The Challenges of Virtual Teams
Virtual teams, by their nature, can be difficult to manage due to their non-physical and often ambiguous structure. While virtual teams come with numerous advantages, they also present challenges, including weaker team dynamics and a lack of accountability. Experts have pointed out that the distance inherent in virtual teams can amplify issues, dilute leadership, and weaken team processes. The most evident challenges of virtual teams appear in goal setting, task distribution, coordination, and motivation.
When people work together, they need to depend on each other. They need to believe that everyone is doing their part and doing it well. One big problem for online teams is building this trust. Trust is built when we believe in the skill, kindness, and honesty of our teammates. But in online teams, it’s hard to judge these things because we don’t see each other in person. This makes it harder for online teams to build the kind of trust that makes the team stronger.
When team members meet in person, they can watch each other and make judgments about things like how smart someone is, what their past experiences are, how they interact with others, and what kind of person they are. These judgments help build or break trust. For example, if Bob watches Suzy in a meeting and sees that she knows a lot about a program for kids and is passionate about helping them, he might trust her more. But in an online team, Bob might not have enough information to make these judgments.
Creating a Shared Vision
Online teams might also find it hard to share a vision, which means everyone understanding and agreeing on a goal. Because online team members don’t interact as much or see each other, they can’t read body language or facial expressions. This makes it harder to tell if everyone agrees with the team’s goal. But a team that meets in person every day can create a shared vision more easily because they have rituals and behaviors that help them understand each other better.
Talking and understanding each other is harder in online teams than in teams that meet face to face. It’s hard to build trust online, so people might not want to share their thoughts. Online, it’s harder to understand each other because we can’t see facial expressions or body language. Decisions can take longer because people can’t agree as easily. Even video calls can’t capture all the details of a face-to-face meeting.
Online teams are often more diverse because they include people from different places. This can make teams more creative, but it can also lead to misunderstandings. Teams have to deal with different cultural assumptions and social norms that affect how they communicate. This is even more challenging when people are not speaking their first language, because words can have different meanings in different cultures.
Online teams have their problems, but they also bring a lot of good things and are very important in today’s world. To make the most of online teams, leaders need to understand and handle these problems. G360 Surveys can help by providing feedback to enhance productivity. If you think your team could benefit from this kind of help, get in touch with us.