After countless hours spent commuting in pantyhose, working from home is the best. Here are some strategies for getting past four challenges of virtual teams.


“You work from home? You are SO LUCKY!”

I get that.

A lot.

I mean, in some ways, they are right.

You can somewhat control your schedule. Your uniform is kinda cool.

Yoga pants with professional-ish looking tops (okay, mostly pajamas bottoms and tank tops with a sweater thrown over for client video calls), no make-up if you don’t wanna (except the mascara and lip gloss stashed in your top drawer in case of said video calls), working around family things, and maybe on a rainy day having the Real Housewives of New York on in the background while you are working.

Intelivate's Kris Fannin has a lunch meeting over video conference - technology is key for overcoming common challenges of virtual teams.
Kris Fannin has a lunch meeting over video conference – technology is key for overcoming common challenges of virtual teams.

You don’t have to worry about someone stealing your lunch out of the refrigerator.

There is usually very little traffic on your daily commute from your bed to your home koffice. (We converted our ‘keeping room’ off the kitchen to an office. My koffice. I need to be close to said lunch in the refrigerator in case you know, my officemate – err – one-year-old German Shepherd tries to take it).  

However, there are some tough challenges of being on and leading virtual teams.

This includes balancing the personal challenges that can arise when you work from home.

1. Technology is one of the challenges of virtual teams.

Leading virtual teams requires different technology and tools.

At Intelivate, we use many apps, established processes and collaboration tools to make us feel connected even though we might cross three time zones.

It is so important to stay engaged on a daily basis with your team members – even with just a quick IM or phone call for a quick giggle or to discuss your latest parenting trials. Or the Housewives of wherever. Some of the most brilliant ideas in the workplace come from those hallway conversations – so be sure to set up a way to still have those moments with your teams.

They are vital to the success of your creativity, motivation and renewing your energy.

Kris Fannin has a great list of great toys and technology for virtual home office jobs that make you and your teams effective.

 

intelivate overcoming challenges of virtual teams - video conferencing. Pictured is Kris Fannin
Utilizing technology such as video conferencing is critical to overcoming challenges of virtual teams. Make sure you look your best before getting on that video conference. As we call the process, “pre-check.”

2. Set boundaries. And I mean all the boundaries.

One of the major challenges of virtual teams is setting boundaries. Be sure to set those boundaries with everyone – with your family, your children, your friends, the PTA, your boss, your team, your clients, your neighbors. And most importantly, with yourself.

You work from home, right?

Why not make 38 dozen cupcakes for field day?

Sure, you can watch your friends’ kids.

Of course, you can take that conference call at 8 p.m. that isn’t client impacting (okay but seriously, sometimes you do have to do this – just be mindful).

Just because you work from home doesn’t mean it’s a little hobby or that it isn’t “real work.” Your career is important (I mean, so are cupcakes) but sometimes people in your life – both the professional and personal – need to be reminded of that.   

Setting boundaries is one of the major challenges of virtual teams. Pictured are kids books on top of work notes.
Setting boundaries is one of the major challenges of virtual teams. It’s best to set those boundaries with everyone – including yourself.

Do you do it so that you can attend field days and shuttle all the people everywhere from time-to-time?

Heck ya! I did.

However, I still have a job to do, deadlines to meet and a professional standard to maintain. But it starts with boundaries, friends.

Maintaining and sharing a calendar is critical for setting boundaries.

Calendars are critical for effective collaboration when leading virtual work and remote teams. Keep them updated, so your coworkers know when you are in or out.

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Make sure you aren’t double booking yourself personally and professionally and be mindful of commitments you are making outside of work that could impact your value-add.

If you are reading your child a bedtime story and your phone rings at 8:30 p.m., you don’t have to answer it (unless you are contractually obligated to do so).

If you start that habit with clients or coworkers, they will take that as a sign that it is acceptable to do over and over.

Boundaries equal balance and are key to overcoming the most common challenges of virtual teams.

3. Maintaining a professional standard.

For those that I lead, and for the person that leads me – this is a big one.

There are some amazing perks from working from home and leading remote teams. However, we still have clients to serve and work to do with transparency from the laundry piles on the counter.

Many of us have partners or roommates that work from home, kids home on school holidays, littles still hanging around (or the 1-year old German Shepherd) at home during our workdays.

There is a time when all that chaos behind us is fine – but there are times when it isn’t.

My dog is a barker, and my 14-year-old is an interrupter when he’s home from school. I have to be conscientious to set up my working environment in a way that is as if I am in an office setting.

With real people.

Your team members and clients deserve that.

So do you.

4. Networking and communication challenges of virtual teams.

Keep your networking and communication channels active.

When doing research on this topic, one of the biggest things that came up from fellow friends and clients who also work from home is the sense of isolation and feeling like they don’t always know what is going on in other areas of the business.

This can be one of the biggest challenges of virtual teams as you need others that ‘get it’ and ‘get you.’ You might cross schedules with other leaders and collaboration is critical.

Let’s talk about feelings of isolation first. Note: Remember that I am Introvert Girl, so work-from-home was meant for me. However, I am not in the majority here so these complicated words, “I feel isolated” are very confusing to me.

Get yourself into a routine. We are like toddlers and do best with structure, sleep, exercise, and snacks. Schedule lunch every week with a professional friend where you can talk shop. Schedule time with your mentor. Find local networking events in your town. We use “virtual meeting rooms” at Intelivate where we can grab a drink and a snack and chat up another team member, problem solve or just ask for advice.

I walk the dog twice a day to break up the quiet and feel the sunshine on my face.

Set yourself up in a bright room with things that will keep you stimulated – big windows, light, outdoor views.

See? Just like a toddler.

Activities, snacks, distraction, exercise.

Overcoming challenges of virtual teams - Intelivate' Fannin and Roe take some time to goof around in Kris Fannin's virtual conference room
Video conference rooms are a great way to lead virtual work and overcome networking challenges of virtual teams.

Communication is my biggest challenge. I sometimes feel like I am “missing out” on things that are going on within the business.

My son recently started high school, and we have gone from a 9:15 a.m. start time to an alarm that screams at me at 5:30 a.m. It sucks. For REAL. I have struggled to adjust my work-from-home schedule to my new normal. My workday doesn’t look like that of my coworkers right now, which at times can leave me feeling insecure – like there is a party in the break room, and I wasn’t invited.

Make a conscious effort to reach out to your team members. Ask them what they are working on, how you can collaborate effectively with them and if they need your input or help.

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Again, use tools for communication and dialogue that make you “feel” like they are in the office next to you.

Don’t be afraid, y’all. You have to be grown-up and brave and communicate – because just as we remind toddlers, you must remember to “use your words.”

Overcoming challenges of virtual teams - Intelivate coworker poses with Kris Fannin's dog, Mercedes
Overcoming challenges of virtual teams – Intelivate coworker poses with Kris Fannin’s dog, Mercedes

I am a very lucky woman to get to work from home. After a lot of years commuting, spending countless hours on airplanes, in conference rooms, wearing pantyhose and heels, I appreciate what I have. It’s taken a lot to overcome the most common challenges of virtual teams and hopefully these tips help you do the same.

Still, it can be hard some days.

You have to communicate a lot, set boundaries, stay plugged in and find tools and technology that work for you and your team.


There are many ways you can set yourself up for success for leading virtual work and remote teams. In your yoga pants.

If you are struggling to set up your virtual team environment, let us know! You can learn from our trials and errors.