How to Manage the Complexity of Remote Teams

25 Nov, 2022 | Read in 5 minutes

Managing remote teams can be even more complex than office teams. Here are the key factors for managing a remote team.


A company's headcount can grow from person to person, and its complexity grows exponentially. Sometimes a team of 15 has more than a hundred possible collaborative working. But we are not talking about maths. We are talking about working with humans. And working with humans is even more complex because of many factors.

Today, many companies are moving into new environments; remote work and hybrid systems. Then how do we deal with complexity?

So this post will answer that question. We will discuss the complexities of virtual teams and how to overcome them.

Understanding the complexity of virtual teamwork

There are benefits and weaknesses to implementing remote project management. More than that, in a message, Zoom said that his company had exceeded more than 200 million daily meeting users.

While some companies successfully manage remote management, some are still struggling. Matthew Grimm says that keeping people working is difficult when you don't see them daily. He added, "there was a lot of confusion and miscommunication." Managing remote employees while maintaining productivity is a challenge in the new normal.

Buffer stated that remote teams have their struggles. They face improper communication, loneliness, distraction etc. However, despite the struggles listed in Buffer, virtual teams unlock new complexities.

  1. Complexities about time, distance and organisation.
  2. Complexities about how to communicate and collaborate.

The cross boundaries related to time, distance and organisation

Building trust

In business, trust is defined in many ways. But broadly speaking, trust is a crucial variable for all aspects of collaboration, including the effectiveness of virtual teams.

Having a remote team goes beyond setting up tech tools and working as usual. In this environment, managers cannot physically check on employees. In turn, trust makes work complete quickly rather than in-person check-in.

Trust is more difficult to grow in geographically dispersed collaborations. Lack of personal interaction, non-verbal cues and difficulty deducing intentions make trust even thinner. This is why distance affects the growth of trust in the team.

Informal and face-to-face communication

Communication within remote teams is a crucial predictor of performance outcomes. Often in the office, informal communication (such as coffee talk) is a place to exchange information. In contrast, collaboration feels formal and rigid in a planned meeting (meeting agenda). And the virtual environment does not allow informal communication to happen easily.

This is the main reason why informal interactions rarely occur in virtual teams. They are often absent from spontaneous decisions that occur outside of formal meetings. Today, remote teams rely on technology to communicate in real-time and formally.

Conflicts that occur within the intra-team

Intra-team conflicts are categorised into interpersonal, processes, and work delegation. Catherine Durnell mentions that teams spread over many areas experience higher conflict. These conflicts occur because of incorrect assumptions, miscommunication and lost casual conversation.

How they communicate and collaborate using technology

Explicit management and leadership

The biggest challenge of remote teams is managing. Companies need to hire a leader skilled in managing and project success. Remote teams' success depends on collaboration and interaction. And the leader takes a hefty portion in this.

Leader in a virtual team is to resolve conflicts and be role models. Indirectly, leadership style has an impact on team performance and productivity. Good leaders understand their role and leverage technology to address challenges as they arise.

Group composition

Virtual collaboration becomes easier if members have worked together before. Those who have shared stories and have emotional closeness find it easier to communicate with technology without clarification.

But it's different if they have never met before. Collaboration and communication grow in computers. Before starting to collaborate, they must get to know each other personally and share a common goal. The information received sometimes has a different meaning when there is no introduction process.

Unrealistic goals and objectives

Paldesk says that 63% of teams feel that their time at work is wasted because of ambiguous goals and objectives. Goals are closely related to results, so when things go wrong, the results will also be wrong.

Leaders must set clear and realistic goals. Disclose in detail how the goals affect the project outcome. The team should also clarify when goals feel ambiguous. And this process is more problematic when in a remote environment.

What makes the remote team successful?

Building a remote team culture

We all might work at a distance, but creating a healthy culture is as crucial as ever.

It can be defined as values ​​and ethics contributing to a virtual work environment. Working, dealing with problems, and socialising are part of organisational culture. When in a virtual environment, some teams easily forget the organisational culture. They may lose focus and control within the organisation. So how do you build it?

One of the best ways is to discuss this with the team. Make organisational culture a daily conversation. Then, implement it in action.

Set clear expectations

The effect of clear expectations and goals is good understanding and increased trust. Clear goals make the team use time on projects more effectively. This means they save time.

So how do you set clear expectations? Try some of the following:

  • Set expectations earlier. It helps manage the team and minimises misunderstandings.
  • Make sure that everyone feels valued. Stop taking each other for granted. Instead, start appreciating even the team's small successes.
  • Be transparent and honest. When the work environment is transparent, it is easier for teams to raise concerns.

Effective communication is key

Again, effective communication is vital in virtual teams. Some companies may deal with different time zones, languages and internet connections. So the Project Manager (PM) has to clarify how and when the team should communicate. Here are some tips for building effective communication:


Even though managing a remote team feels more complex, through some of the ways above, we could be part of a successful one. Of course, the complexity inevitably increases due to the different team management methods. But there are always changes, and humans must adapt to this. Ten years ago, traditional teams often interacted face-to-face. Now, virtual teams have become part of the job, and collaboration and communication have always been mediated by technology.

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