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Challenges for Virtual Team Managers

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Two-thirds of experienced managers fail in their first attempt to run a virtual team – and for new managers, the failure rate is even higher.  In fact, misunderstandings are five times more likely to occur without face-to-face communication.

While in our last post  we focused on the dangers for virtual teams in general, today we look at virtual team managers. For them, it is essential to understand why these issues occur, and how to develop the communication skills that work in the virtual environment.

Virtual managers and their teams can be every bit as effective as their co-located counterparts, if not more so. But without strategies to work in the virtual environment, managers will be at a significant disadvantage and are likely to fail, costing taxpayers far more money than they save in travel.  Key issues:

  • Virtual teams can’t be managed in the same way as co-located teams and are considerably more dependent on the characteristics and interpersonal skills of team members
  • Due to the general lack of understanding of how to work virtually, studies have found that 82% of virtual teams fail
  • Greater team diversity means that team members need to be acutely aware both of themselves and of each other to a far greater extent than co-located teams
  • A manager’s understanding of the impacts of personality traits on behavior is a key performance constraints

These challenges extend even to the hiring process. When composing their team, virtual team managers must work closely with Human Resources to look for specific characteristics, such as:

  • Great self-manager
  • Good communicator, both written and verbally
  • Confident enough to ask for assistance when required
  • Thrives in a low-touch, flexible environment
  • Enjoys working individually, with minimal social interaction


Tips for Virtual Team Managers

There are a number of effective strategies managers can employ to support their virtual staff, drive high levels of performance, and consistently achieve their desired business objectives:


1. Institute a Virtual Open-Door Policy

In co-located teams, managers will often leave their door open to communicate that staff can come in to discuss their work. This is especially useful for matters that team members don’t see as “important enough” to warrant a phone call, email or meeting. But there’s no equivalent tool for virtual teams, right?


Schedule regular office hours in your office’s conference software, where your team can approach you informally to discuss matters that may not fit into more structured touch points such as team meetings. Creating time for informal chats sends a strong signal you are a welcoming trusted manager who values your team’s needs and input.


2. Schedule Regular One-On-One Touch Points

This is one scenario where the same strategy that works in a physical office also works in the virtual environment – in fact, it may be even more valuable! By making time for regular conversations with your employees (such as on a weekly basis), you create many opportunities to directly interact and build trusted relationships may never develop if you rely solely on email and team meetings.

Recent research with 40 global teams showed that when the leader-team member relationship was strong and the leader communicated frequently, the virtual team member was more likely to contribute to team decision making, which increased innovation.


3. Run Better Team Meetings

Meetings in the virtual environment provide organizations with a great deal of flexibility – while at the same time increasing the risk of miscommunication, inefficiency, and even feelings of isolation among virtual participants.

One effective strategy is to share a map with every participant’s location in advance of the meeting. This ensures that everyone on the call is mindful of each other’s presence, combating the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality and ensuring you remember to seek input from everyone.


Want to learn more? Read our next post in this series, on the challenges facing virtual employees:

By : Virtual Teambuilders /January 17, 2019 /Building a Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More

How Virtual Teams (Can) Save You Money

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In the face of rising costs, it is only natural that organizations are increasingly turning to virtual communication and telecommuting – but getting it right is critical to the continued success of your ministry.

While in our last post we alluded to the cost savings your organization can realize through virtual teams, here we will take a deeper dive into those numbers. The simple fact is, shifting to virtual teams can result in impressive cost savings:

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  • Travel
  • Real estate
  • Cleaning/maintenance
  • Time management
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Improved productivity


A 10-month study conducted by Stanford University found that organizations can save as much as $2,000 per employee per year by working from home. Further, remote employees were often better rested and happier, and worked longer hours than their in-office counterparts.

Employer benefits

Employers can save over $10,000 per year for each two-day-a-week telecommuter. The primary financial benefits for employers come from increased productivity, reduced real estate costs and lower absenteeism and turnover:

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  • Fewer interruptions: home-based workers are not distracted by non-work-related chatter, long lunches, coffee breaks, etc.
  • Time management: 75% of virtual employees said their ability to meet deadlines improved
  • Longer hours: Telecommuters typically add 60% of the time they would have spent travelling to their regular work hours.
  • Real estate: Telework programs reduce the costs of owning/leasing offices, electricity, parking, furniture, cleaning/maintenance, etc.
  • Absenteeism: Working virtually is one of the most effective means of reducing absenteeism due to reduced stress and increased flexibility to address personal and family appointments

On average, telecommuting just two days a week would save employees between $600 and $3,500 per year – the result of reduced driving and fewer work-related expenses (food, clothes, vehicle costs or public transportation costs).

Yet, directs costs are probably least compelling as an argument as they mainly relate to dead travel time and transport costs. Working effectively in the virtual environment is all about avoiding the failure costs, inefficiencies of over-collaboration, and impacts of unproductive conflict. These hidden costs can be exorbitant if not managed well.

Best Practices for Virtual Teams

1. Don’t Just Invest in Technology – Invest in Training

Successful virtual teams need more than a web conferencing solution. They need a new set of communication strategies that are designed for a working environment where typical cues such as eye contact and body language are absent. Relying on communication skills meant for co-located environments means your team will build relationships and trust slowly, misunderstandings will be commonplace, and productivity will lag.

Set your team members up for success by investing time in developing the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in the virtual environment.

2. Build an Equitable Team

Virtual employees often feel isolated from their colleagues – particularly if some of those colleagues are co-located and have access to typical cues like body language and eye contact. This is especially troublesome in team meetings, where those in the same room often hold side conversations or communicate visually, leaving their virtual counterparts out of the loop.

Where possible, virtual managers should strive to create an equitable working environment. When it comes to meetings, that means making sure that if one person joins virtually, then everybody does. This ensures that all participates interact according to the same set of rules and creating a feeling of inclusion.

3. Build a Team Operating Agreement (TOA)

We are all familiar with the miscommunications that occur over email and text messages, even between close friends – which is why virtual team managers should work with their teams to develop a TOA.

A TOA is a document outlining how a team works together, facilitating the norms of communication and workflow for virtual teams. Every team is unique, meaning every TOA is unique. By creating a TOA, you help guide your team’s actions and interactions. 

In our next post, we’ll cover the common pitfalls of working virtually that may not only cut into the expected cost savings, but can wipe them out entirely. Read on to learn:

By : Virtual Teambuilders /January 14, 2019 /Building a Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More

    Virtual Team Builders is a training and consulting company that caters to corporations and teams who depend on effective virtual collaboration to succeed. Our training is targeted towards the unique challenges faced by teams operating in a virtual environment; challenges that are present whether members work 90 feet apart or 3000 miles apart.