9 Common Collaboration Mistakes To Avoid When Managing Virtual Teams

Collaboration Mistakes

Over time, the culture of working 9 to 5 jobs has changed. Employees who’d always dreamed of working from home now have their wish.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work seems to be the foremost, if not the only, option for many employees.

Simply put, the remote working has become the new normal. Most businesses are typically being run and managed virtually.

Yes, the entire business operations.

Marketing and sales campaigns, company meetings, virtual team training, customer support operations and even HR management. Everything is being executed using remote collaboration tools.

Geographical barriers no longer exist. Workers can sign in to their workspaces from anywhere in the world.

According to a recent study, 71% of remote workers say that they are happy with their work life. Also, while working remotely, 86% rate their productivity as being excellent.

To add to this, here are a few more reasons remote workers seem to be happier and more productive –

  • Healthier work-life balance
  • Little or no effort required to commute to work
  • Creative license and freedom at work
  • Fewer distractions from colleagues
  • Flexible work schedules

While these points differ from person to person, they all contribute to improving the happiness and productivity of employees. 

Even with all these remote work perks, managing teams virtually requires a lot of work and effort.

In fact, many remote team leaders make a lot of mistakes while collaborating with their virtual teams.

In this article, we shall briefly discuss what you need to know about virtual team management. Then we shall focus on the common virtual collaboration mistakes you definitely need to avoid.

Virtual Team Management for Businesses

Have you at any point, while working remotely, wondered what your team members were doing? If your answer is yes, you need to devise an effective virtual management plan.

The rules of virtual team management differ from those of managing employees in an office environment.

Virtual team management involves efficiently supervising, leading, and maintaining employees of distributed teams. This can be as difficult as nailing jelly to a tree for some, and even easier for a few. It all depends on how well you are managing your team. To understand this better, let’s hover over some pros and cons of management for distributed teams.

Pros:

  • Brick and mortar cost savings
  • Work flexibility
  • Happier and more productive employees
  • Bigger talent pool
  • Lower carbon footprint
  • Larger employee base

Cons:

Here, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. But to further cut on the cons and enhance the impact of the pros, it is necessary to avoid mistakes while managing a team.

Let’s go through common collaboration mistakes you have to avoid at all costs.

9 Common Collaboration Mistakes To Avoid

1. Not Designing a Strategy

A firm foundation of a strategy to execute any plan is a must. That is why virtual management also needs a strategy built beforehand. It’s necessary to define a strategy around how things are going to work for you and your team. Otherwise, you will just be picking up on scattered attempts of managing your team well.

Creating a hierarchy is the first step towards building a strategy. This can simplify the ‘who responds to who’ factor of virtual management. This can streamline the reporting system, and you will always know what to expect from whom. You can then decide a set of criteria you want to track i.e., working hours, employee attendance, and other productivity measures, and then find relevant tools for it.

With everything else in place, let’s talk about the next important aspect.

Communication!

It gets difficult managing the communication with virtual employees. Most of the employers either do it too much or not at all. Your communication with your virtual employees should also be well-planned. To keep a check on that, keep these pointers in mind:

  • Tools for quick video communication.
  • Be wary of chat and email overload.
  • Systematic collaboration on documents and spreadsheets.
  • Organize a system of overlapping times for different time zones if needed.

Having a set of strategic factors in mind, you can easily kick-start the virtual collaboration with your team.

2. Micromanaging Remote Employees

Collaboration Mistake: Micromanaging Remote Employees

This is a common mistake an employer makes when they are dealing with remote employees. It is understood that you might face difficulties in trusting employees whom you don’t meet in person regularly. But that is exactly what can reduce an employee’s dedication to working.

Let’s face it. 

If you have hired someone, trust their capacity to deliver.

And when you can’t do that, it may lead you to micromanage your employees. This leads to increased efforts in reporting and can be stressful for both employees and managers.

Also, calling or emailing your team every once in a while in the name of ‘follow up’ is only going to increase unnecessary pressure on them and waste your valuable minutes. Instead, give them some breathing space.

Sometimes, your employee’s work hours may not align with yours. In such instances, you can just keep open lines of communication and trust them for getting the work done. 

3. Skipping One-on-One Meetings

Amidst a bunch of work meetings comprising follow-ups, stand-ups, reports, etc., the importance of 1-1s is fading. It might sound like it’s impossible and time-waster to talk with so many people. But this can contribute to building better relationships with the employees.

One-on-one meetings ensure that the manager and the employee are on the same page. Also, it gives them a space to share their ideas more clearly. And not just this, it comes with a list of benefits listed below:

  • Strengthens team relationships
  • Builds team loyalty
  • Improves your productivity
  • Helps in gaining personalized feedbacks
  • Provides regular updates

Use this technique as a medium to encourage, empower and coach your team individually. Because if not, you might just end up with a bunch of unsatisfied employees with decreased productivity.

4. Lack of Communication with the Team

Lack of Communication

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Open communication is the key to successful collaboration and effective workforce management.

And which is the most obvious way to do that?

Effective communication!

With remote employees, effective communication requires more effort and time, but the juice is worth the squeeze.

Without proper communication, remote employees are going to miss out on a lot of interactions that usually happen in an office. For example, they miss out on a lot of information which employees get through chit-chats, overhearing other employees, impromptu meetings, lunch-break discussions, etc., in an office. To compensate for them, there is a need for regular interactions.

For interactions to be regular, always pre-plan.

Develop a habit of scheduling social interactions in your work calendar for you and your employees.

This can also help in creating a healthy work environment.

5. Not Setting Clear Expectations

Imagine you are somebody who works 8-9 hours a day and is used to producing a certain amount of work in a certain amount of time. Now, what if you don’t receive as much output from your team members?

You would be mad, won’t you?

Let’s accept the fact that every person has their own time and pace to work. And as a manager or a leader, you might also have certain expectations from your employees. To make these two ends meet, all you have to do is maintain transparency from the beginning.

Well, your employees might not be good at mind-reading, so you have to state clearly what you are expecting from them. This benefits your team members to set their targets and get prepared for the expected pace of work.

A crystal clear set of expectations also benefits you in knowing the amount of work is to be produced beforehand. This aspect leads to strategy building as you know what you can expect in the upcoming months.

6. Too Many Meetings

We understand how meetings are a crucial part of the management of distributed teams. But also think about how much is too much.

Regular meetings are always good for the team but before organizing impromptu meetings or work-related discussions, think deeply of how important it is. Is it worth disturbing an employee’s workflow or will an email do the job?

Hundreds of executives, in fields ranging from high tech and retail to pharmaceuticals and consulting, say that they feel overwhelmed by their meetings—whether formal or informal, traditional or agile, face-to-face or electronically mediated.

In reality, arranging too many meetings can take a toll on the overall productivity, focus, and engagement of the organization. And that is why you need a structured plan. A structured approach towards analyzing the need for meetings can bring significant benefits to your organization. Here is how you can avoid the meeting trap:

  • Collect data from each employee
  • Invest efforts in interpreting the data
  • Agree on a relevant goal
  • Set milestones and keep track of the progress
  • Regularly debrief as a group

7. Overlooking the Development of the Team

Remote Employee Development

Businesses often scoff at the idea of the personal development of the employees, especially with remote employees. But since remote work started gaining popularity, an employee’s development has been brought into the spotlight.

Employees in the office find it easy to take part in training sessions, meaningful discussions, workshops, etc. But remote employees don’t even get the chance to ask one-off questions at the desk. So, it’s quite essential to create and plan a thorough training program to get them ramped up.

It is undeniable that there are quite a few challenges when it comes to remote employee training like lack of supervision, lack of access to information, social isolation, technical challenges, and distractions.

A well-planned strategy like the one mentioned below can outweigh these challenges:

  • Choose a delivery model
  • Make an effective training schedule
  • Purchase necessary tools
  • Work on a checklist
  • Prepare learning materials
  • Deliver splendid training
  • Keep track of learning results

8: Not Using the Right Tools

With the growing technology, work culture is changing all across the world and more people are working remotely. Remote work has now become the smart option but is highly dependent on the right usage of tools. 

It can be challenging to track and manage tasks as your team is scattered around the world. So, businesses have started to look out for collaboration tools that can make lengthy jobs easier. 

Well, almost all businesses are using tools.

The important part here is to choose a tool or a combination of tools that are specific to your needs.

So, don’t go for the cool option instead choose the most beneficial one.

Other than the basic timeline tracking tools, file storage systems, and document collaboration, it is quite crucial to determine if you need specific role-based functions, advanced functionality for communications, integration capabilities, and more.

Here is a list of tools you can check out for your organizational needs.

Tools for work management:

  • Saviom 
  • Scoro
  • Trello
  • Asana

Tools for time management:

Tools for communication and collaboration:

  • Zoom
  • Slack
  • Samepage
  • Skype
  • Blink
  • Fleep
  • Yammer

Solutions for remote sharing:

  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox
  • Team Viewer
  • Chrome Remote Desktop

It is also important to mention that providing access to certain tools that make an employee’s work from home easier is necessary. For example, if you have hired a content writer, you can make their writing jobs easier by giving them premium access to tools like Grammarly, Pro Writing Aid etc. Similarly, if you have a content creation team, access to certain content curation tools can increase their productivity.

Well, it’s time for businesses to manage teams differently and get the work done. Remember that this isn’t the rulebook to which tools to use, so keep exploring your options and choose a combination of tools that drive the best results.

9. Lack of Learning Opportunities

Remote work culture is here to stay, and so is virtual management. Nowadays, all businesses are focusing on providing the same work experience to their remote employees as to their office employees.

It is also important to keep a check if the employee is learning whilst working. And you can barely do it manually when dealing with remote employees.

Here is an idea.

Create a plan for each employee and decide their learning programs. Pay attention to each employee’s level of knowledge and choose courses that are relevant to them. You can also organize coaching sessions or mentorship programs. Deploy separate communication channels and consistently dedicate a specific amount of time to it on a long-term basis. 

There are many online learning platforms where you can direct your employees to do the training.

Learning will enhance your employee’s knowledge as well as their performance. Hence, it comes as a benefit to your organization. This will also contribute to bridging the communication gap between the colleagues, managers, and the leaders as they might end up interacting with someone senior to them for a better understanding of what they have learned.

Last but not least, let’s hover over some collaboration tips that can help you. 

Collaboration Tips to Manage Distributed Teams

1. Know the coworkers as much as possible
2. Communicate when needed
3. Use the right online communication tools
4. Create a video-first culture
5. Treat remote employees exactly like you would treat an office employee
6. Check-in on remote employees but don’t micromanage
7.Host regular one-on-one and team meetings

Wrap up

No matter how many years you have been in the business, but management of remote employees is yet to be learned by many. Rather than learning what to do, it’s more important to know what not to do.

Now that you already have a list of collaboration mistakes that you have to avoid, we hope that your remote teams gain a better experience. Avoiding these mistakes and working on the tips can foster better collaboration and work environment.

Though there is no handy rulebook for management of distributed teams but with the right principles of management, you will be all set to discover a more productive and collaborative team.

Let us know in the comments section below about your experience with managing distributed teams.

About the Author

Surya is an SEO Strategist at SocialPilot. He often looks out for new strategies to optimize the content. He is a problem solver by nature, a mountain person to the core, and music calms the chaos in him.

 
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