Business Technology

Exploring Virtual Teams

By July 22, 2011 One Comment

As technology expands, the definition of team is changing. These days it is common to see people from different time zones and different countries collaborating as a team. A growing number of companies are applying the organizational strategy of virtual teams, also known as geographically dispersed teams (GDT). You have probably heard the term but are not sure if it fits your business model.

A common business misconception is that output is a result of being in close proximity to a manager or team. Companies are realizing that productivity is instead a result of the abilities and compatibility of team members and that performance can be measured by the quality of the outcomes of the team. If a team consists of people who are motivated by personal career achievement and advancement, they are personally invested in the work they are doing. Individuals who are motivated by the desire to avoid being reprimanded are apt to have very little personal investment and will probably not push themselves. Virtual teams are often comprised of the former; because of this they can be powerhouses of efficiency and productivity.

In many businesses, virtual teams are not feasible, as certain tasks demand physical interaction to accomplish. However, many businesses where this is practical are embracing this reorganization of teams. If you are considering virtual teams as a strategy, here are some advantages and disadvantages to consider.


  • Recruitment based on competence not proximity
  • Team members can 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 expense
  • Reduced overhead, because there is no physical location
  • IT expenses are decreased as most teams use web-based tools for collaboration
  • Managers can better assess the team’s performance as there are less social pressures


  • Less social interaction, which can be a demotivator for many 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 amount 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, video and audio conferencing, and file sharing programs such as Google Docs. Below are a few programs that can assist teams who communicate remotely.

  • Go to meetings – a relatively inexpensive option to have remote meetings
  • Yammer – a private social network for companies that makes it possible for 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, consider the articles below:

Joe Markert

Author Joe Markert

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