Roadblocks To Effective Teamwork And Ways To Overcome Them
The virtual work environment is here to stay long-term. Over the last two years, people have had so many challenges dealing with a work-from-home environment. Be it managing time efficiently, or work-life balance, difficulties like hiring people without a face to face meeting, several miscommunications, keeping up team morale or generally keeping up in times of uncertainty. A big sufferer in all this, no doubt, has been the team. We all know that teamwork promotes creativity and increases the overall productivity of an organisation. While this is true, there are also many unsaid challenges faced by every team which can make the whole experience of working as a unit frustrating.
Over time, we have identified key bottlenecks to smooth teamwork in the remote work environment and have outlined solutions that can help you set it right. Whether you are a team leader or a team member, being proactive about identifying signs of poor teamwork will help you address the problem before it snowballs into bigger issues.
1. Scattered information:
Our observation: exchange of information is a demanding task in the remote work environment leading to the loss of information.
When you are part of a team it is essential to follow two policies. Firstly, make sure all the information related to the work and team are shared with everybody. Open communication helps every employee know what to expect from their coworkers as well as what their coworkers expect from them. This raises the overall reliability of the team, minimising productivity loss due to duplicate work or delays.
Secondly, make sure the mode of communication is the same for all teams ie; group emails, group messages etc. so nobody misses out. Sharing project-related information helps teams succeed, so when one or more employees keep information away from a coworker, it can have a detrimental effect on team performance. When an employee operates with incomplete information, they may miss an opportunity or perform unnecessary work.
How do you overcome this?
a) Reassess the content of your communication. Make an extra effort to ensure the other person has clearly understood what is being conveyed. Constantly remind the team of the importance of sharing valuable information throughout the staff and to model this behaviour when you share new information with relevant team members.
b) Use the right channel(s) and appoint a person who takes responsibility ie, give a manager or a specific team member the job of communicating to the team.
2. Hoarding work:
Our observation: There is a tendency to want to prove ones worth by doing more while working remotely leading to over-commitment.
You may think it is a waste of time to delegate because you feel you can do a better job. For a period of time, you may be able to complete all the tasks required of you. But that will not last. You will get tired of your tasks. You will become overwhelmed and exhausted, struggling to keep your head above the water. Soon you will be playing catch up almost every day.
The bottom line is no matter how good you are, only good teamwork will get things done effectively and on a consistent basis. The questions to ask yourself are – Are you being realistic about what you are going to be able to deliver in a certain time? Are you insecure about losing a project? Are you unwilling to collaborate?
How do you overcome this?
a) Help the team plan projects in a manner that ensures that the priorities and responsibilities are in order. Simply putting work onto someone else’s plate isn’t easing the situation for anybody. The projects should come with proper context and a clear tie into the organisation’s goals.
b) It is very critical to help estimate time correctly. Ensure you provide all the details before creating an estimate, be clear about the deliverables and the time it needs to be done. Also, be clear about how many people will be involved in decision making. And note any foreseeable factors that could affect the timeline. This will help in effectively delegating the work to the right people.
c) Coach the team to delegate. It’s a fairly nuanced way of supporting others, but there are several steps you can take to empower them along with defined boundaries and expectations about delegation of work. This will ensure parity of work among team members.
3. Not asking for help at the right time:
Our observation: Most times help and support are sought at the very last minute putting both the person asking for help and the person giving the help in a fix as the task does not complete on time.
It’s virtually impossible to advance in modern organisations without teamwork. Cross-functional teams, agile project management techniques, hierarchy-minimising structures, and increasingly collaborative office cultures require you to constantly push for the cooperation and support of your managers, peers, and employees. But sometimes people hesitate to ask for help – perhaps they feel they are not fully accepted, or they are reserved by nature, or they don’t want to seem like they cannot handle stress.
How do you overcome it?
a) The first step is to observe the team members and identify if anybody shows signs of reluctance to ask for assistance.
b) The second step is to ensure you offer the right kind of help proactively. When you have an extra free minute or two ask your co-workers if they need help with anything, or engage in another act of kindness. There is a very strong chance that your colleagues will reciprocate, offer the same support to another colleague and thus improve the way you work together.
4. Difference in face-to-face behaviour vs online behaviour:
Our observation: The same people behave differently in a virtual work environment as there are many unforeseen or unexpected factors at play.
Work environments have changed considerably over the last few years. Employees have had to adapt to new ways of working but there is a lot of difference in the way employees respond online versus offline. More people working remotely brings a new set of challenges that can negatively impact productivity if not addressed. An inability to focus, or lack of active participation, not contributing to ideas, lack of confidence to accept responsibility or defensive behaviours; are some red flags to watch out for. These changes present new problems for both leaders and their teams, also impact team spirit and teamwork. It’s important to identify them to prevent or mitigate potential problems.
How to overcome it?
a) Organise regular meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page. Consider having an open-door policy so your team can approach you to ask questions related to their work or role.
b) Conduct virtual mock sessions with team members to make sure behavioural expectations are aligned, and everything runs smoothly.
It is not really possible for everyone to do everything. That is why you need team-building strategies to follow so that whatever challenges that you may face can be solved. Also, strategies are essential to keep your team all on the same page and ensure they are working at their full potential. At the same time, try to avoid micromanaging and allow the team to come up with their own solutions. Be prepared for occasional mistakes and see these as coaching opportunities. All this might sound simple on pen and paper but in practice, it is much tougher than it actually is. Your leadership approach is key to building trust and team spirit in the remote work environment.
At Yellow Spark, we can help you build and maintain strong teams. To know more write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.