A virtual team is comprised of members scattered in different locations. It’s not a surprise that this kind of working scenario has been on the rise. With better smartphones, more reliable Wifi and affordable laptops, it’s become easier for professionals to do their job no matter where they are – be it at a hotel room, in their own homes or even in a different country.
The advantages of virtual teams are clear: they allow employees to better manager their work and personal lives and it also provides them the opportunity to interact with colleagues from different places around the world. Companies benefit as well because they can take advantage of low-cost global talent and be able to reduce real estate costs by a significant amount. But is it for every company? This is where it’s best to weigh the advantages of virtual teams against its disadvantages.
List of Advantages of Virtual Teams
1. It allows companies to cut costs
Employing a virtual team means saving on expenses such as real estate and utilities. A lot of organizations also opt to outsource their operations to regions with low cost and as such, they can save on production cost through reduced raw material cost, operational cost and lower wages.
2. It allows companies to use global talent
One of the keys to success is having a team of highly skilled workers who can constantly deliver on tasks being asked of them. While it’s always best to look at the local talent pool first, what happens when the necessary skills you need just isn’t there? This is where hiring outside talent can help a company.
Even better, what if your company wants to expand to a certain market? Isn’t it better to have someone from that country on board? They can give you relevant insights that will help your business succeed.
3. It leads to higher productivity
It’s understood that employees need to work hard to course a better career path. But workers have lives too – they have families and interests outside of work and not being able to attend to these will leave them feeling depressed. Flexibility is a word that has been tossed around with regards to what will make employees happy. And some companies have started to work on that: allowing their staff to work remotely when needed and even limiting the number of days one has to work.
But with a virtual team in place, employees get the flexibility they need. It works pretty simple as well: the more satisfied a worker is, the better they can be at their job. And someone who works well is pretty productive which is very helpful for the company.
4. It allows a team to work on a project 24/7
Let’s say a team in Atlanta, Georgia is working on a software project. At the end of the day, they send what they have accomplished to another team in the Philippines for testing. The Philippine-based team tests the product and at the end of their work shift, send a report on any bugs as well as other concerns regarding the project. This cycle allows for a shorter development time and can speed up the release of a particular product. With this kind of setup, companies can answer the demands of both the global and local markets much faster.
5. It provides opportunities for employees
We’ve seen top talent decline great job offers just because they are reluctant to move their family or don’t want to stray too far from home. With the technology that we have today, that particular talent can work from their home state without having to relocate. They can still take care of their kids while working on a project; and they can still check in on their parents and make sure their needs are being attended to.
List of Disadvantages of Virtual Teams
1. The cost of communication technology can be high
Yes, there are free options available today. Skype is a pretty powerful tool that can be used for conducting meetings. This way, an executive doesn’t have to fly a thousand miles just to deliver news. They can sit comfortably in their own office and conduct the meeting from there.
Then again, free options come with a disadvantage: they are rather limited. In order to access the powerful features people must be willing to pay. Also, there are paid models available that are far superior. So why not go with that, right?
The simple answer is that it is costly. But some companies do believe that investing in such technology will be beneficial. This is true for companies that have a solid client base and equally strong income flow. But what about companies that are still starting out? While they can always invest in pricey technology, they still have to find a way to recoup those expenses. Sometimes, small companies will opt for the free options until they have enough resources to purchase much better equipment.
In short, communication technology investment is important but it’s not for everyone. Some have to start somewhere and work upwards.
2. It creates conflict
Cultural differences can lead to conflicts which can create a lack of trust which will affect collaboration. Being able to work together despite a geographic divide is one of the aims of virtual teams and having members not get along disrupts productivity.
The good thing about problems with culture is that, in some ways, it can be addressed. For instance, educating employees about the differences between cultures can help teams understand each other better and allows them to communicate better as well. Then again, there are problems in society that can’t just be addressed by cultural education, and that’s a tough one to overcome.
3. It leads to social isolation
Sometimes, projects are only comprised of a few members and what happens if each of those members are scattered across the globe? Yes, they can still communicate through technology but what about interaction and such? For most of us, we find friends or future partners through school or work, public forums to put it simply.
What happens when we work from home or have no physical interaction with our colleagues? For some, this kind of setup gets lonely. While it’s true that some can handle the isolation but there are some who crave company and this kind of setup might leave them feeling depressed hence they won’t be as productive.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.