Advancements in technology have made it easy for anyone anywhere to get a job and work remotely. More companies are building virtual/remote teams not only to make operations cost-efficient but to diversify their talent pool and remain competitive. But managing a virtual team is not easy. There are several factors like distance, varying time zones, cultural differences, communication, and remote team dispersion that must be considered when managing virtual teams. These make it a bit more tricky than when handling teams in an office.

When you don’t take into account remote work factors that can affect your team’s performance, there’s a good chance that your virtual teams would fail.

Here we uncover the 6 most common reasons why remote teams fail and how you can avoid them.

How to Assess a Virtual Team is Failing

Any company who is transitioning to a virtual work setup will meet challenges. While it’s helpful to know the common reasons why virtual teams fail before you introduce remote work to your organization, knowing the signs of impending failure will also be beneficial. The common signs that a virtual team is failing are the following:

  • Delay in deliverables
  • Poor output quality
  • Poor team performance
  • Disengagement
  • Strained team relationships

If you are experiencing any of these, it’s time to hold the reins and bring your remote team back on track.

Common Reasons Why Virtual Teams Fail

Knowing the common reasons why virtual teams fail will allow you to proactively create the right work environment that is conducive for your remote teams.

Lack of Clear Goals

As with any team, clear goals and objectives are crucial to attaining high levels of performance. As it’s harder to communicate with remote teams, managers must exert extra effort to ensure everyone is informed and on board with the team’s project goals and objectives. If embarking on a new project, a kick-off meeting is beneficial to have everyone participate. The project leaders can then discuss with the team what the priorities will be and what the targets are for the project to be successful. Such meetings allow virtual teams to know who they’ll be working with for the project and what their goals will be. Ensure to have regular video calls with your team to assess progress and check if you’re still on track.

Lack of Clear Roles

A clear definition of team roles and responsibilities is important to any type of team, more so a virtual one. When you work remotely, you must know who you report to and who you should reach out to for specific issues and tasks. It minimizes inefficiencies and delays and prevents confusion which can lead to disarray when you’re working with people from different continents and time zones. When starting your virtual team, establish each and everyone’s roles and responsibilities upfront. Have documentation ready so that anyone in the team can refer to it when the need arises. The goal is for anyone in the team to know who to consult with or ask help to ensure business continuity.

Not Assessing Remote Work Readiness

Not everyone is cut out for remote work. One of the sure ways to let a virtual team fail is to have team members who are not fit to work remotely be in them. Not only will you experience low project performance, but you’ll also cause unnecessary stress on your employees. Building your virtual teams may start from the point of hiring. If so, make sure to read our tips on hiring for virtual teams to know how you can check for remote work readiness. If your virtual team will be comprised of current employees, it’s worth doing the same remote work readiness assessment for new hires. Ask them if they’re open to working remotely. Should they agree and you decide that they are ready, it’s still best to have remote work training. This will help them prepare for the remote work life that’s ahead of them.

Lack of Clear Remote Policies and Processes

Not having clear remote policies and processes is one of the top reasons why virtual teams fail. Policies and processes provide structure to how your virtual teams operate. It’s what helps teams stay within the expected standards of work quality and productivity. Remote work policies would include work schedules, communication channels, knowledge sharing process and tools, cybersecurity practices, equipment requirements and guidelines, clear metrics and KPIs. A remote work policy will also contain the team’s roles and responsibilities and reporting structures. These should be documented and must be readily accessible to anyone anytime.

Lack of Accountability

When you don’t see your teammates physically it’s hard to know how they’re doing on their tasks. It can also be difficult to keep yourself disciplined when you don’t have someone with you as you do the work. When working with virtual teams, proactive communication and self-discipline are crucial. Be comfortable in checking in with your teammates and asking for help. These help foster accountability, cooperation, and teamwork.

Not Prioritizing Socio-emotional Activities

Socio-emotional activities are tasks that increase the cohesion of a virtual team. When you’re co-located with your team, it’s easy to set up team building activities. But that’s not to say you can’t do the same with your virtual teams. There are many remote team building activities that you can explore. These help band your virtual teams together and develop a harmonious working relationship despite the geographical distance. One of the common top remote working challenges virtual teams face is isolation. Isolation results in poor employee performance which then impacts your team’s success. Doing socio-emotional activities have a direct impact on employee engagement, individual and team performance, and subsequently project success.

Communication with Remote Teams

Poor communication is at the root of why virtual teams fail. Open and consistent communication is significant to the success of virtual teams. It paves the way for the correct implementation of remote work policies, establishing goals and roles, fostering accountability, and building relationships. Communicating regularly with your team helps you establish a systematic way of working. Using the right collaboration tools will empower your virtual teams to communicate seamlessly. Running effective team meetings will help ensure you and your team are all on the same page when it comes to meeting your project targets.

Managing Virtual Teams

Managing virtual teams is no easy feat. If you’re trying to use traditional management strategies that are known to work better in co-located teams, think again. Remote teams require a different approach when it comes to management, communication, and skills. Knowing the common reasons why virtual teams fail will allow you to tailor-fit your management style and work practices to what would work best for your virtual team.

Learn to Work Smarter, Not Harder!

Get our top articles weekly.

About the Author: Lena Boiser

Avatar photo
Lena Boiser is an Agile enthusiast. Starting off her career as a Software Business Analyst in 2010, she eventually performed other roles including Project Manager and IT Business Manager. When she was immersed in Agile methodologies in 2014, Lena found her way through honing her craft and eventually became a Certified Scrum Product Owner. In 2017, after 7 years of working in the corporate world, Lena started her own remote consulting practice. Today, she provides project management and Scrum Product Ownership services to various businesses including software development companies, e-Commerce business owners, and small to medium sized companies. She believes that even teams working remotely can harness the benefits of Agile in order to deliver results for their companies. In her free time she likes to write. One day she could be writing about Agile, the next she could be writing anything about fashion or travel.

Table Of Contents

Discover many more posts…

Unleash the Power of Lean Visual Management!

Boost traceability, and collaboration across all organizational levels with Kanban Zone!

No credit card | No contract | No risk