Virtual teams are swiftly replacing physical teams in many companies.
According to the Office for National Statistics, in the UK the number of people working from home doubled in 2020, for obvious reasons, and it is set to remain far above where it was pre-coronavirus.
But what sort of working environment can remote workers expect, and what potential pitfalls are there?
This article looks at the pros and cons of remote teams.
Hopefully looking at the issues that you and your team might face will make learning to manage a remote team simpler.
Businesses and their employees have discovered that there are lots of advantages to working from home:
Remote work means that you can hire the best person for the role worldwide. You aren’t restricted by people’s geographical locations.
Members of a virtual team can be located anywhere, something that wasn’t an option a few years back.
According to freelancer site Upwork, 73% of all teams will have remote workers by 2028.
Remote working promotes a healthy work-life balance.
Being a member of a physical team means that you have to commute to work. Remote workers obviously save this time.
In addition, members of a virtual team have a greater opportunity to balance the demands of work and their personal life.
According to Owl Labs, 91% of people stated that a better work-life balance was their top reason for working from home.
Remote work do not have to share their workspace. This means that team members do not have to compromise on their office set up, as they have to in a physical office.
At home they choose their own working environment and can set it up exactly to their requirements.
Virtual teams do not require an office and so save the costs that go with running a physical office.
Indeed, Global Workplace Analytics report that cost savings are one of the most significant benefits of having a virtual team working for a company.
Virtual team interact predominantly through online tools and these tools have activity monitoring built-in which makes activity monitoring far simpler for managers.
This makes ongoing management far simpler as managers have a stream of metrics available to them making it far easier to identify higher performers and team members who are struggling.
Many home workers cite flexibility as its biggest advantage.
Members of a virtual team have more control over their daily schedule than those who commute each day.
They can fit work (other than calls and meetings) around other home commitments and hobbies.
Working in a virtual team promotes real-time collaboration.
In a remote team, members can work on a project at the same time and be able to see what others are doing in a way that they couldn’t in an office.
Real-time collaboration can be carried out with the help of online tools like Zoom, Slack, Basecamp and many others.
Remote teams are not all positive. Lets looks at the negatives.
Remote work requires new software, and hardware, in order to make it work.
Obviously, for a business this is usually more than outweighed by savings on rent and other office costs as this article shows.
The flip side of being able to recruit the best talent from across the globe is that you now have to manage time zone differences.
Having your team members spread across the globe will make it more difficult to manage them effectively and to ensure that they all work together seamlessly.
This can be a blessing as well though. If you offer client support on a 24/7 basis, then having members in various time zones can make this much easier to staff.
Members of a virtual team will not feel as close to one another as members of a physical team.
The lack of time spent in each other’s physical company and social opportunities can lead to a more distant relationship.
A way of trying to lessen this impact is by encouraging things such as;
According to this survey of remote workers, the absence of physical interactions among the team members is one of the top challenges that people face in a virtual team.
In addition, many businesses run periodic physical meets ups to help build team spirit and morale.
It can be easy for virtual team members to be distracted at home.
According to a Porch survey, more than three-quarters of people admit to watching TV during working hours.
The only way to manage this issue is trust your workers and work hard to ensure that they stay motivated and engaged.
Perhaps they will occasionally watch a bit of TV but does it really matter if they’re working hard and delivering?
Remote teams are here to stay.
They’re different to traditional teams and managing them brings different challenges.
Understanding those challenges is the best way to prepare for them so hopefully, this article has given you some food for thought.
Image Credit: Yaroslav Shuraev