The Ins and Outs of Virtual Teams

The way companies are organized has changed as technology has grown. We often see companies reorganizing their teams into virtual teams, often known as geographically dispersed teams (GDT). This permits people in different countries to collaborate on a single project. Like most things in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to this style of team and it is not for every business. Is it right for yours?

In the past, it was believed that productivity had a direct connection with proximity. The concept was held that the more face-time a manager was able to provide their team the more productive they would be. Managers are realizing that this may not be true, and that building a team out of people that work well together and have very targeted skill sets can yield a much more significant result. Another strong factor impacting productivity can be the mindset of the individuals the group consists of. Many people are encouraged by their personal desire to learn more so as to further their careers; this self-motivation is a trait that works well in a virtual team environment. People who are motivated by social interactions or by the desire to avoid negative feedback may not be a good fit for a virtual team.

For some businesses, it is practical to utilize virtual teams.  Many organisations, large and small, have embraced this innovative organizational technique. Certainly businesses that require people to physically interact to perform a task, such as construction, are not candidates for virtual teams. If you feel implementing virtual teams as an enterprise wide strategy or smaller capacity is a good fit for your company, here are a few items to think about.

  • Recruitment based on expertise not proximity
  • Team members are able to work during the times when they perform most effectively
  • Teams consist of members that are self-motivated and self-driven
  • More accommodation for team members’ personal and professional lives
  • No commuting time or cost
  • Reduced overhead, because there is no physical location
  • IT expenses are reduced as most teams use web-based tools for collaboration
  • Managers can better analyse the team’s overall performance because there are less social pressures


  • Less social interaction, which may be a demotivator for some people
  • Loss of trust among team members if there is not assurance that everyone is pulling their own weight
  • Creativity could be stifled, because the physical dynamics are lost
  • Team members may overwork themselves as managers can not physically see the length of time each task takes
  • Managers may lose track of the team’s progress, i.e. out of site out of mind

Virtual teams interact through a variety of technology including email, audio and video conferencing, and file sharing programs including Google Docs. Below are a few programs that can assist teams who work together remotely.

  • Go to meetings – an economical option to have remote meetings
  • Yammer – a private social network for businesses that allows quick communication and interaction
  • Drop Box – a free way to share files
  • Second Life – allows for interactive meetings with the use of avatars

If you would like more information on virtual teams in action, look at the articles below: