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June 23, 2022

The Pros & Cons Of Using Virtual Teams

Frequently referred to as the global remote work revolution (or the hybrid work model), virtual teams have become an essential component of diverse workforce solutions for businesses from nearly every industry.

While virtual teams are not a brand new concept, their utilization has been amplified by the recent COVID-19 pandemic that has drastically changed the face of the office across the world.

There are several advantages and disadvantages of virtual teams. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the remote work revolution and give you a guide to help navigate your choice to make the jump.

Why Companies Use Virtual Teams

Due to government mandates and an abundance of caution, many companies shifted to using remote teams. This ensured that employees could still accomplish their mission while also obeying mandates to remain at home, stay safe, and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

An unintended consequence of this move to virtual teamwork has been increased employee retention. It turns out employees love being able to work from home! Who would have guessed that?

The Pros of Using Virtual Teams

  1. Talent Acquisition
  2. Talent Retention
  3. Workplace Safety
  4. Lower Costs
  5. Fuel Savings

According to research done by National Geographic, over 75% of people often choose to hear the bad news first. Still, we are a proud part of the other 25% who believe positive vibes outweigh negative ones. What’s more, we do not want to get started in a negative tone. Where’s the fun in that?

Talent Acquisition

Moving to virtual teams allows your business to move beyond the restrictions of your geography and transcend any single time zone.

Whether you’re based out of the hippest town or the dullest one, you can recruit and retain top-notch talent to fulfill your company’s needs by moving to a virtual or hybrid format. Like it or not, location matters, and not just in real estate.

Top talented recruits have desires that they want to be fulfilled in their location. If your company’s location cannot provide a solution for these desires, they may choose to go elsewhere.

Additionally, believe it or not, people like working from a home office, especially when they can earn a good living doing so. Utilizing remote workers can create this opportunity.

Talent Retention

For many of the same reasons, virtual teams increase your employee/talent retention rates and statistics. Recruiting new talent can be costly; therefore, increasing retention reduces costs.

Additionally, having the very best talent working for your company can give you the edge over your competition. Employees tend to stay put when they love what they do, whether in a virtual work environment or a physical office.

The adage If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life rings very true in the minds and hearts of most people. Virtual teams offer an unparalleled advantage for those who desire to have an outstanding work-life balance.

Workplace Safety

The COVID-19 pandemic is still very much a real threat. Granted, we have made great strides globally in reducing infections and deaths; however, many are still greatly concerned about becoming sick from the coronavirus, and rightfully so.

Trends continue to resemble a roller coaster and for those with immunodeficiencies, becoming infected is a grave threat. Ensuring the greatest degree of safety and protection remains important for these individuals, and working remotely offers a layer of protection unlike any other.

While crowds can often be avoided most of the time, many cannot make the right choice between working to survive and staying home to survive. It is an impossible decision to make.

Offering virtual teams as an option in your business helps solve this issue for those concerned with their health.

Lower Costs

Transitioning to a virtual or hybrid team format can lead to significantly reduced operational costs. Companies can choose between outsourcing their virtual teams and using virtual teams with their existing workforce.

In either case, the overhead cost savings are immediately recognized. One of the ways these cost reductions are recognized is in management costs. Leading virtual teams can be far more efficient than leading in-person teams.

As a result, your company can utilize fewer managers to accomplish the same goal. Since management positions often come with higher wages and benefits, your company is able to cut costs dedicated to managerial compensation.

Additionally, fewer employees in the office mean less equipment and furniture, fewer supplies, and a reduced need for extra office space.

Fuel Savings

Unless you have been living under a rock, and even if you have, you know that fuel costs worldwide are skyrocketing. Many are now forced to choose between commuting to work and having the funds to pay for the commute.

The average American who commutes thirty miles to work in a vehicle that gives an average MPG is paying approximately $15-$20 a day for fuel. Multiply that by the average workweek and then the average weeks worked, and the cost of going to work can easily be as much as $5,200 annually or more.

Allowing these employees to work remotely is the equivalent of giving them a $5,000 raise! If your company provides company vehicles to some or all of your employees, your internal fuel savings add up exponentially when they can work remotely.

The Cons of Using Virtual Teams

  1. Communication
  2. Management Failures
  3. Intentional Incompetence

Now that we have talked about some of the benefits of virtual teams, we have to mention some of the drawbacks. The natural order of our world hinges on balances, between good and evil, light and dark, good and bad, and so too does the aspect of remote work and virtual teams.

With the good must also come the bad, but have no fear: there is light in the dark when it comes to virtual teams. Knowing the downsides can help you decide when, where, and how to institute virtual teams in your organization.

It also ensures the greatest opportunity for your success. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.

Communication

Communication is the key to success in any joint venture, whether you’re dealing with marriages, businesses, sports, government, public policy, or virtual teams.

Virtual teams present a unique communication challenge due to the lack of physical proximity to other team members and digital translation misinterpretations. That is a fancy way of us saying the tone and emotional disconnect involved in texting and emailing instead of working face-to-face.

The majority of communication is accomplished with nonverbal cues, so when teams communicate primarily through digital means that do not involve video conferencing, much of the message conveyed can be lost. This can lead to confusion, incomplete data, and, of course, miscommunication.

Humans are social creatures by nature. Another potential downside of remote work is that removing yourself from organic groups like your work family may harm virtual team members’ social skills and mental health.

A major component of building a team that works together well with smooth cohesion requires relationship building. When these virtual employees only communicate digitally, relationship building can sometimes be slow or non-existent.

Losing those real-time water cooler convos can, despite the advantages of virtual teams, generate feelings of social isolation within your virtual workplace.

One great way to help combat some of the lack of trust or community in your virtual work environment is to get your team together on Zoom and do good old-fashioned team-building activities.

These may seem like unnecessary meetings; however, providing opportunities for your employees to create an internal community is essential. It may be natural for the physical workplace. Still, when your employees are telecommuting across different time zones and possibly even different countries, you have to be proactive about company culture.

Keeping these issues with communication in mind is important, and mitigating them will be paramount. Consider organizing events that focus on building this all-too-important factor of team success.

Management Failures

Let’s be honest; management is one tough job. We could spend hours writing about the various fundamental challenges that managers and team leaders face. Everyone you manage has their own personality that responds differently to praise and discipline than the other.

Some people have personal issues unique to them that must be considered. Some people are motivated by a single goal that does nothing for others. Managing your unique team effectively is beyond tough; it is downright hard.

Virtual team management presents a new set of challenges that many experienced managers are not accustomed to. First, seeing your subordinates every day gives you a lot of personal insight.

The communication issues that often result from making the virtual transition can make these small opportunities for team-building harder to come by. Secondly, virtual project management tends to be very hands-off about problem mitigation.

Experienced managers can often sense a growing issue before it becomes a major problem and get ahead of it. With virtual management, this can prove to be far more difficult. This results in small issues going unnoticed for long enough to become large problems.

Then there are the business owners themselves who will be confronted with the same unique obstacles remote employees face. This can lead to a domino effect that only further complicates the act of management in the virtual environment.

Intentional Incompetence

What do we mean by intentional incompetence, you ask? Well, where incompetence is earnest and unintentional, intentional incompetence is where a person underperforms on purpose. Switching to virtual teams has a negative vibe that can end up being positive in its own way. We will explain.

Going virtual allows your employees to often complete their work from home, the place they are most comfortable. The trouble with being in their environment of comfort is that they can become complacent and, for lack of a better term, lazy.

A positive part of going to work is that our brains switch to work mode from home mode. When a home is both our haven and our office, our brains can have trouble making the switch. This is especially true considering the unique and constant distractions at home.

The step you have been meaning to fix on the stairs, the dogs needing to go out, or your toddler demanding attention are constantly present: these distractions can lead to a decline in productivity.

Finally, there is the cold truth that some people will take advantage of the circumstance and do less work than they really could be doing. This is where this negative can become positive. Identifying those people allows you to implement management practices to correct the behavior and, if not fixed, recognize where a problem can be solved by hiring someone new.

Eventually, these employees would have taken advantage of the system and most likely would become issues that needed to be dealt with. Virtual teams just speed up the process.

Where To Find a Virtual Team

Despite the negatives that can come with virtual teams, there are far more positives. If you decide to transition to a virtual team format (or maybe even a hybrid model), understand that there will be challenges. However, you and your team can develop policies and programs to mitigate the negativity. AwesomeOS can assist you in this journey through uncharted territory. Click here for more info.

Sources:

Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere | Tsedal Neeley

Good News or Bad News: Which Do You Want First? | National Geographic

Covid in the US: Latest Maps, Case and Death Counts | The New York Times

How Much of Communication Is Nonverbal? | UT Permian Basin Online

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