Teamwork is the nature of collaboration between employees to achieve a common goal. In this, workplace cohesion often increases productivity and improves quality and speed of work. “If designed and managed properly, teams can contribute to organisational value and competitive advantage” (Alsharo, M, Gregg, 2017). In a technologically revolutionising era where information can instantly spread to any point of the world, many organisations are shifting to virtual teamwork. This type of teamwork enables employees to work collaboratively from anywhere in the world through conference, email, and video communication. The three main disadvantages of virtual teamwork is a lack of trust and respect between team-members, team instability, and a lack of proper communication. However advantages come from real-estate savings, a wide range of job talent, a better work-life balance, and employees working around the clock.
History of Virtual Teams
In a typical business, employees work together in groups or teams and encounter regular face to face interactions. Groups share information and viewpoints and work on individual tasks. Each group member has individual goals and outcomes that they are accountable for. Conversely, teams work on tasks and plan ideas collaboratively, where the teams performance shares collective accountability. When working in teams, positive work culture is a crucial factor, where organisational values and beliefs enhance the wellbeing and relationships between internal stakeholders.
Large corporations deal business internationally and often expand overseas for financial and brand growth. Expanding overseas is a costly manoeuvre as it involves construction or rent of new buildings, hiring and training, marketing, and an enhanced supply chain. Due to these expenses, “Organisations have increasingly begun to work in partnerships that span different industries.” (Kimble C, 2010). These partnerships are called virtual teams.
Virtual teams are “team-based structures that consist of members that are located in different buildings, different cities, or even different continents.” (Kimble C, 2010). Essentially, a corporation designates various tasks to a team who work together from different locations using communicative technology like email, media, and video or voice communications. This form of teamwork has advantages and disadvantages to it.
- Virtual teamwork decreases real estate expenses as there is less need for offices and buildings. This eliminates the need for travel expenses and allows both parties work from home or their local office.
- Virtual teamwork allows for a wider range of available talent. A business from a developed country can recruit a cheaper employee with the same qualification from a less developed country. Objectively, a business should not have trouble sourcing talent for any job position.
- Employees will be able to spend more time with family and friends as they are commonly working at home. This increases work-life balance which often correlates to good performance.
- Due to differing timezones, time is never lost. There should always be employees working around the clock. As time is so crucial to a business, this is a critical advantage.
- The ‘Punctuated Equilibrium’ theory indicates a prolonged period of disruption when the team strikes adversity due to differing timezones, traditions, and knowledge; stability may be difficult to maintain.
- It’s difficult to collaboratively solve issues without active, real life communication, “Without effective communication effective teamwork becomes difficult.” (Kimble C, 2010). Working from home without face-to-face contact creates a disconnect between the team and employees, and communication is completely reliant via technology.
- Virtual teamwork experiences a lack of trust and respect between team-members. Trust and respect is difficult to develop without meeting face-to-face, can affect the strength of relationship between the team. “The strength of the relationship is contingent upon individual differences” (Raghuram, S, Garud, 2001). Essentially, the strength of the team relationship lies behind the ability to create harmony between individual differences. In saying this, individual, “Policies, systems, and structures may not mesh together easily.” (Pinjani, P & Palvia, 2013). These differences could lead to multicultural conflicts which inhibits team cohesion.
Bridging the Virtual and Real Worlds of Teamwork
In order to bridge the virtual and real worlds of teamwork, remedies must be made to create a balance between the positives and negatives of virtual team work. In order to develop trust and respect amongst team-members, there should be face-to-face meetings between the virtual team-members. A study by Kimble and Hildreth in 2005, discovered a common motivational boost between employees when provided with a face-to-face meeting with other members of the team. This assisted with the development of trust and respect amongst colleges and it helped teams sustain long periods of online communication. This should also establish both individual and team identity, as common business interests are understood as well as personal.
At the face-to-face meeting, managers should allow each employee to solve their own work-related problems and goals which empowers each member of the team. Cooperation and trust in each member to complete the task should enhance virtual team cohesiveness.
Working in small teams of 2-9 people increase interaction and morale, but larger teams of 10-16 have a higher division of labour and more resources. Whether small or large, each team should have members working in the task role and the maintenance role. This is to ensure team tasks are completed and that relationships and cohesion amongst members are maintained.
Teamwork is the combined effort of a group who share a common interest to complete a task. Traditionally, real teamwork consisted of a collaboration between employees working in offices to complete business tasks. However due to globalisation, companies use virtual teamwork to employ people from various geographical locations to complete tasks with the use of communicative technology. There are advantages with this movement, such as real estate savings, increase work-life balance amongst employees, and by having access to a wider pool of talent. However, stability can be difficult to maintain due to a lack of mutual trust and respect amongst team-members who do not have proper, active communication. These problems and successes can be balanced by creating a system where virtual teams meet face-to-face irregularly to share common goals and personal interests. Additionally, giving power to each team member by creating individual goals and objectives should boost team morale and overall cohesion.
- Alsharo, M, Gregg, D & Ramirez, R 2017, ‘Virtual team effectiveness: The role of knowledge sharing and trust’, Information & Management, vol. 54, pp. 479–490
- Kimble. C 2010, Building effective virtual teams: How to overcome the problems of trust and identity in virtual teams. Global Business and Organizational Excellence, vol. 30, no. 2, pp.6-15
- Raghuram, S, Garud, R, Wiesenfeld, B & Gupta, V 2001, ‘Factors contributing to virtual work adjustment’, Journal of Management, vol. 27, pp. 383–405
- Pinjani, P & Palvia, P 2013, ‘Trust and knowledge sharing in diverse global virtual teams’, Information & Management, vol. 50, pp. 144–153