Benefits of a virtual team
Teamwork makes the dream work. But what happens when a team becomes fully remote? In the post-COVID era, society at large has been challenged to rethink the ways of working and to challenge old traditional work methods. At Uplift, we have been a remote team since launching in 2016 and are familiar with its upsides and challenges. In this article, we will share our experience of the benefits of having a virtual team, the potential challenges and how to address them.
While we saw a notable increase in virtual teams during COVID, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, between 2012-16 there was a shift from 39% to 43% of people working from home at least sometimes. The term 'virtual teams' has become more widely used since the pandemic of 2020. Today, 80% of global corporate work policies have shifted towards virtual and hybrid forms of team collaboration. Looking at the benefits, there is no question why that is.
5 Top Benefits of Virtual Teams
1. Cost-efficient and easy to scale
For employers and employees alike, virtual teams can be more cost-effective. Switching to a virtual team is likely to save your company money, as you will no longer have to pay rent for office space, utilities, and other operating expenses. Additionally, your employees will be able to save time and money by not having to commute every day to the office. The use of virtual teams is also an excellent solution for companies trying to scale up their business without disrupting their current staff.
2. Global talent pool
One of the advantages of virtual teams is that you won't be limited by location when it comes to finding talent. With access to the global talent pool, your business can hire quickly and select the best candidate, calibrating for compensation, experience, and availability. This enables quicker go-to-market for new products and services, and a larger market as well, since you can hire support and sales to service your business in any timezone.
3. Increase productivity
A happy workforce means a productive workplace. When remote employees are given flexibility regarding their work schedules, this is especially true. By allowing people to choose the schedule that works best for them, your team can maintain a more productive workday, minimize distractions, and avoid unnecessary meetings. As a result of increased flexibility, people can take their pets for a walk, get their kids to school, or get them to the doctor without stressing out.
4. Work-life balance
We found that working remotely forced us to re-evaluate how we spend our time at work. New hobbies resurfaced and we spent more time with family and loved ones. Instead of spending 1 hour a day commuting, which adds up to 225 hours (over 9 days!) a year, this time can be better invested in well-being. This results in less stress, leading to happier and more productive employees who can use their leisure hours for hobbies.
5. Improve employee retention rate
When it comes to employee retention, the best way to boost your bottom line is by improving your employee retention rates. When employees get to enjoy a better work-life balance, there is a good chance that they are more likely to stick around longer. This is especially true for software engineers, who enjoy the freedom of setting their own schedule, working flexible hours, and individualizing their work space. As a bonus, by improving the employee retention rate, you decrease the time and money spent on recruiting and training new staff.
Common challenges of virtual teams and how to overcome them
There are many benefits to working in a virtual team, but there are some clear disadvantages that might sneak up on you. By addressing these in foresight, you can avoid its long-term effects on your team’s productivity. In our experience, there are 4 main ones you should look out for and here is how you effectively move past them.
1. The lack of face-to-face interaction
When working with remote teams, it's easy for communication styles to become very formal and impersonal as people become more focused on typing than listening. It's important to make sure everyone feels comfortable enough with each other so they can speak freely and naturally when communicating with one another. One great way to do this is by holding regular video calls or conference calls where everyone can see each other while talking. This will help create a more friendly environment where people feel comfortable sharing ideas and bouncing ideas off each other before coming up with solutions together as a team.
2. Keeping teams aligned
Maintaining alignment within the team is one of the biggest challenges for virtual teams. When you are not having as many meetings, you risk spending a lot of time reaching out to individual team members or worrying about whether they are moving forward promptly. This is why we recommend setting up regular check-ins with your remote team members so that they know what's expected of them and how they can get help if they need it. Taking the time to sit down and discuss with your team members about their progress creates an opportunity to talk about potential obstacles they might face and allows you to give feedback as well suggestions. There are also excellent software options available on the market like Trello, that lets you keep track of progress, and set common goals with a clear timeline.
3. Communication challenges
You probably already know that communication is the heart of any team. It's how you know how your team is doing, their engagement, and any obstacles they might be facing. When managing a virtual team, communication can be more difficult than when managing an in-office one. This is because you are missing out on valuable visual cues that help people connect. The best way to overcome this challenge is by using communication tools such as Slack or Google Hangouts so that you can still communicate effectively with your virtual team even though they may be working from home or in different locations around the world!
4. Team building
Team building can be challenging for virtual teams since you miss a lot of the ‘natural’ interactions and opportunities to connect that you would normally have in an office space. At Uplift, we make sure to have regular team-building activities to make up for this. The absolute best way to do this is by creating dedicated spaces for casual conversations. In Slack, we use Donut, an integrated tool to create random virtual meetups, giving the chance for teammates from different departments to get to know each other better.
After reading through this post and doing some of your own research, you should now have a better understanding of the pros and cons of virtual teams, as well as the steps you can take to overcome the cons. If you're still hesitant about giving remote work a try, don't worry—we're here to help!