Managing Virtual Teams: 7 Key Tips

Many teams around the world continue to operate remotely. With the number of remote workers still being high, knowing how to effectively manage virtual teams is crucial for the success of every manager. 

Luckily, learning how to properly manage a virtual team is easier than ever with our 7 tips and techniques the best managers use! In this text we’ll cover:

  • The definition of a virtual team,
  • Main virtual team challenges, and 
  • The best tips on managing virtual teams!
Managing virtual teams - cover
  • A virtual team is a team that mostly communicates via digital platforms. 
  • Learning how to effectively communicate remotely is key to proper virtual team management. 
  • Finding effective virtual team management tools makes leading teams easier. 
  • Creating a healthy work culture is just as important with remote teams as it is with on-site ones.
  • Training your employees to work remotely and use proper tools goes a long way in improving team management.

What is a virtual team?

A virtual team is any team that mostly communicates and performs their work via digital platforms. 

A literature review on virtual teams defined virtual teams as “groups of geographically, organizationally and/or time dispersed workers brought together by information and telecommunication technology.” 

That being so, the use of digital tools is essential for any remote team and finding quality team management tools is an important task for any manager. 

For instance, time tracking tools, such as Clockify, help you keep track of project progress “from afar” and keep an eye on employees’ hours worked. In addition, project management tools, such as Plaky, facilitate your project, task, and team management and allow for easy project planning. 

Moreover, quality communication software, such as Pumble, is key to making your virtual team collaboration easier. Online communication via quality communication platforms is vital, as a recent Forbes survey shows that many employees (remote and on-site) spend as much as 20 hours per week using digital communication tools!

💡 Clockify Pro Tip

Looking for great project management tools for your remote team? Check out this blog post:

What are the challenges in managing virtual teams?

Both you and your employees are bound to face remote work challenges in tackling everyday tasks.

Research published by the Portland State University on effective management of remote teams identified 3 key challenges remote managers face:

  • Locational (difficulty managing communication and navigating team’s activities and conflicts remotely), 
  • Cultural (lifestyle and synchronicity differences between team members from different cultures without many team and culture building options offered remotely), and 
  • Relational (higher level of distrust due to communication mainly being restricted to formal and work-related tasks). 

Moreover, according to a study by Buffer on virtual work struggles, 21% of remote workers feel they stay at home too often without any reason to get out of the house. Moreover, 15% battle with loneliness. 

The same study named other challenges of remote workers:

  • Staying motivated (for 11% of respondents), 
  • Adapting to different time zones (for 11% of survey participants),
  • Difficulty focusing (for 9% of participants), and
  • Difficulties collaborating and communicating (for 8% of respondents).

Thus, the biggest challenge to managing a virtual project team is understanding the struggles your remote employees have.

Do your best to address them to make remote work less stressful. 

💡 Clockify Pro Tip

If you find working from home challenging, check out these tips:

Best tips on managing remote employees

Overcoming the challenges of virtual teams is relatively easy to accomplish with the help of these 7 tips.

Tip #1: Allow flexible work hours

If your team comes from different parts of the world, you should consider introducing flexible hours or at least some kind of hybrid working schedule to your employees. 

A recent Flex+Strategy Group study found that workers with some form of flexibility in where, when, and how they work feel more productive and engaged. As a matter of fact, 75% of employees believe flexibility increases their work engagement and productivity. 

Furthermore, the founder of Yanre Fitness and Oxygenark with extensive experience in remote team management, George Yang, explains that flexible schedules help workers from different locations achieve work-life balance:

George Yang, founder of Yanre Fitness and Oxygenark

“Flexible schedules are critical, as there may be employees from different time zones and a large span of time. A flexible schedule allows for a better work-life balance for all employees.”

For an easier overview of their work, you could have your team work according to their natural predispositions, and instruct them to track time on tasks and projects they work on during their work hours.

Furthermore, by tracking flexible work hours, you’ll also be able to measure productivity levels — and identify potential time-wasting activities and bottlenecks.

Clockify is a free time tracker that allows your employees to track their daily activities.

With Clockify, you can get a clear overview of your employees’ tasks and the time they spend on each activity.

Employees can simply input what they’re working on and start the timer button in the app.

Clockify time tracking
Tracking time with Clockify

💡 Clockify Pro Tip

Time tracking can boost your productivity! Read all about the best time tracking methods here:

Tip #2: Undergo virtual team training

No matter if you’re managing a new team or an old one, proper virtual team training is a must.

The Flex+Strategy Group study we mentioned earlier explored how team training affects teams that switched to flexible working arrangements. 

According to the study, 80% of workers with training feel more productive and engaged at work. In addition, 70% of employees who received training believe their ability to create, communicate, and innovate with their colleagues has increased. 

Training courses aimed at making remote management easier typically involve technology courses that equip your team with the proper knowledge to handle the tools and tech issues that arise with remote work. 

Yang highlights that targeted training optimizes performance: 

George Yang, founder of Yanre Fitness and Oxygenark

“For virtual teams, targeted training is important. Working remotely involves digital tools and online communication, and employees must be proficient in these areas or they may be delayed.”

Furthermore, if you manage a multicultural team, you could also invest in a cross-cultural training program that helps your employees with:

  • Overcoming cultural differences,
  • Reducing prejudices and stereotypes in the workplace, and 
  • Organizing the work according to each culture’s customs and work routines.

Tip #3: Boost employee recognition 

Employee recognition, both social and monetary, is a great way to ensure your employees stay motivated and productive. 

According to research by Achievers, employees who are frequently recognized at work are more engaged and committed to their jobs. 

In fact, 73% of employees who participated in the Achievers study believe feeling recognized at work makes them more productive. What’s more, 64% of workers say frequent recognition reduces their need to job hunt, while 54% claim it lowers the dissatisfaction they feel due to a poor salary. 

Yang also believes employee recognition is important. To make sure workers feel appreciated at work, he introduced a digital recognition platform to his employees: 

George Yang, founder of Yanre Fitness and Oxygenark

“Virtual environments are very different from real environments, and accurately identifying employees in a virtual environment can improve morale and engagement. At Oxygenark, we use a digital recognition platform in which team members can acknowledge each other’s contributions to work tasks, thereby increasing employee engagement.”

💡 Clockify Pro Tip

Looking for great ways to improve the productivity of your workers? Check out this article:

Tip #4: Optimize meetings

According to Microsoft research, the number 1 productivity disruptor for most workers is “having inefficient meetings.” Thus, ensuring your virtual team meetings are efficient is a must for maintaining virtual team engagement.  

Keep the team concentrated by making the meetings more effective. Meaning, you should always have a meeting agenda and ensure the information you provide is clear and concise.

Yang suggests keeping meetings short and on-point:

George Yang, founder of Yanre Fitness and Oxygenark

“Streamlined and purposeful virtual meetings are essential to prevent fatigue. We keep our meetings to a maximum of 45 minutes, resulting in more focused discussions and a 20% increase in meeting productivity.”

In addition, if your team operates within different time zones, you should be mindful of the meeting times. You can agree on the time that works for every team member to ensure that the meetings are held within their working hours. 

💡 Clockify Pro Tip

Have you ever wondered how geological factors affect you and your efficiency? You should check out this guide:

Tip #5: Ask for feedback

Ask for employees’ feedback frequently to see what areas may need improvement. 

You can do this by creating feedback forms your employees can fill out or holding 1-on-1 video calls

Marketing & Communications Expert, Annabel Maw, stresses the importance of 1-on-1 meetings by arguing they are a crucial part of motivating her colleagues. 

She notes that 1-on-1 meetings are an excellent way to maintain a healthy work environment:

Annabel Maw, Marketing & Communications Expert

“Having a good amount of touchpoints with each other helps to understand where everyone is at, get feedback, and make sure the team is feeling happy and productive with what they’re working on.”

Tip #6: Find the right people for your team 

Based on the CareerBuilder research, the average cost of a bad hire for a company goes as high as $17,000! 

When recruiting, make sure you post your job vacancies on reputable websites (or freelance websites) and properly test potential candidates.

What’s more, consider hiring people with experience in remote work. They can pass on the remote work knowledge they acquired to the rest of the team.

Marketing Manager at Bluesky Solutions, Laura Grant, highlights both cultural and technical aspects of virtual team recruitment: 

Laura Grant, Marketing Manager at Bluesky Solutions

“Being part of a virtual team does not suit everyone, so care must be taken to ensure the recruitment process is tailored to ensure a good fit with this way of working as well as cultural alignment.”

Tip #7: Harbor a virtual team culture

Virtual team culture is just as important as any other team culture. Building trust and a healthy work culture can happen even when your employees don’t meet in person.

According to Rahul Vij, the CEO of the digital marketing agency WebSpero Solutions, one of the best ways to motivate workers is to focus on extracurriculars. He names some extracurriculars that bring a team together: 

Rahul Vij, CEO of the digital marketing agency WebSpero Solutions

”Keep them involved in different office activities and events. Plan virtual interactive sessions like virtual lunches, virtual games, and chit-chatting sessions where everything will be discussed except the office and its work.”

Effective management of virtual teams brings success

Effective management of virtual teams doesn’t have to be difficult. If you value your employees, have an understanding of their needs, and create a positive working environment, you’ll already notice an improvement in your employees’ satisfaction and productivity! 

And, if you need a little help with managing your virtual team, you should try Clockify. 

Clockify is the perfect software for managing a remote team as it allows you and your team to track work hours, get an overview of each member’s ongoing tasks, and gain insights with project reports. 

Boris  Vesovic

Boris is a productivity author and researcher whose primary focus is writing blogs and articles on the topics of time management, procrastination, and efficiency in the workplace.


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