Virtual teams—once a novelty—have become a standard feature of today’s workplace. According to, a forecast of employment trends by the World Economic Forum called flexible work, including virtual teams, “one of the biggest drivers of transformation” in the workplace, while a Gallup poll found that 37 percent of respondents have already worked virtually.

And virtual work makes tremendous sense in terms of cost savings, productivity improvements and the ability to engage the best talent literally anywhere in the world. But, despite its popularity, many organizations and the leaders responsible for the teams continue to struggle with countless challenges. How about you? Which of the following common issues have you bumped up against while managing a remote team or workforce?

  • Isolation
  • Building trust
  • Technology glitches
  • Communication—quality and quantity
  • Accountability
  • Establishing rapport
  • Evaluating performance
  • Ensuring equal treatment
  • Establishing a sense of community
  • Out of sight, out of mind
  • Unspoken assumptions running amok

If one or more ring true for you, you’re not alone. Leading in this increasingly amorphous environment can be challenging. But three basic truths can help put things into perspective.

  1. People are people… no matter where they work. The interpersonal and leadership skills you’ve developed and honed with co-located teams are the basis leading virtually as well.
  2. That said, distance blurs everything. Just as items far away from us are less crisp and defined, the same is true when it comes to virtual relationships. What’s clear up close can become less clear at a distance. Which brings us to the final truth.
  3. Intentional leadership effort and attention is required to bridge the time and space barriers facing virtual teams. And when managers are willing and able to make this investment, the can produce remarkable results—frequently far in excess of what could be achieved by those who are co-located.