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The Biggest Challenge to Managing a Virtual Project Team

With the advent of the internet, the world had shifted its focus to less manual labor. But, with its ever-growing pace, every scope was used to leverage the speed and build a place where life was mobile online but static offline. Now anyone can work for any company around the world sitting in any part of it. While the communication of this virtual reality is incredibly seamless, the efficacy isn't unblemished.

Many of us are doing our best at overcoming challenges managing hybrid teams, yet some missing parts are left for further treatment, which seeks our immediate and long-term attention. All types of teams face these challenges, and each require a unique way to deal with them. Let's dive into the biggest challenge to managing a virtual project team within a hybrid organization, but first, what is a virtual project team?

What is a Virtual Project team?

A virtual project team, a.k.a., a virtual team working on a specific project, is a set of people collaborating from a different location to fulfil the objectives they want to attain. Today's internet world is speedier than ever, and it allows us to join any on-screen meeting around the world at any given time. The unprecedented advancement in the corporate world, in particular, the fast paced networking, has quickly advanced to build bridges among employees who aren't even under the same physical roof. These dispersed teams are often referred to as a 'geographically dispersed team' or GDT. Find out which types of flexible working models these teams can follow.

These teams may never meet face to face, but through proper use of technology, they will be able to create relationships, collaborate at work and generate a hefty amount of profit for the organization they are working in. It might have seemed impossible in the last century, but it's a common practice now and is quickly becoming the new normal.

Challenges of Managing a Virtual Project Team

There are countless virtual project team challenges that a hybrid team may face. Problems and hindrances will be your companions when you contemplate managing a virtual project team. These challenges will likely be more apparent the less control you have and the more you're able to have direct supervision over the team. Again, maintaining an immaculate relationship between a virtual team and the in-house team is no walk in the park. When heading towards managing a virtual project team, business owners may face the following problems.

1. Absence of Structural Congruence

An offline business means brick-and-mortar premises with the presence of employees all over. There is organizational culture, too, which is maintained strictly. People are doing their job, maintaining the hierarchy, and everything seems so obvious, reasonable, and lively.

On the contrary, when it comes to hybrid or virtual office management, things are quite the opposite. No two employees are in the same place; there's a lack of human connection and, most importantly, an absence of office culture, which is pretty necessary to be competent and progressive. Structural incongruence is felt all over, which often makes employees unfocused. Business owners may think that the handle of control is out of their grip.

2. Absence of the Right Kinds of Tools

A Myriad of communication tools are there in the internet world which can help run a business without having any formal office environment. But the problems occur when we choose tools for operational purposes. We often select tools that are unnecessary, tough to manage, or irrelevant.

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The absence of the right kind of tools hurts the business, and no real gain is achieved if the owners continue using devices which are leaking money but bring no real return. Different tools like time tracking software, screen recorders, online presentation tools and other remote work tools are part and parcel for managing a virtual team, but the problem lies in choosing the right ones and managing their use correctly.

3. Lack of Trust and Reliance

While managing a virtual team, a business owner may feel like he lacks visibility on whether everything is going well. Have you felt like this....As he doesn't directly supervise the employees, he feels frustrated thinking that everything is not under his belt to manage. A shadow of mistrust crosses his mind. He feels insecure to rely heavily on the employees and can't help but take unnecessary steps to manage them, making them a little infuriated and distracted from their work.

This lack of trust and reliance creates a wrong impression of the business owners, and employees won't feel at home while working for their boss. There is also a risk for an imbalance in a hybrid organization as the in-house employees are much more subjected to supervision, but that's not the case considering a hybrid virtual team.

4. Distracting Factors all Around

It's not very difficult to comprehend that while working from home or remotely, an employee is more in control as they feel less supervised by upper virtual team management. This flexibility in disguise can hinder an employee's productivity and deteriorate overall team performance, that is if you they don't know how to effectively work remotely.

Take for example those who work from their couch. Is it really possible to be in the work mode in this type of environment? Distractions love these scenarios and they can be a massive challenge while maintaining a virtual team. For this reason, it's important to educate your team on better remote working practice and share the top remote working habits for success.

5. Absence of Personal Communication and Relationship

Relationship building is an important thing that must take place among employees for the more significant goods of the organization. Corporate leaders must focus on this part quite seriously as it will help them retain employees and create a work culture that brings forward maximum efficiency and productivity.

When working remotely, it's more difficult to build on good relationships, have in-length conversations with co-workers, and feel the warmth of human interaction in a hybrid corporate environment. Contrary to what we see in the case of an in-house team leveraging on a well-built relationship in your hybrid organization, it is more difficult for the people working remotely to collaborate, share and thrive together.

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The Biggest Challenge to Managing a Virtual Project Team

As we are now aware of the problems that an owner of a hybrid organization might face, it's time to focus on the biggest challenge that could intimidate such an owner who has employed both in-house and virtual or remote workers.

We all know that communication is a pivotal part of any business as it is widely known as one of the most remarkable skills to harvest. A well-communicated platform means a seamless connection among employees, well realized business objectives, and a smooth flow of required information inside an organization. If any business lacks this aspect, problems ultimately start growing in all the departments of that business. So, no one can ever ignore the fact that smooth communication is a must in any organization.

The following are the three concrete reasons we consider communication problems the biggest obstacle to overall organizational success.

1. Communication Gap Deteriorates Internal Relationships Through Misunderstandings

The communication gap creates an obstacle in building up good relationships in a hybrid organization and breaks down relationships through misunderstanding. As a hybrid virtual team, it's tricky to communicate everything effectively between both the in-house wing and the remote team. Unfortunately, some employees are left in the dark and loose visibility on the status of projects and actions.

2. Communication Gap Creates Data Inconsistencies

Whether a brick-and-mortar business or a hybrid organization, a business undergoes a high flow of information daily. While working in a virtual team, members may face problems transmitting data and information due to reasons such as networking issues, software malfunctions, lack of suitable communication platforms, or simply the mistake in inputting the data.

3. Communication Gap Hinders Organizational Goals from Being Pursued

A communication gap creates problems in sending the right message to employees regarding corporate vision, mission, objectives, and goals. This problem could be grievous if it happens in a virtual workplace. Without adequately knowing the organizational goals and objectives, it is difficult for employees to do their job according to the defined OKRs.

How to Bridge the Gap of Communication in Hybrid Teams

To ensure proper communication in a hybrid virtual project team, we've outlined seven tips that will help your virtual team become a stronger more connected team. Remember, good project management is very important within virtual teams and it all begins with the right communication.

1. Hire Suitable Talent

Hiring the right fit for your hybrid project team is the first thing you can do to ensure an appropriate communication system. Not all people in the world are suitable to work in a virtual team, and not everyone is built for remote work. Select and recruit those with sound technological knowledge, experience, expertise, and who have a remote-first mindset. Ensure that the people you’re hiring are an excellent match to the hybrid workforce you’ve been building.

2. Organize an Ice-breaking Platform

After hiring the right kind of people, the first thing you should do as a manager is create a common platform for all the employees to engage. Say, for instance, you arrange an ice-breaking session to introduce the new team with the in-house team working for you, or create a messenger group for the new employees to break the ice among themselves. If your team is working in Slack, you can easily connect employees for in-office meet-ups by entering a simple Slack command.

3. Use the Right Kind of Collaboration Tools

Collaboration and communication tools can be of different genres. For instance, tools for instant messaging, data storing, tools for managing tasks, tools for tracking working time, tools for video conferencing or tools for email service, etc. Now that you are inundated with the tools for a different platform, decision fatigue is likely to occur here.

Purchasing all the right kinds of devices at once is probably not possible, plus you'll need time to compare and contrast through a cost-benefit analysis.

4. Be mindful regarding the cultural diversity within virtual teams

Cultural diversity is a buzzword that will surely come up when speaking about hybrid and virtual teams. As a hybrid company, it's normal to have employees from all across the state, country, or even world, many of which will be from different backgrounds, have different tastes, behaviors, cultures, and skills.

As an organization owner, it's important to be mindful of the cultural differences among employees.  A skilled manager never fails to establish good collaboration and a relationship of empathy among employees of diversified backgrounds.

5. Say 'No' to Micromanagement

One of the crucial mistakes a hybrid project manager may make is becoming hypersensitive to the working procedures of the employees. The meticulous manager might be instigated to drive employees to break the shackle of personal secrecy and undo every good done before. Micromanagement occurs when a manager begins to distrust their employees, looses faith in them, tries to get into their zone, and makes them uncomfortable while working. Be aware of this issue. Say 'No' to micromanagement, as building trusted relationships with employees is one of the best investments you can ever make.

Micromanagement is a deteriorating factor for effective communication, mainly because an employee who is micromanaged is often hesitant to communicate even a crucial problem, thus holding back the productivity rope.

6. Make it Easy to Connect

This is another trick to hold the two teams together in a hybrid workplace. Don't forget to remain visible to your employees. Although it may not be possible to physically be around all the time, it's important that your team know they can connect with you when they need. Organizing in-office gatherings, whether they be work related or casual are crucial to bringing the team together.

Tell your managers to hold standup meetings every day to have some chitchats on the agenda at the beginning of daily work time. Arrange for retrospective meetings to evaluate the performance of the previous weeks or months. These simple meetings will bring the team together, and the employees will feel like working under supervision, even working from their own homes.

7. Show Some Faith

It is previously said that micromanagement is not an option under any circumstances. Even if you're not micromanaging, and instead, supervising your employees 24/7, they might be frustrated seeing a pair of eyeballs administering them all time. As an owner or manager, try to have some faith in the employees. Just having trust is not the only thing you should do.

Show your team that you care for them and have good faith in their abilities and work ethics. Doing so, will undoubtedly make employees feel more comfortable and confident in their work. Not only that, they'll also be more enthusiastic about their work if they feel that upper management has faith in their capabilities. It's an intelligent move to hold your employees responsible for their actions and generate more productivity in the workplace. Best of all, promoting trust in the workplace will improve communication!

Tools that can help you achieve smooth communication & workflow

The above mentioned tips can bring communication success to your organization, but to promote excellence in communication, the following tools will provide you with outstanding thrust. Using these apps, you can radically improve the work performance of your company.

1. Top app for organizing in-person meetups

Introducing the slick Slack app with a people-first approach to social workplace interaction.

Employees who are happier at work, perform better, which is why with this tool, it's easier to bring people together for either casual in-office conversations, or remote coffee breaks. Best of all, you don't actually need install anything new, as this app lives in Slack.

2. Chanty for instant messaging

Chanty is an easy-to-use collaboration tool that maximizes communicational efficiency by giving you a smooth experience of texting your employees. Instant messaging is essential if you are working in a virtual team or managing one. Use it to cut off all the communication problems you had previously using heavy and unhandy messaging apps.

3. Zoom for Video Conferencing

Zoom is a big player in the field of video conferencing. Zoom provides you with a seamless peer-to-peer connection and enables you to create a hybrid workforce. Though the main focus of using Zoom is to conduct video conferences. The tool provides you with many features such as chat, zoom room, webinar, zoom event, etc.

The Biggest Challenge to Managing a Virtual Project Team is...

Understanding how to properly communicate! If you are going to be leading in a hybrid world, this is the first thing you must master. The skill of communication is one of the essential skills to have for any employee at any workplace in this 21st century.

People who communicate better are the ones who are more likely to succeed and advance in their personal and professional life. The same goes for hybrid and virtual project teams. If your communication channels are functioning well, your business has a better chance at thriving. And, if you're still struggling, try applying the tips mentioned in this article to lesson the gap in communication in hybrid teams that you manage.

Author: Hasan Abir

Bio: Hasan is working as a Growth Marketer at Apploye. He would love to work out of his comfort zone and his passion is for digital marketing.