How to Overcome The Challenges Of Virtual Teams

Virtual teams, with their benefits and downsides are here to stay. Find out how to manage the challenges to grow your business.

October 24, 2022
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The covid-19 Pandemic came with many changes, including a shift in workplace dynamics.  That shift needed the workforce to devise means to keep working despite geographical differences and employers obliged. An article by Finance Online shows that 80% of global corporate remote work policies had shifted to virtual and mixed forms during the early part of the coronavirus crisis. Employers can now recruit talents from different parts of the world, and employees can collaborate on projects remotely.

While virtual teams have become a mainstay in workflow architecture and eased work synergy, they are most beneficial when managed effectively.  

The success of a virtual team depends mainly on how well the challenges of managing remote employees are overcome. The inability to tackle these challenges makes a virtual team unproductive. 

So, how do you find the balance?

In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of virtual teams, the challenges they commonly encounter and how to properly handle them. Let’s get to it!

What is the biggest challenge for virtual teams?

The biggest challenge to managing a virtual project team is poor communication.

Communication in a virtual world has its peculiarities, different from conventional face-to-face interactions. People have to rely on verbal and temporal communication cues in the virtual world. When these cues are misinterpreted, misunderstandings easily arise.

The problem of communication in virtual teams may arise due to the following:

  • Different communication styles: Some team members may prefer routine video call-ins, while others prefer to communicate via emails or short messages. These differences in communication styles often introduce some tension in the team as different reactions can be easily misunderstood.

  • Different time zones: Delayed responses may frequently occur due to time zone differences, meaning that all employees may not resume work at the same time. And this comes with challenges.

  • Unstructured communication channels: Problems of poorly made decisions, loss of patronage, missed milestones and absence of innovation occur in teams that don’t communicate well.

How can this challenge be resolved?

The problem of poor communication between virtual team members is overcome by addressing the root causes. It is important to lay down communication guidelines that team members should abide by. 

The guideline should specify:

  • Appropriate communication tools.

The tool selected should reflect the communication style of the team. Video call-ins are supported by Skype, Google Meet, and Zoom. Instant messaging is great via slack, while the team can use Emails for official conversations.

  • Working hours.

When team members have clear working hours and know each other's work hours, there’s less room for misunderstandings. It solves the issue of late replies and complacency and brings about effective collaboration.

  • The tone of communication.

Communication should be polite and cordial. Since a virtual team comprises people from different geographical areas and cultures, using slang is not ideal, as some could be offensive in certain cultures.

What are the three challenges that virtual teams face?

Apart from the major drawback of communication, the three common challenges of virtual teams include:

  1. Less productive outputs

The sense of urgency that characterizes a physical workplace is absent in virtual teams. So, there's always the need to ensure that your virtual teams put in maximum effort.

You can boost the productivity of virtual teams by:

                 ●  Having regular check-ins

Employees show more commitment when you frequently check in on their progress and learn about their challenges in specific tasks. Using Check-in templates also allow the team to overcome the challenge of irregular communication. You can also share proven tips for improving productivity with team members.

                  ●  Working towards a clearly defined goal

A virtual team must have clear and precise goals to prevent redundancy and burnout. In addition, the goal should be realistic and achievable.

  1. Poor task management

Task supervision becomes more difficult and complex when multiple teams are involved. The process of scheduling virtual check-ins can be tedious and often requires methods different from what may typically work for a physical team. 

What's a solution?

                  ●  Project management tools

These tools and platforms help you effectively manage virtual teams. They make meeting scheduling easier, allowing you to easily track deadlines and see the progress on the current task each employee is working on. 

Assembly offers teams a range of workflows that improve productivity and accountability. Book a Free Demo Today.

  1. Low team morale

Challenges of teamwork include low team spirit. Virtual communications cannot match the extent of bonding face-to-face interactions offer.

Once in a while, remote workers may experience workspace detachment. And this affects team cohesiveness, causing a lack of motivation and reduced performance

How do you solve this?

                  ●  Regularly check up on the welfare of team members

When conducting check-ins, don't just inquire about work. It’s essential to ask about your employees and how they're faring. Let them know that they are vital to the team. Celebrate their wins.

                  ●  Promote socialization

Encourage team members to get to know each other more personally. Workers can have a slack channel for conversations not related to work. Another option is to dedicate a particular time weekly for employees to check up on one another. The goal is to foster team bonding and team building. 

Check out Assembly's list of team-building activities.

How do you manage a virtual team effectively?

There are various ways to manage a virtual team effectively. Here are our top 5: 

  1. Proper task delegation.

After establishing a good communication policy in the team, it’s vital to delegate tasks to team members correctly. This implies that the job description should be clear, concise and tailored towards achieving the team's objective.

  1. Integration of collaborative tools.

Employ collaborative tools for efficient task management. This introduces structure to the virtual workflow, enabling you to monitor the progress of tasks assigned. They also act as a repository for important files and documents, making them easily accessible to team members.

  1. Regular feedback.

Regular feedback is the gift that keeps on giving. Commend team members doing an excellent job and suggest ways to improve for those not performing well. Constructive feedback boosts the team's commitment and morale.

  1. Duly followed work hours.

Though the workspace is virtual, it is not proper to disregard an agreed-upon working duration. Employees feel exploited and not respected when there's no respect for the work hours. 

  1. Provision of necessary tools.

Just as it applies to the physical workplace, remote employees need the right tools to carry out their tasks effectively.

Assistance could range from covering the subscription fees of specific applications, handling internet costs or purchasing laptops. There's also the option of splitting the costs or giving out loans.

What are the challenges and advantages of a virtual team?

Before we consider virtual teams' benefits and drawbacks, let's look at the different types of virtual teams. They include:

  • Parallel teams

Members of a parallel team are professionals drawn from the same company. Their major function is to assess a peculiar company's issue and develop an action plan using their expertise and knowledge. These teams are temporary and get dissolved once their objectives are achieved.

  • Networked teams

They are cross-functional, drawing members from different areas of speciality. Companies set up these teams to boost service delivery and improve customer satisfaction.

New members are routinely added, while old members exit when their tasks are complete. Cross-functional challenges of poor communication and distrust characterize these teams.

  • Production teams

These are composed of employees responsible for daily operations. Each team member has specific tasks and is accountable to a supervisor or team lead. As long as the organization still exists, they remain functional.

  • Product development teams

These teams have experts in specific fields whose sole aim is to develop or modify a company's product or service. They are formed on a short-term basis. Product development teams are disbanded once their purpose of creation is achieved.

  • Global virtual teams

These are individuals working across limits of geographical locations, cultures and time. They are, however, connected by technology to achieve a common goal by executing co-dependent tasks.

Pros of a virtual team

  1. Cost-effectiveness

Companies can significantly save costs when employees work remotely. Expenses such as office maintenance, office supplies and transport are cut off.

  1. Access to a broader talent pool

Employers can extend their search beyond the local talents available. They are not limited by distance in their search for bright minds.

  1. Low turnover rate

Virtual teams are a win-win for both employees and employers. 

Employees can enjoy the flexibility of working from home without the pressure of an office environment. In turn, employers can save recruitment costs due to reduced turnover.

  1. Constant availability

Companies can achieve 24/7 service with virtual teams. They can harness the opportunities presented by different time zones to achieve round-the-clock availability. While one team hits closing hour, another team in a different time zone takes over.

Cons of a virtual team

  1. Absence of team cohesion

Virtual interactions don't bode very well for team bonding. Team members may not understand themselves adequately compared to what is obtained in face-to-face interactions.

  1. Management difficulties

Supervision of virtual teams is typically more demanding and may require expertise or proper training.

  1. Technical limitations

The backbone of virtual teams is seamless technology. When tools become faulty, their effects on operations are more than when there’s a physical space. 

  1. Communication breakdown

Since team members are far apart, poor communication structure or a break in communication could lead to the total absence of interaction between team members.

Successfully Managing Your Virtual Team

Virtual teams are indispensable, considering the significant benefits that they offer. But challenges exist. The success of companies with virtual workers depends on how well each company handles the challenges of managing remote employees. 

Virtual teams can attain their full potential when these generic issues are summarily nipped in the bud. The challenges of virtual teams are not impossible to manage. Productivity tools like Assembly sit right at the top of the pack to get your virtual teams productive and motivated.

Get started today and harness the full benefits of your virtual pool of talents.

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Get the foundational knowledge on creating an employee recognition program that boosts employee engagement and helps them feel valued.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do and for FREE! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

Could find the answer you are looking for?

Please schedule time with an expert and we will help you to get all your questions answered