Cultural Challenges in Virtual Teams

Reuben CarterThu Nov 04 2021

Remote working has brought about an extensive amount of change to the way that we work together. A majority of employees are working remotely and are facing new uncertainties within their working environment. These challenges affect performance and morale on a large scale, and threaten the most important asset that a company holds: its culture.

A company’s culture can be defined as a shared set of values, goals, attitudes, and practices that constitutes an organization. Remote working has reduced the amount of time spent developing culture and creating meaningful interpersonal relationships. The negative effects on company culture can also be attributed to poor communication and lack of emotional connection to the organization’s mission.

When looking at statistics, we can see that remote working can have serious consequences such as a 24% increase in turnover and up to an 82% increase in burnout from excess hours. The looming threat of having employees who aren’t aligned with their company’s culture can lead to a collapse of organizational reputation.

How do we face these cultural challenges within virtual teams? In this article, we will be examining two separate recommendations according to a Gallup study on remote company culture.

Recommendation #1: Define What Creates Your Virtual Team’s Culture

Gallup recommends that companies take time to reflect on what drives their company’s culture. Ask yourself: what behaviors and attitudes does everyone share within the working environment? By being able to describe your company’s culture – the values, beliefs, structures, rules, and traditions – you can be proactive about shaping your virtual teams.

When companies handle their projects remotely and do not experience consistent face-to-face interactions, they put their company culture at risk. For example, Gallup discovered that one company’s culture revolved around the deep relationships built through work. The cultural drivers of these relationships were based on in-person meetings for project-based teams. These in-person meetings allowed for the sharing of their best practices and expertise.

Recommendation #2: Measure the Elements of Your Virtual Team’s Experiences

One of the easiest means of determining what matters most to your employees is through surveys. Companies can create surveys to find the common cultural drivers that indicate a positive business environment, such as innovation, collaboration, and customer orientation.

When looking back at the example company from the first recommendation, we can see how the use of surveys impacted their performance. The company decided to implement quarterly surveys that measured:

  1. Cooperation between departments
  2. Time spent on tasks within teams
  3. Encouragement of collaboration
  4. Evidence of personal partnerships

These measurements helped the company create benchmarks for their levels of engagement. Gallup has shown that highly engaged teams outperform the rest, and that includes virtual teams as well. You can create a baseline for your virtual teams and determine what steps you must take in order to improve your efforts.

Use Your Strategies as Foundations for Your Virtual Team’s Culture

The recommendations provided by Gallup can be used to strengthen your team’s virtual culture. Use frequent surveys and meetings to discuss ways to improve the communication and functioning of your team. After all, communication is one of the greatest tools for connecting and building strong interpersonal relationships.

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