Most Common Causes of Poor Virtual Collaboration and How to Address Them

In today’s hybrid workplace, any organization needs an efficient, seamless, cohesive strategy that makes it possible to collaborate from anywhere. With team members scattered across various locations—some at home, others in the office, and even some in different time zones—poor virtual collaboration can affect the overall work performance. Strong communication and teamworking have, once again, become mission-critical.

Most Common Causes of Poor Virtual Collaboration

Not only will this maximize productivity but it will also boost your bottom line. In fact, it’s so important that the global team collaboration software market is projected to reach $18.30 billion by 2026 at a 10 percent compound annual growth rate.

It’s clear that business leaders recognize the power of collaboration and want to invest in building it. Yet, another survey found that most respondents rank their company’s overall digital collaboration quality at 6.5 out of 10. Such organizations definitely suffer from poor virtual collaboration.

If your organization needs to step in, address these three most common causes of poor virtual collaboration.

Problem #1: Inefficient culture from the top-down

Collaboration will thrive when employees have the freedom to interact and innovate across departments without bureaucratic restrictions. But all too often, the proactive, agile decisions that fuel collaboration are stymied as a result of interference or micromanagement from senior leadership. This is a top-down cultural problem that communicates a lack of trust in employees and a fear of losing control over business operations.

Having to check with management or get approval creates inefficiency, slows progress, and weakens the initiative to collaborate all together. A culture in which teams must rely on leadership for all decision-making, without the autonomy to contribute their voices, experiences, and knowledge to the project, is a “surefire way to ruin a collaborative environment,” says the PLOS Computational Biology Journal. Siloes will form as a result, causing unity to erode at all organizational levels.

How to overcome it

Empower your team to build connections, share ideas, make decisions, create solutions, and pursue objectives together—because that’s what you hired them to do. Trust them to effectively collaborate without your constant supervision. Communicate that you are available as a resource to help or offer feedback without assuming ultimate authority over the whole project. They need your support, not micromanagement.

A culture of trust and agency starts with leadership, but the impacts will benefit everyone across the spectrum. Nurturing psychological safety at work always pays off!

Problem #2: Lack of communication transparency

Communication is at the heart of collaboration, but as The State of Business Communication report indicates, ineffective communication is a rampant issue among virtual teams. The results can be costly. Surveyed business leaders estimate that poor communication leads to 7.47 hours of lost productivity each week. With that productivity loss, comes missed opportunities for collaboration.

The Grammarly report also found that 86 percent of employees deal with communication issues such as a lack of clarity around team goals and initiatives. Without transparent information, aligned expectations, and clear directives, miscommunication can interrupt workflow and cause internal conflict, reducing overall collaboration.

How to overcome it

Streamline your communication channels and strategies. For example, implement a centralized virtual platform that team members can access from any location. This makes it easier to share files, discuss about tasks, post updates, and carry out other collaborative functions without having everyone in the same room.

When all project contributors have the necessary information at their fingertips and an efficient, simple way to touch base with their teammates, there’s less potential for communication errors. It’s also wise to establish an organizational framework of communication policies and project management. This might include:

  • Clarifying expectations around each member’s role and responsibility on the team. Who communicates what and when?
  • Identifying performance benchmarks and agreeing on deadlines.
  • Communicating ground rules for response time, conflict resolution, task allocation, progress reports, and feedback delivery.

Here are more smart strategies to evade miscommunication at work.

Problem #3: Burnout from collaboration overload

While strong collaboration is key for business success, too much of it can exhaust your team and hurt their performance. According to the Gmelius survey referenced earlier, 62 percent of organizations increased collaboration tech stacks in the pandemic. Yet, 75 percent of workers are overwhelmed by an excess number of tools and agree this cripples their productivity.

As research from Gartner points out, too many collaboration touch points can result in two major predictors of employee burnout: virtual overload and the always-on mindset. This is especially true on hybrid teams who are 1.12 times more likely to overextend themselves than onsite teams.

How to overcome it

Along with collaboration overload, 40 percent of virtual teams report an increase in workday length, suggests the Gartner research. As the leader, you must model healthy communication boundaries.

More importantly, encourage your team members to create their own boundaries for time off. This is called prioritizing work-life balance, which almost 40 percent of employees feel is most vital to their job satisfaction—even more so than compensation.

A refreshed team equals productive collaboration, making this a key factor to consider.

Overcome the challenges hindering collaboration

Every area of your business stands to benefit from a cohesive, unified, high-trust culture.

Address these underlying causes of poor virtual collaboration to create a workplace that encourages rest and productivity, where everyone can do their best work and move the organization forward together.

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