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Performance challenges of distributed teams and how to overcome them

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Updated on:
April 1, 2024
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Updated on :

April 1, 2024
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Performance challenges of distributed teams and how to overcome them


Without a doubt, distributed teams have many advantages—you can hire the best talent wherever they live, create a diverse and flexible workforce and have fewer overheads.

However, some challenges come with working with distributed teams. Managing a distributed team can be more challenging than face-to-face management. This is even more relatable if you’re doing it for the first time due to the pandemic without training or experience.

While we know the performance challenges at work are real, it is essential to devise strategies to address them and come up with solutions to overcome them. Here are a few performance challenges distributed teams face and the solutions to tackle them.

Building relationships and trust

The challenge: You might wonder why building trust and relationships are more complicated when working with distributed teams. Due to the diverse geographical displacement of team members, their views on what trust is and the significance of relationships varies. Also, the lack of in-person interactions and social bonding over a cup of coffee is lost in remote work. An absence of emotional signaling that comes with real-life body language is missing from distributed teams as well.

How to overcome it: If you want to build trust and relationships within your teams, set up frequent and recurrent one-to-one check-ins. Instead of checking in on the project's status, check in on the person. Being transparent and open to your teammates often leads to a closer, more trusting relationship. Also, it’s crucial to detect and address conflicts early and frequently. If you have an issue with any team members, set an “issue unblocking” discussion to share and listen to the other person’s point of view.

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Building a strong culture

The challenge: Creating a culture is much tougher to do virtually than in a physical workplace. For instance, Friday evening catch-ups to do something fun as a team or even getting a cup of coffee before a day starts is not something that often happens in a distributed team. When people work in an office, there is a connection between personal and work identity that makes it easier for team leaders to build a strong culture in a team.

How to overcome it: Many culture-defining values are essential for the success of any high-performing team, such as trust, transparency and integrity. However, team leaders need to add another important value to allow a distributed team to perform as well as an in-office team: "Measure output rather than input.” A result-driven culture becomes the foundation of performance in a distributed team. Organizations can overcome virtual team challenges by telling their team that it does not matter how many hours they put in to do a task; what matters is getting the job done.

Getting the job done

The challenge: Getting work done is vital to any company’s growth and success. Since distributed teams are more dispersed, working across various time zones can lead to communication and collaboration challenges. It can get more complex when specific projects require brainstorming or cross-functional collaboration. 

Additionally, when it comes to knowledge sharing in an office, we can walk across the workspace and seek help when we require assistance from a teammate. However, it’s not possible to do that in a distributed team, which can lead to delays in project completion and people might feel stuck more often.

How to overcome it: As a person who leads a team, empowering your squad to be effective should be the priority. One way to do that in a distributed environment is to adopt an asynchronous mode of communication and collaboration. This simply means that messages can be sent and responded to in each person’s due time. Of course, tools play an essential part in this. It’s advisable to research and opt for collaboration, messaging, documentation and scheduling tools to track progress and keep in touch with the team’s deliverables.

Wrapping up

It’s natural for leaders to be concerned about their distributed teams’ performance—whether their team is distributed by necessity or by design. Trust, culture and getting the job done are the foundations of high performance. Handling them is more complex while working with distributed teams, but they’re not impossible challenges to overcome. So long as you are deliberate in your approach to increase efficiency and build a strong culture in your organization, you can achieve the same level of performance, if not more, as those in an in-office setting. 

Managing a globally distributed team can be challenging. However, an Employer of Record platform like Skuad handles an organization’s entire employment lifecycle and ensures that the organization has enough time and resources to focus on efficient management practices. 

Skuad enables organizations to compliantly hire employees, onboard talent, and manage payroll without setting up a subsidiary in over 160 countries. 

To know more about Skuad, book a demo today.

About the author

Kate Jonson is a Software Engineer and Tech Writer. During the day, she writes codes and develops tech products. At night, she moonlights as a tech writer sharing her thoughts on work productivity and efficient HR management practices. 

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