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It is a common problem that many leaders find challenging.

Maybe you are struggling to manage your distracting work environment along with your team’s productivity. It is daunting. You are learning and adapting, which requires more time, more focus, and more energy.  In my work with highly complex groups, there are six main challenges to managing a virtual team effectively. Here are three of those with strategies and solutions for how to deal with them. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the series with the remaining three.

1) Employee Management and Accountability

Are you wondering what your employees are getting done at home? Are you letting employees off the hook for not meeting deadlines or targets? This strategy results in the leader becoming the bottleneck to success. It also demotivates the team. Employees must be held accountable to expectations. Leaders need to worry less about productivity and focus more on alignment. Research recently released shows remote working productivity increased. The key question is, are those efforts moving the business forward in the right direction?  

How do I fix it?  If you cannot trust your team or employees, working remotely isn’t the issue, instead the focus should be on having the right people in the right place. Having a system to track what everyone is currently working on and communicate deadlines and targets is an excellent way to hold your team accountable and reach your goals. Trust your team to meet their deadlines. Remember, we all have off days. Follow our 6-step process to create Meaningful Alignment among your team. 

2) Mental Health and Low Morale

We are just beginning to see how the lack of social interaction and staying at home for long periods of time negatively impacts mental health. Mental health and mood directly link to productivity and performance. A drop in productivity and performance is a vicious cycle that most likely makes them feel even worse. 

How do I fix it? We get it. You are no therapist. Here are a couple of things you can do to help low morale and mental health. Be a supportive leader, promote work-life balance, show empathy by expressing support for their problems, and keep an eye out for behavior that seems out of character – these are symptoms that something deeper is troubling them.  Regularly highlight each team member’s achievements. Appreciation and reward go a long way in making employees feel valued and a part of the team. If your employees feel like their work is valued, they’re much more likely to put in their best effort!

3) Poor Communication

What did you say?  No surprise here that miscommunication is one of the biggest challenges in leading virtual teams. It can be challenging to convey your message over zoom, let alone have a high-stakes conversation online. The visual cues and gestures that you pick up on with in-person communication are just harder to read online. Poor communication leads to higher stress levels, conflict, missed targets, and general dissatisfaction. 

How do you fix it? Set guidelines for team communication. Some good practices include: set work hours where everyone is available to collaborate, set response time standards, use virtual communication tools (instant messaging apps like Slack, Google Chat, or Teams help mimic in-person drop-bys).

To get the best results in a virtual world, you need to do your part. Leaders can overcome the virtual challenges that hinder productivity and team culture. Implore these strategies and if you are still struggling, get help. (We do that!)  

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