The trend is clearly towards virtual work. While various drivers have favored growth over the past few years, companies are still faced with weighing up the opportunities and risks of virtual teams.
In this article, I would like to explain in more detail which factors play an essential role on both sides. All information reflects a Summary out Chapter 2 of my book Virtual teams and home office from Springer Verlag contrary.
Virtual team opportunities
Why many companies have already decided to adopt virtual teams is based on some significant opportunities.
- International presence : Virtual work makes it possible to work together with customers and specialists worldwide.
- New project, market potential and Knowledge advantage : The offer of a global connection can favor precisely these factors.
- Easier recruiting of skilled workers : Thanks to the flexibility, new employees can be acquired regardless of location and with virtual work as the final decision-making factor. In addition, the possibility of working on exciting, international projects without the need to travel is often an attractive plus point for specialists.
- Increase in flexibility and agility : Thanks to the freedom in terms of time and place, employees can organize their work-life balance much better. In addition, there is the advantage for companies that the reaction time to customer projects is reduced thanks to the involvement of international experts. At the same time, the service level can be significantly improved.
- Cost savings through less travel and office space : Less effort also means lower costs. Which means that virtual teams can also represent added value in this area.
Virtual Team Risks
Nevertheless, there are still many companies that shy away from making deep cuts in their corporate structures. Because even if there are many advantages and opportunities, there are also some risks to be aware of.
- Cultural misunderstandings and language : Especially in cross-cultural meetings, virtual work can cause conflicts due to different ideas, e.g. B. in terms of quality and punctuality or due to a lack of English skills.
- High level of self-organization : The increased level of self-organization, e.g. through setting up a home office or the independent planning of precise tasks and working hours, does not meet the needs and well-being of every employee.
- Controlling teams much more difficult : Roles and assignments of tasks cannot always be clearly defined within virtual teams.
- Technical equipment is expensive and not easy to integrate : Within virtual teams, not all participants are always equipped with the same quality mobile software and hardware. This, in turn, can lead to delays in the schedule of individual projects.
- Team motivation difficult to maintain due to impersonal collaboration : Factors such as cultural differences can promote the feeling of distance within virtual teams. This can make it more difficult to establish a relationship of trust between employees. Any resulting isolation can in turn lead to poor communication and thus to a loss of quality in the project result.
- Data protection of the communication and cooperation of the team : The exchange and communication of virtual teams can become a risk in the area of data protection. Especially when secret, unencrypted information can be viewed by unauthorized persons.
When the advantages or disadvantages outweigh the implementation of virtual teams often depends on the structure and orientation of a company. If you take a closer look at the opportunities and risks, it can be deduced from this that the introduction of virtual teams is particularly useful in those companies that maintain relationships with international customers, work on very complex topics or are forced to call in external experts due to the shortage of skilled workers.
I advise companies that want to face the disadvantages to adequately deal with the risks of virtual work and how to avoid them. In addition, virtual work requires, in my opinion, the openness to turn to a different management style, away from the presence culture.
Tip: Read my new book: Virtual Teams & Home Office at Springer Gabler or book me for a talk.
Lindner, D. (2020) – Virtual Teams and Home Office – Guide to Technology, Working Methods and Leadership. Springer Verlag
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