For many organizations, remote teamwork is becoming the norm. Nearly 70% of the global workforce works from home at least one day a week. That means, more than ever, companies are relying on virtual office teams to be productive, efficient, and effective.
However, with a virtual team, there come challenges that even enterprise-level companies are prone to. Due to some of these difficulties, a few big-name companies, such as Bank of America, Aetna, and Yahoo even eliminated their remote work programs.
The truth is, remote work can be the best decision you ever make for your company. But if you're not aware of the potential problems that can transpire, due to the very nature of distributed work, any success can be short-lived.
6 Problems That Can Destroy a Virtual Office Team Overnight
While everyone imagines remote work being an opportunity to shut off distractions, achieve work-life balance, and become highly productive, there are absolutely factors that can send your team's morale and efficiency plummeting. If you're operating a distributed team, or you even work remotely a few times a week, it's best to look out for a few common mistakes that remote organizations make.
1. Sudden, Dramatic Shifts In Operations
When things aren't operating at peak efficiency or morale is low, a lot of teams jump into new collaboration tools, technology, and processes they believe will fix the problem. These sudden shifts can make your problems worse, especially if there's constant change.
You can prevent this by making better, more strategic choices about operation change, such as:
- Having a standard onboarding period for a new tool
- Consulting the team on big decisions, such as switching project management platforms
- Avoiding quick hires and slowing down your hiring process to assess fit
- Making sure that any new potential platform fulfills a business goal or objective
Overall, if you make changes too frequently, it can erode the trust and stability of your team.
2. Ongoing Challenges With Compliance
According to Forbes, there are three consistent compliance challenges for remote companies: tax headaches, immigration violations, and labor laws. For specific industries, there can be even more compliance challenges that creep up.
If you're an industry that must follow certain compliance guidelines, your systems, processes, and technology should all be reviewed to ensure they meet the standards. If left unchecked, remote companies can unintentionally violate terms and be penalized.
3. Ineffective, Clunky Technology
The truth is, not all technology best supports remote work. There are platforms and software that can add to remote friction, such as messaging fatigue and communication lag. Additionally, these tools can make it more difficult for your team members to do their best work, whether they're in a remote space or not. Any and all of these problems can lead to low efficiency, morale, and productivity with your team.
4. The Wrong Leadership
Your team is only as strong as its leader. When a good leader is in place, your entire team feels energized and motivated. However, when the wrong leadership is in place, your team can easily feel demoralized and unappreciated. With remote teams, leadership is even more important.
Teams are distributed, and individual workers don't get as much face-time with their managers. Thus, anyone working in a leadership position on a distributed team must know how to:
- Build trust
- Identify low morale
- Prevent team burnout
- Foster a positive, fun company culture
- Mentor and nurture team members
All of these factors are critical to maintaining happy, satisfied remote teams. As Jeff Schmitt points out in an article for Forbes, talent also comes into play. Talented employees want to work for leaders, not managers. If they don't get the mentorship and nurturing they need, they'll bring their talent elsewhere.
There's a large mindset difference too. A manager focuses on getting tasks done and increasing efficiency. A leader focuses on a uniting people around a future goal and aiming for that.
5. An Overzealous "Hustle" Culture
The word hustle can sometimes refer to passionate, devoted work. But often, especially for remote teams, hustle is a dangerous mindset that keeps employees and teams working long hours with little work-life balance. Longer hours aren't always associated with more success.
In an article for The New York Times, David Heinemeier Hansson, the co-founder of Basecamp, called the hustle culture "grim and exploitative." According to Hansson, despite a lot of remote workers working constantly, long hours are not shown to improve productivity or creativity.
6. Lack Of Trust Between Team Members
When your team members don't trust each other, the communication, efficiency, and productivity of your entire team can decline. Trust and rapport between team members not only helps collaboration, it improves morale.
In an article for Entrepreneur, Angela Kambouris writes: "In business, trust is one of the most valuable and complex of all your assets. It solidifies your relationships with all people and leads an organization to thrive."
Why Virtual Offices Fail And How To Prevent It
There are a lot of reasons that the success of a virtual office can go into a steep decline. One of the most common reasons are complexities around your tools and systems. However, there are also a number of ways to work on maximizing team morale with these proven practices.