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Key Communication Challenges For Virtual Teams

Remote and virtual workplaces are becoming increasingly common. However, for managers who are used to leading teams face-to-face, the switch can be difficult to negotiate for a number of reasons. In this article, we’ll look at the key communication challenges for virtual teams and how you can overcome them within your organisation.

Virtual Teams & Communication

There are many benefits to remote working. Not only does it give companies the freedom to seek out the best team members for the job, regardless of location, it also gives employees more flexibility in how and when they work. However, without the right set-up and consideration, remote working for teams not used to operating virtually can lead to a dip in productivity and motivation.

One of the biggest challenges for virtual teams is communication. Or lack thereof. Remote working is very different from working in an office, as you may have guessed or experienced. There are fewer opportunities for general office chit chat, and employees can often feel quite disparate and disconnected from their colleagues.

As we know, communication is one of the cornerstones of effective teamwork. Without it, leaders and team members have no idea where they or the project stands at any given time, or what is happening behind the scenes. This can lead to mistrust or lack of motivation, which are not conducive to a productive work environment.

Communication Challenges For Virtual Teams'

Lack Of Non-Verbal & Contextual Cues

Body language is important in communicating effectively. In fact, when we interact face-to-face, between 60-80% of communication is non-verbal. As you might imagine, this is pretty hard to replicate virtually, particularly if your main method of communication is email or instant messenger. As well as this, contextual cues and tone of voice also help us to understand what is being said and why. In written communication, this is lost and can very quickly lead to misunderstandings or colleagues getting the wrong end of the stick.

To overcome this, the main method of communication you should be using in your virtual teams is video calling. While it is not quite the same as communicating in person, it allows team members to see each other and reap the benefits non-verbal communication brings.

Body Language'

Less Opportunities For Team Bonding

When working face to face, teams are free to bond naturally. There are ample opportunities for general conversation, where they can get to know and understand one another and the way they work. In virtual teams, if conversation is confined only to meetings which focus on goals and deliverables, this rapport doesn’t develop. This can lead to conflict, misunderstandings and members of the team feeling left out.

To overcome this, leaders of virtual teams should leave space in the working day for team members to connect and talk to each other. Whether that’s a quick ten-minute conversation every morning to touch base and check everyone is okay or a virtual team building event to help everyone relax and get to know one another in an informal environment, you should give virtual team members the opportunity to connect on an informal basis as well as a professional one.

Team Bonding'

Troublesome Technology

When you’re working with computers, software and technology, it’s inevitable that problems will arise that inhibit communication. When this persists, it can lead to a real breakdown in communication, which is sure to become a big problem.

For this reason, it’s imperative to make sure that your virtual teams have the equipment necessary to work virtually. As well as this, you should set the standard for etiquette on virtual calls to ensure everyone knows what is expected of them in terms of communication and conduct. For example, you may request that everyone has their microphone muted unless they are speaking on the call. You may also set expectations that everyone will be called on to contribute in meetings, this can help to avoid introverts from getting forgotten about in important decisions.

Troublesome Tech'

Different Time Zones

One of the advantages of virtual teams is that you can bring together the very best in your field from all over the world. That being said, a drawback to this can be finding a time to get everyone together for a meeting while taking into account different time zones.

To overcome this, see if you can find a time slot that works for all the different time zones. If this isn’t possible, and it is necessary for team members to take work calls out of their usual working hours, make sure meeting times are varied so everyone is required to compromise at some point. To make this effective, ensure meetings are scheduled well in advance so individuals can organise their schedules to accommodate.

Different Time Zones'

Crossed Wires and Miscommunication

It can be tempting to download all the latest and greatest software for virtual teams in an attempt to feel productive. However, it’s likely that this will just end up confusing your team. The best solution to this is to keep it simple and be clear in the ways you want the team to communicate.

Without clear guidance on how communication can be organised, you’ll probably find that each member of your team has different preferences. This can lead to information flying all over the place and inevitably getting lost. Instead, let your team know how they should communicate with one another and how information should be recorded and shared. With these guidelines in place, everyone will be singing from the same hymn sheet and information will be passed around a lot more efficiently.

Miscommunication'

Virtual Team Building for Better Communication At KDM

Here at KDM, we understand how important communication is between virtual team members. To support your business with this, we have a wide range of virtual team building packages available which focus on improving communication and collaboration between virtual teams. These online team building events are delivered by our friendly, experienced team and give ample opportunity for teams to get to know each other, feel comfortable and build on skills such as communication and problem-solving. For more information, contact us today. Our Event Managers are on hand to help you find the best virtual event to suit your need and team requirements.

 

Virtual team building experience'