These days, team leaders in all kinds of industries are making the decision to run their businesses remotely instead of having everyone congregate in the office each day.
Are you thinking about going completely virtual with your team? Are you worried about whether or not this will be an effective option for you and your employees?
If you’re on the fence about managing a remote team, having a clearer understanding of the pros and cons of virtual teams can be helpful.
Read on to learn more about the virtual team advantages and disadvantages every leader ought to know. You’ll also find some helpful information on steps you can take to overcome the top disadvantages and improve the way you manage your team while working remotely.
Advantages of virtual teams
There are lots of benefits of virtual teams that you can experience when you make the shift to working remotely 100 percent of the time. The following eight advantages are especially noteworthy:
1. Save money
When you and the folks you lead start working from home instead of commuting to the office each day, you get to save a ton of money. With a virtual team, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars per month on overhead costs.
After you switch to virtual work, gone will be the days of paying rent for your office space, investing in equipment (and new equipment when the old stuff breaks), and paying utilities each month. You also get to avoid those miscellaneous costs that seem small at first but add up over time (such as snacks and drinks for the break room).
There are obvious cost-saving perks for you as an employer leading a virtual team. Your employees get to save money, too, though. Virtual team members won’t have to spend money on gas or public transportation to get to and from work each day. They also won’t have to spend money on new work clothes or eating out during lunch.
2. Improve work-Life balance
One of the primary draws of remote work is that it helps to promote a better sense of work-life balance. There are a few reasons for this, including the following:
More time with loved ones
The average commute in the United States is a little longer than 27 minutes. That’s almost an hour per day spent sitting in the car or on public transportation to get to and from work. When you add that up over a whole year, you’re looking at 225 hours (more than nine full days) commuting.
Think about how much time your employees are sacrificing with their loved ones by commuting to and from work each day. By cutting out the commute and going virtual, you can give them back some of that precious time.
Remote work is often less stressful than working in an office day after day.
When you start working remotely, you and your team will be able to tackle projects from the comfort of your own homes without a time-consuming, traffic-filled commute. You’ll be able to wear more comfortable clothes, and you’ll have easy access to your pets.
All of this, combined with the elimination of stressful office elements (harsh overhead lighting, phones ringing endlessly, etc.) contributes to a less stressful work environment and a more enjoyable workday.
Many people find that they’re less distracted when working from home, too. They don’t have coworkers popping by their desks every 10 minutes with virtual work, nor do they have the temptation of stopping by their coworkers’ desks. As a result, they have an easier time getting “in the zone” when the time comes to sit down and tackle a project.
3. Improve employee retention rates
When employees get to enjoy a better sense of work-life balance and save money at the same time, there’s a good chance they’re going to want to stick around at a particular job longer than they might have otherwise.
By increasing employee retention rates, you can decrease the amount of money and time you have to spend looking for and training replacement employees. This, in turn, helps you to save money and boost your bottom line.
If you’ve struggled with retaining employees in the past, or if you just want to set your current team members up for success so they don’t want to look for work elsewhere, going virtual could pay off.
Not only does it save you money and time, but it saves your employees money and time as well. Most people don’t want to have to look for a new job or be without a paycheck while they’re searching. When you make the job one that people don’t want to leave, everyone benefits.
4. Increase productivity
Employees who are happy and content at work are naturally going to be more productive than employees who are bored, distracted, and/or stressed out.
Do you want your team members to get more done during the day? If so, allowing them to work from home can help.
This is especially true when you provide your remote employees with flexibility regarding when they work. By allowing people to choose the schedule that works best for them (while still keeping client needs and other job responsibilities in mind, of course), you can set your team up for more productive workdays.
With more flexibility, employees will have a chance to get everything done that they need to before they start working (such as getting the kids ready for school or taking pets for a walk). As a result, they’ll be less distracted when tackling projects or attending meetings with clients.
5. Access more talent
Virtual team members can do their work from anywhere. This means that you don’t have to hire people who live within a certain number of miles from your office.
Making the switch to running a virtual team provides you with access to a larger talent pool. You can post listings for job openings and make them available to everyone, regardless of their location. As a result, you’ll be able to attract talented individuals from all over the country (or even the world).
This access to more talent will set you up for long-term business success. You’ll be able to increase productivity, expand your offerings, and see more significant progress over time.
6. Cater to more clients
If you have employees working from all over the country or all over the world, that means you can expand your business hours and expand your reach when it comes to the clients you serve.
When you have employees working in a variety of time zones, you can also cater to clients in those time zones. This helps you to grow your business faster, provide a higher level of customer service, and improve your bottom line.
Expanding your team and catering to a larger clientele is great for your current employees, too. If there are more people on the team, it’s easier to divide the workload evenly among them. This saves one employee from having to take on too much, and it further improves your team’s work-life balance.
7. Scale your business faster
It’s easier to grow and scale your business when you’re working with a remote team, too. Here are some of the top reasons why this is the case:
Avoid overhead costs
The cost savings that you experience when you first switch to running a virtual team will help you to scale your business, too. If you don’t have to spend money on a larger office, more equipment, or higher utility bills, you can put that money toward efforts that have a direct effect on the size and reach of your business.
Attract new employees
Remote work also makes it easier for you to attract new employees, too. This means you’ll have less trouble expanding your business and creating new departments related to this expansion.
When you expand your business, you can also expand your offerings. By cutting out the costs associated with running a traditional in-office business, you can redirect your funds to areas like research and development. This will make it easier for you to come up with new product or service ideas and grow your business to serve a larger audience.
8. Avoid unnecessary meetings
Last, but not least, virtual teams and team leaders can avoid a lot of unnecessary meetings.
When you run a team of remote workers, it can be harder to get everyone together in one (virtual) place for a meeting. As a result, you’ll likely lean more heavily on emails and online chat options. You’ll save the video meetings and conference calls for things that truly matter.
By eliminating unnecessary meetings, you can increase your team’s productivity and minimize distractions. This helps everyone to get their work done faster and helps the business to keep growing and thriving.
Your team will surely appreciate the reduction in unnecessary meetings when you switch to remote work, too. You’ll also learn which subjects truly require everyone to gather together and which ones can be typed up in a group email or group message (this saves you from having to plan for so many meetings, too).
Disadvantages of virtual teams
Clearly, there are lots of benefits of virtual teams. At the same time, though, there are potential downsides to this approach.
The following are some of the most common challenges team leaders face when they and their employees get started with virtual work:
1. Difficulty keeping teams aligned
When teams first start working remotely, some leaders find that they have a hard time keeping everyone aligned.
Because everyone is doing their own thing throughout the day, it can be difficult to keep track of what each team member is up to. It can also be hard to make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to what they’re working toward and trying to accomplish.
Solution: align your team with goals
At first, the challenge of keeping your team aligned might deter you from continuing with running a virtual team. Don’t let the initial struggle hold you back, though.
Weekdone is a great software option that you and your team members can use to set goals and identify the specific metrics that you’ll use to measure one’s progress toward accomplishing them.
Weekdone uses the OKR (short for Objectives and Key Results) framework. Objectives are the big goals your team or your team members are trying to accomplish. Key Results are the metrics you’ll use to determine whether or not the goal was met.
When you use Weekdone with your team, it’s easy to help everyone figure out what they should be working toward on a daily basis. You and your team members also know how you are defining success and determining the accomplishment of goals, too. This helps to keep people consistently motivated and engaged.
Want to learn more about OKRs? Check out our free OKR book.
2. Progress tracking can be hard
If you switch to a totally virtual approach for your team, you might find at first that it’s harder to keep track of everyone’s progress.
When you’re not having as many meetings and you can’t just quickly pop by someone’s desk to check-in on them, you could end up spending a lot of time reaching out to individual team members or worrying about whether or not they’re getting things done in a timely manner.
Solution: Track progress with weekly check-ins
Progress tracking doesn’t have to be a challenge when you’re working remotely. A solution to this common problem is to schedule weekly check-ins with your team.
A weekly check-in provides you and your team members with a pre-determined time to sit down with you and discuss their progress and what they’re doing to work toward accomplishing their goals. It also creates an opportunity for team members to talk about potential obstacles they might be facing and allows you to provide feedback and suggestions.
Weekly check-ins are especially effective when you’re also using OKRs. An OKR check-in lasts about 15-20 minutes (so it’s not a huge time-suck), and it provides you and team with space to reflect on your progress and set priorities for the coming week.
This approach allows for regular planning. It also eliminates the need for unnecessary meetings or additional check-ins throughout the week.
3. Communication can more difficult
Communication is important for any team. It let's you know how team engagement is doing, where your team members are getting stuck or any problems they may be having.
Sometimes, staying in communication can be harder for virtual teams if they don't have the right practices in place.
Solution: Guidelines for virtual meetings and software supporting remote teams
Luckily, there are a few things you can do as a manager to make sure your teams are following best practices. This includes making sure there are guidelines in place regarding online meetings and video chat. Using software like Weekdone can also help with improving team communication and collaboration.
Check out this video below for more tips on virtual team communication.
4. Team building can be tough
Team-building can be tough for virtual teams and team leaders, too. You miss out on a lot of opportunities for connection throughout the day when you’re working from home (water cooler chat, stopping by someone’s desk to ask a question, etc.).
Many remote employees love the freedom and increased work-life balance of working from home. At the same time, though, some people find that it’s harder for them to feel connected to their coworkers, and they might experience loneliness or feelings of isolation as a result.
Solution: Regular team building activities
Luckily, there are strategies you can implement that minimize loneliness and allow for virtual team-building.
One of the best and most effective ways to connect with your team virtually (and help team members to connect with each other) is to create dedicated spaces for casual conversations.
A group chat for “watercooler talk” can help you and your team members to share random thoughts or talk about things not related to work throughout the day. By making space for these natural conversations, you can increase job satisfaction, help your employees to reduce their stress, and make it easier for everyone to get to know each other on a personal level.
Planning regular virtual team building activities each quarter can help your team stay engaged and connected.
Start running a virtual team today
After reading through this post, what do you think about switching to managing your team virtually? Now that you have a better understanding of the pros and cons of virtual teams, as well as the steps you can take to overcome the cons, are you ready to take the plunge and give remote work a try?
Transitioning to a 100 percent virtual team is a great option, and keeping the information discussed above will help to make the shift as seamless as possible.
Remember, you can avoid a lot of the disadvantages of virtual teams with the right virtual team management software. Weekdone helps you to set clear goals and make sure everyone is aligned. It also makes it easy for you to conduct weekly check-ins and improve employee engagement with built-in feedback and recognition.