Top 4 Challenges of the Virtual Workplace—and How to Overcome Them

Here at Rialto Academy, we run a lean, fast-moving operation with a small team of committed folks who love what we do. Unlike bigger, more corporate companies, we don’t have meetings about meetings, we don’t argue about who left the coffee pot empty in the breakroom, and we don’t have a complicated system for requesting time off. Like a growing number of businesses—both large and small—we all work from home, and we all love the benefits that come with that cozy territory: lack of commute (and traffic!), flexibility when one of us (or one of our kids) is sick, increased ability to focus and be productive…the list goes on and on.

That said, being part of a virtual workplace is not without its drawbacks. We’ve taken a poll among our team to identify the top four challenges we face working on a virtual team—and how we’ve overcome them to stay productive, exceed our clients’ expectations, and enjoy each other’s (virtual) company while we’re at it.

virtual workspace

1. There’s no need to feel isolated.

virtual teamThe No. 1 challenge our team members cite of working from home is the risk of feeling disconnected from coworkers or even other people in general. Thankfully, we’ve collectively assembled some strategies that help us ward off any feelings of isolation. We build in breaks to get ourselves out of our home offices and around other people, such as co-working sessions, lunch dates, networking events, walks around the neighborhood, etc. We also use webcams and video conferencing (Zoom) for certain meetings with other remote team members. We’ve all heard about the power of nonverbal communication (eye contact, facial expressions, etc.) to ensure that the words we use have their intended effect. Plus, we just like each other’s faces!

2.  Draw boundaries between work and the rest of your life.

We’re extremely lucky at Rialto to have leadership that encourages us to schedule family time first, business second. There are no exceptions to this rule. Our leaders really do walk the talk.

Operating like a startup company and in our own homes, we find that it can be so easy to work around the clock. There’s always more to do! Yet, this is neither sustainable nor healthy. Instead, we encourage each other to define clear boundaries around working and non-working hours and communicate those to each other. We also suggest designating a home workspace that is free from any distractions that could pull us away from focusing on the business goal or task at hand. (It’s about working smarter, not longer!) Another interesting tip: Try not to work in your PJs! Each morning, get ready for the day as if you were headed out to meet a client. And finally, we’re extremely lucky at Rialto to have leadership that encourages us to schedule family time first, business second. There are no exceptions to this rule. Our leaders really do walk the talk.  

3. Use technology to stay connected and sync across multiple time zones.

time zonesOur team members live across 10 different time zones (!), and that means some of us are going to bed while others are in their most productive time block of the day. But that doesn’t mean communication stops. Technology is our friend, and we have systems in place to optimize productivity and collaboration. First, we use instant messaging (Slack) to streamline conversation threads and update each other on project status and other business-critical news. And this service allows us to control notifications so they don’t intrude on our non-working hours (or our beauty sleep). Google Drive is our “filing system,” and using Google Sheets, Docs, and Slides allows us to collaborate on the same files in real time. We use Basecamp as a central source of “our truth” to connect communication, projects, and client work together. And finally, always mindful of the different schedules and observed holidays of our team members, especially when they’re working on the other side of the globe, we record calls so if someone can’t attend a meeting, they’re always up to date.

4. Documentation and planning are critical to fully leveraging everyone’s talents.

Because we can’t just gather at the whiteboard or pop in someone’s office for a stand-up meeting, the ability to tap into the talents and bandwidth of each team member requires more upfront documentation and planning. We also make a concentrated effort to slow down and clearly lay out project expectations and goals, roles in which each team member can excel, priorities, and to-do lists. We love to-dos! Again, we turn to the power of our technology tools, especially Basecamp, to help us with this.

Bottom line: The consensus at Rialto is that despite the inherent challenges of working virtually, there are not only practical ways to overcome them, but the benefits, both personal and business-related, far outweigh the workarounds. Especially with leadership so attuned to empowering every individual on the team to work to their fullest—and happiest—potential.

Want to learn more about how you or your team can increase productivity and bring big goals to fruition? We’d love to talk about it. Click the button below to schedule a chat.