Virtual Teams: Types, Benefits, Challenges & Management

Virtual Teams

Once-local businesses are now becoming virtual businesses in a world that are continuously evolving and changing. These virtual organizations use every tool at their disposal to build a successful firm, including virtual or remote teams. If you work for a company that is transitioning to a virtual model, utilizing the correct virtual team is a guaranteed method to make the move easier. When it comes to controlling the effort and time of remote workers, virtual teams management is critical. Let’s look at what a virtual team is, the types, the challenges in managing the teams, and the benefits.

What is a Virtual Team?

A virtual team, sometimes known as a “remote team,” is a group of people who collaborate from separate locations via electronic communication. Different types of virtual teams can be used for different scenarios, and they can all be cost-effective and efficient means of collaboration.

Types of Virtual Teams

There are various types of virtual teams based on the members’ lives, objectives, aims, and roles.

#1. Networked Teams

These types of virtual teams consist of cross-functional members who have come together to share their experience and knowledge on a particular subject. Membership is fluid in the sense that you recruit new members when you need them and you can withdraw existing members when they complete their roles.

#2. Parallel teams

Members of the same organization typically establish parallel teams to provide recommendations in a process or system. Parallel teams are normally formed for a limited period of time, and membership is constant in the sense that members of a parallel team stay together until the goal is achieved.

#3. Product Development Teams

These types of virtual teams consist of professionals from all over the world who work together to complete a specific job, such as the development of a new product, information system, or organizational procedure. For example, bringing in a team of experts from the United States, Canada, and Hong Kong to build a new engine for a year.

#4. Production teams

Production teams consist of personnel from different roles that work together on a regular and ongoing basis. Members of a production team receive specific roles and operate independently. The overall outcome is produced by combining the distinct outputs of each member.

#5. Service Teams

Service teams consist of people from different time zones. Each person works independently, however, the work each member creates is a continuation of the work produced by the previous member. Customer support teams in Canada, for example, conclude their shifts while support teams in Asia begin and continue their job.

#6. Management Teams

Management teams are made up of managers from the same organization who work in separate geographical zones. Members of management teams mostly debate corporate-level strategies.

#7. Action Teams

To respond to pressing challenges, action teams are formed for a very short period of time. The team is adjourned once the matter has been resolved.

Virtual teams have various benefits and challenges too. Let’s the benefits in the next section.

Benefits of Virtual Teams

The following are some of the benefits that virtual teams may provide:

#1. The company’s costs are low.

Employees working from home might be quite inexpensive when you compare them to the costs of employing locally. Office space, electricity expenditures, and employee travel are just a few of the many expenses that you’ll need to keep a business in a single location or region.

#2. Applicants from all across the world

When seeking new employees, exploring beyond the immediate vicinity of a company’s headquarters might boost the likelihood of finding a large number of competent individuals. Companies can seek clever and eager people all across the world by utilizing virtual teams.

#3. Productivity rises

Allowing workers to work from home without requiring them to commute is a terrific way to increase productivity and motivation. Employees who work from home can wake up, mentally prepare for the day, and begin work on the hour, eliminating the stress and time management required for travel.

#4. Company services are available 24 hours a day

Using virtual teams to provide a firm with 24-hour services, particularly for consumers, is an excellent approach to promote repeat business. Customers and clients want to engage with a company that they can readily and frequently contact.

Virtual Teams Challenges

Fostering team togetherness when employees work apart is one of the most difficult challenges of leading virtual teams. According to studies, teams working in different locations had lower levels of trust and higher levels of conflict than employees working together. Many remote working challenges are caused by communication barriers.

The Four Most Common Virtual Team Challenges

While every organization is different, institutions with remote employees face similar challenges. Because of the isolated nature of remote employment, problems may fester for a longer period of time. They can disrupt team cohesion and influence the entire organization if they are not identified and remedied.

Consider some of the most typical challenges that virtual business owners confront with their teams.

#1. Ineffective Communication

Many digital tools assist distant teams in staying connected; nevertheless, these tools may lack the personalization that face-to-face engagement provides. Text-based communication, like email and text messaging, lacks the body language, tone, and other subtle nonverbal clues that employees receive during in-person conversations, raising the possibility of misinterpretation. When working remotely, team members may be more reserved on digital platforms and less inclined to participate in meetings or respond to emails.

#2. Problems with Delegation

Failures in communication also lead to a muddled understanding of employee responsibilities. Leaders must delegate tasks while being mindful of misinterpretation and inference. Confusion over who is doing what and when threatens team unity. Leaders must also resist the desire to micromanage their virtual teams, knowing when to step back and trust their personnel. They must strike a balance between the need to set clear expectations and confidence to be met.

#3. Distinctions in Work Ethic

According to an article published in the journal SN Applied Sciences, there is evidence that certain people perform more in office situations when they are surrounded by others, a phenomenon known as “social facilitation.” In a virtual environment, others may reject requests or delay responses. When employees believe their peers aren’t putting in as much effort as they are, it can lead to distrust, disturbing the team, and derailing projects. To address difficulties, team leaders must remain alert in reviewing team members’ work and providing regular feedback.

#4. Inadequate Personal Connection

Remote workers are frequently isolated, which can have a negative impact on team harmony. A lack of face-to-face interaction may result in a lack of team cohesion and rapport amongst team members. Conversations over coffee or in the corridor, for example, have been demonstrated to minimize conflict. It is, however, difficult to recreate in a virtual world.

Virtual Teams Management

Virtual team management refers to the mix of operations for gathering, building, organizing, managing, and overseeing virtual teamwork. It is a necessary component of project team collaboration.
The following processes are included in virtual teams management, but are not restricted to them:

#1. Assembling.

When launching a remote teamwork organization, probation periods are the first measurements to be used. The team leader should select those who have met all of the probationary period standards.

#2. Training.

During this procedure, the team leader establishes future virtual teaming expectations and then creates and implements a group training approach to teach team members how to satisfy those objectives.

#3. Managing.

This method entails utilizing telecommunication technologies to oversee the ongoing duties and jobs of remote group members.

#4. Controlling.

To analyze and evaluate team performance, the team leader creates performance measures. This person must determine whether the team is on the correct track and will be able to meet project objectives on time.

These are the primary steps involved in virtual team management. However, there may be secondary processes that enable a better understanding of the virtual teams’ phenomenon.

What are the Benefits and Disadvantages of Good Virtual Teams Management

Some of the benefits of virtual teams management include (but are not limited to):

  1. Rent reductions and cost-cutting measures in technology
  2. Reduced transportation expenditures and time spent commuting
  3. Communication and information transmission in real-time

Some of the drawbacks of virtual teams management include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Because there are no direct control mechanisms, there is less control over virtual groups (which may lead to less trust in virtual teams).
  2. Problems in establishing good virtual team leadership (as opposed to “physical” team leadership)
  3. Unsuitability for projects requiring on-site oversight and management

We’ll offer a few pointers to help you handle the challenges of working in virtual teams.

Best Practices in Management of Virtual Teams

#1. Establish the necessary infrastructure.

If you’re in charge of a virtual team, be sure you’ve put in place effective processes to promote productivity, information exchange, communication, and social engagement.

#2. Make security a top priority.

When remotely accessing company data, systems, and assets. Install security upgrades as soon as they are available, and change your password regularly.

#3. Be considerate of work schedules

Encourage your staff to keep their status up to date with one of the many apps that can sync with your team (Slack, Teams, etc.). That is why you should avoid making calls to coworkers while they are sleeping or caring for children.

#4. Develop a shared language and ground rules

At the start of your project, agree on some ground rules (for example preferences on out-of-hours contact, information sharing, communication protocols, etc). Remember to appreciate the cultures and differences of others if you work in a cross-border team.

#5. Take care of your health and well-being.

It’s just as vital while you’re working away from the office, so take regular breaks away from your desk and computer, stand up and move around, adjust your posture, have your eyesight examined regularly, and divide your work into IT and non-IT jobs.

#6. Recognize when it’s appropriate to speak up

We can all become overly reliant on emails, texts, and instant messages. So, if there’s a chance of misunderstanding, a lot of messages have already been sent, if you’re offering sensitive feedback, or if you need to hammer out a final agreement, just pick up the phone!

Conclusion

Human interactions, according to social psychologists, are strengthened by the physical proximity of the individuals. Because virtual team members have limited or no face-to-face interactions, it creates a slew of challenges. To create trust, collaboration, and commitment among members, virtual teams must overcome cultural differences, communication difficulties, power struggles, and conflict. Though it may appear challenging, it is certainly doable with effective leadership. Organizations can tremendously profit from this new-age trend of virtual teams if the proper strategies, processes, and tools are in place.

Virtual Teams Frequently Asked Questions

Which companies use virtual teams?

  • SAP. SAP is the world’s largest inter-enterprise software firm.
  • IBM employs about 200,000 employees from various countries and backgrounds.
  • General Electric. GE employs around 90,000 people all over the world.

Why do virtual teams fail?

Poor management, communication breakdowns, inappropriate or poorly integrated team members, under-equipped employees, personality clashes.

What are the characteristics of a virtual team?

Trust, attentiveness and communication are three characteristics shared by all effective virtual teams.

What makes a great virtual leader?

A virtual team leader must be willing to make himself or herself accessible to team members. Accessible leadership entails being approachable, similar to having an open-door policy at a physical workplace.

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