notice as possible when you are taking time off. I generally let clients know at the beginning of each month what my days off that month will be, and then send another reminder one week prior. I also set strong boundaries to ensure that it’s clear that I won’t be responding to text messages or emails while I’m off and that I’ll get back to them when I return. Clients who are also entrepreneurs completely understand and it’s rare that they will violate those boundaries.

Hire a Virtual Assistant

You might be at the point where you can’t do it all yourself. Well, perhaps you could but you wouldn’t have time to sleep. Hiring a contractor such as a Virtual Assistant to help out is the logical first step. You can hire a VA for the hours that you need them. As a contractor, you only need to use them as and when you need them. During busy months you can ramp up their hours, and during slow months, reduce the time you need to fit your budget. They can take on those smaller tasks at the beginning such as social media scheduling, email management, scheduling appointments, uploading blog posts, etc. But as you continue to build a relationship with them, you can give them more responsibility. It’s really up to you. Then when you take time off, you have someone to hold the fort while you are away.

What about you?

Do you have any self-care tips that you would love to share with us and the entrepreneur community? Feel free to share them in the comments below!

Business is important, especially when it keeps a roof over your head and pays your bills but you can’t do that while suffering from exhaustion. Make sure to take time off to rest and look after yourself and spend time with family and friends. And when the time comes to hire a Virtual Assistant (so that you have cover when you go on vacation), contact us at Roche Online Business Services and schedule a complimentary consultation session. We’d love to help you find that work-life-balance.