7 Virtual Team Challenges Most Virtual Managers Don’t Talk About

When you’re managing a virtual team, challenges will pop up all the time—and you may need to solve them differently than you’re used to.

Turn on the news or do a quick Google search, and you’ll undoubtedly read or hear many of the positive statistics and findings of remote working. And with good reason—there are so many excellent reasons to work virtually, for both employees and businesses.

82% of telecommuters report lower stress levels since they started working remotely, 80% say their morale is higher, and 69% miss fewer days of work. On the business side, work from home programs help companies save about $2,000 per employee and reduce turnover by 50%.

What you won’t hear about as often, though? The biggest virtual team challenges that managers face. They’ll tell their employees and CEOs that everything is going well, but in reality, they’re facing unique demands that they may not have expected or be equipped to deal with.

If you’re a virtual manager, just know that you’re not alone in your struggles. Having a reputation for being an exceptional manager in an office setting does not automatically mean you’re going to immediately be able to adapt your style to a virtual workplace. Becoming a standout virtual manager takes work, and it begins with acknowledging what’s hard about your job and then coming up with solutions that address those problems.

Virtual team challenges that frustrate virtual managers

These virtual team challenges can be annoying and disheartening sometimes, but they don’t have to be your reality forever.

1. You’re not sure if your team is actually working.

In an office, you were able to walk around, check in with your team face-to-face, and you felt confident your employees were working. Now, you have no idea if they’re sitting at their computer working on that big report, or if they’re taking a long nap on the couch.

2. Employees aren’t logging into company chat programs.

You set up a chat program like Slack to create a virtual space for employees to sign in and talk to each other, but some employees only login sporadically—and some, not at all.

3. You don’t want employees to work late nights/early mornings and burn out.

You know that some of your team members are getting work done outside of typical business hours and you’re worried that they’re going to burn out and start missing deadlines.

4. Managing employee sick days is hard.

Do remote workers get sick days, or should you expect them to work through them? How can you make them feel like it’s OK to be sick?

5. Missing face-to-face time that lets you read a situation or general vibe.

Part of managing in-person is taking the temperature of the office and employees so you can get a feel for whether things are working or not. And how can you tell if your employees are “all in” or just coasting?

6. Trying to get a team to work together if they’ve never met.

Any type of workplace collaboration can be difficult sometimes, but it’s even harder when you want a group of strangers to team up and work together.

7. Dealing with employees in different time zones.

Some virtual teams have employees in different time zones (and even different countries), so how are you supposed to work together when it’s bedtime for one employee and lunch for another?


Want to learn more about how to become a better virtual manager? Subscribe to our Virtual Manager Membership and get access to courses, webinars, sessions with a virtual coach, plus more. Sign up now!


Prepare for virtual team challenges and start finding solutions

When you’re working alone from home as a virtual team manager, it’s easier than usual to feel like you’re drowning in obstacles and that no one else understands. First of all, every virtual manager out there relates to what you’re going through, so don’t feel isolated in your worries. Here are some quick suggestions for beginning to tackle your virtual team challenges:

Problem: You’re not sure if your team is actually working.

Solution: Remove the word “micromanaging” from your vocabulary and realize you’re going to need to let go a little. Overall, employees that work from home are actually more productive than those who do not. Monitor productivity by the quality of work and deadlines met—not whether or not they’re sitting at a desk when you want them to be. Except in certain roles that require them to be available between certain work hours, then make it clear what work hours are, and aren’t.

Problem: Employees aren’t logging into company chat program.

Solution: Set expectations and make consequences clear. Decide if you want them to be logged in the entire time they’re working, during certain hours, or even once a week for social time. When you’re clear about what you expect, employees will follow.

Problem: You don’t want employees to work late nights/early mornings and burn out.

Solution: Schedule a video call with any employee who works this way to learn why and provide support. You might discover they’re not working too much to the point of burnout—it may just be that they are night owls or morning people and prefer to get the bulk of their daily work done during those hours rather than 9-5.

Problem: It’s hard to manage employee sick days.

Solution: This is just about clear communication. Your employer should already have a sick day policy in place. Trust that your employees know when they’re too sick to work and make sure they know you support their judgment call.

Problem(s): Missing face-to-face time and trying to get a team to work together.

Solution: Both of the above problems have similar solutions. When you’re managing a virtual team, communication must be valued above everything else. Your team needs to communicate even more than they would in an office environment—this includes phone calls, video conferences, and chat rooms. Schedule regular, weekly social time and sprinkle in fun team-building activities.

Problem: Dealing with employees in different time zones.

Solution: If you’re managing a global team or those in different spots across the country, there needs to be an understanding (clearly communicated) that there are going to be times when you might schedule odd meeting times. At the same time, have respect for the individuals who may be affected. There are still deadlines to meet, so encourage your team to work together to create the best possible outcome.

No job will be perfect all the time, but you have the power to create a more positive work environment for your employees and yourself. Take the time to acknowledge challenges you’re facing, and then do your best to come up with solutions that benefit everyone.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve dealt with as a virtual manager? How did you work through it? Share your advice in the comments below!


Want to learn more about how to become a better virtual manager? Subscribe to our Virtual Manager Membership and get access to courses, webinars, sessions with a virtual coach, plus more. Sign up now!


Photo by Headway