27 Dec 2021

In the past couple of years, many new trends have surfaced, with a major one being the global adoption of remote work. A universal solution that emerged from the rough times experienced by businesses.

Many benefits have been reported in regards to virtual teams. From improved productivity between employees to the decrease of costs for a company. So, there is no doubt that many have adopted this work culture for the good of all.

However, where there is good there is bad. Remote work also comes with its challenges. One of the main obstacles is maintaining proper communication among team members. Those that choose to overlook this end up facing harsh consequences that can have a detrimental effect on their teams.

Issues when managing virtual teams

Lack of Proper Communication:

If communication is already considered essential in normal teams, imagine when it comes to working remotely. To manage a successful virtual team depends significantly on using suitable means of communication. However, this has proven to be a challenge for many.

A study done with over 60 thousand Microsoft staff found that even though communication between their direct team didn’t change. There was little connection between members and new hires or even with teammates from other departments.

We have to keep in mind that when speaking of virtual teams, it means that your members might be in completely different time zones. Making it more likely that they have different active hours which in turn tampers with communication.

Reduced sense of accountability and urgency:

Team accountability is crucial for a remote culture to succeed. This entails that employees, no matter the position or responsibilities, take ownership of the tasks and projects assigned to them. It also takes into consideration the individual awareness of what is needed to complete deliverables and if they can achieve it with the highest quality possible.

This then comes down to the fact that the sense of urgency to complete projects is less intense between virtual teams. As you’re not physically present at the office, you don’t feel the pressure or constant reminders of an approaching deadline.

Without accountability, there is no trust which will create gaps between what is expected and what is executed. This will then lead to conflict, loss of morale and direction within the team.

Little sense of supervision and support:

As a supervisor, it becomes quite a challenge to keep up with what everyone in your team is doing. This can cause an imbalance within the team. Some members may be overworked while others maintain way too low of a workload.

The Society for Human Resource Management found that 67% of supervisors say they need to spend more time supervising virtual teams than onsite workers. Also, over 40% of them admitted to sometimes forgetting about team members when delegating tasks.

When working online, maximizing resources appropriately become harder, as supervisors are never entirely sure what each member of their team is up to. The availability to just discuss tasks or obstacles when needed is quite reduced. How many times have you received an “Oh, I must have missed this message, sorry!”?

What is an online schedule planner?

An online schedule planner is a digital tool that allows you to manage and keep track of your day to day life. Depending on your priorities, you may want to be on top of your work life, your personal life, or more likely, both.

With an online schedule planner, you can more easily motivate your virtual team in getting tasks done. Especially as they will feel more organised and have a better understanding of what needs to be completed and within what timeline.

What can you include in it:

Your work availability: You should add your desired working hours, your lunch breaks and any meetings you may have.

If you're taking time off: If you’ll be taking some holidays, sick days or a long weekend.

Dedicate time to tasks: You can use time-blocking to reserve certain hours for specific tasks

Add your personal responsibilities: Personal events like doctor appointments or kids sports events

Important PR events: Add any conferences, talks, summits or other important events to keep track of.

Can efficiently sync peoples work schedules

As the world becomes more inclined to virtual teams, you may find yourself working with people from all sides of the world. As amazing as this is in regards to diversity, it can be quite tricky to keep your team synchronized.

People may be living in different time zones, or have different schedules due to other responsibilities in their lives. With an online scheduling tool, you can ensure that there is a reasonable amount of active hours between teams. For example, you can organise everyone's schedule to be online together for 3 hours a day.

Better yet, by creating an online team schedule you can keep track of important deadlines as well as each team members tasks and completion dates. Alleviating the pressure on having to be dependent on other peoples working hours.

By syncing working schedules together, your team can have an overall better understanding of the project timeline. It’s not easy to monitor task dependencies in remote teams. Think about it, a member in the USA could finish a task in the morning, but who is responsible for the next step might be ending their workday in Europe.

This makes your remote team members feel the need to constantly be logged on to keep up to date. It’s reported that workers look at emails and messages on average every 6 minutes to ensure that they are on top of their work.

Helps maximize resources to meet deadlines

One of the hardest parts of managing a remote team is keeping up with what everyone is doing. You may find it difficult to remember all the tasks that need to be done. Even remembering exactly who is responsible for what might be quite challenging.

With an online schedule planner, you can monitor all this in one place. Such tools allow you to break down projects to their essentials and optimise workload according to the availability and skill set of each team member.

Good managers are direct and straightforward with their team about who is responsible for what, business expectations, and their decision-making structure. By doing so, each member will know exactly what needs to be done and by which timeline, increasing their sense of accountability.

This also comes down to good and effective communication. Currently, people spend a lot of time either in meetings or exchanging emails. One study found that 89% of workers said that tasks like going through emails, slack or teams messages are one of the most unpleasant parts of working remotely.

Remote communication has proven to tamper with remote teams, making their productivity significantly decrease. By creating workflow solutions with the use of an online planner thousands of working hours could be saved to achieve desired goals.

Improves overall team focus on priorities

Prioritizing work is already a challenge when working in a physical office but becomes even more difficult to handle when working with virtual teams. About 40% of 215 supervisors and managers expressed low self-confidence in their ability to manage workers remotely. Most times, managers hope that their teams are keeping track of changes and are capable of self prioritization, however, this is rarely the case.

Sometimes, what to prioritize may be subjective, making each member of the team focus on different goals. Most importantly, most would estimate this from the top of their head, causing their assumptions to be significantly off. It’s not easy to keep up when you’re manually planning, estimating effort and tracking which tasks are of higher priority.

With an online scheduling system, there will be no need to spend time discussing which tasks need to be completed first. You and your team will be able to visualise all necessary steps to finalise a project on time.

Allows you to maintain a healthy number of meetings

Although many remote workers have stated that working from home has improved their productivity and engagement. It also led to an increased number of meetings to compensate for the lack of face-to-face communication. A report done by Reclaim.ia found that workers now spend 25% more time in meetings compared to the pre-pandemic month of February 2020.

By using an online scheduling planner, there will be no need to micromanage your team. Although it might seem reasonable when considering keeping track of tasks and deadlines, spending too much time in meetings can be draining and a waste of time.

As a manager, you can monitor what each member of your team is achieving and what their next steps will be. If your project runs into an obstacle or is stirring the wrong direction, then you can hold team or individual meetings to get back on track.

Of course, the necessary standing weekly (or daily) status meetings, that take no longer than 30 minutes, should continue. However, apart from that, meetings should only be held when required. For example, if there are any issues or bottlenecks that someone may be facing.

With virtual teams, leaders should over-communicate. But wait, what we mean with this is providing a selection of tools and approached to ease communication and transparency. It’s investing more effort in finding what works for your team rather than occupying their schedules with meetings.

Helps anticipate any emergencies or unexpected challenges

To be a good overall manager it's important to know how to appropriately anticipate emergencies or unexpected challenges. By scheduling with your team what has to be done and how long it should take, you can create buffers between tasks for any unwelcomed changes.

Depending on what obstacle is thrown your way, you should first analyse your team members availability and skillset. For example, if a bug was found that critically affects your product, you’d look through your online schedule to find a developer who has sufficient knowledge and time to jump onto this task.

A successful manager would use insights on resource visibility and forecasting to make these decisions. This would allow you to take fast and rational actions, re-allocate resources and ultimately reduce any scheduling limitations.

Do this by using an open-source process, where not only upper management but all members of the company can determine and optimize change management strategies. With an open-source process, the rate of lasting success increase to over 55% compared to 34% when using top-down management.