Virtual teams have become a tremendous asset for many businesses around the world thanks to the expansion of the internet. With high bandwidth saturation increasing in many major markets, it has become possible for small businesses to contract out certain tasks to freelancers and stay-at-home professionals in an affordable way. In return, professionals can maintain more than one client as a virtual professional to earn a full-time living without all of the rules of traditional employment.
Should your company be using virtual teams for an upcoming project? Here are some of the key points to consider with the pros and cons of virtual teams.
The Pros of Virtual Teams
1. The savings on real estate alone are substantial.
In a 2013 survey of office space costs by Entrepreneur, the average business was paying over $23 per square foot for productive space. Virtual teams don’t require any real estate in which to operate because they already have their own space at a remote location, including home offices. This means a business can save a lot of money by abandoning the property asset altogether.
2. It creates happier employees.
Some employees are commuting 90-120 minutes every day one-way just to get to work. That is a cost that the employee is forced to take on themselves and the 3-4 hours traveling just to get to work can bog down family time. Virtual teams eliminate the need for the constant commute, which creates happier, less stressed people who are now more likely to come up with something creative.
3. Human resources can expand globally.
When virtual teams are being used, the entire connected planet becomes a potential applicant for your open position. There are no relocation costs to worry about or a limited amount of experience in your field in the local employee pool that can limit overall productivity. Hiring someone from Singapore becomes just as easy as hiring someone who lives next door.
4. It’s an environmentally friendly practice.
If someone doesn’t have to commute long hours to work every day, then that is a reduction in vehicle exhaust that no longer goes into the atmosphere. Less waste is created as well and if the virtual team is using environmentally friendly electricity generating resources, virtually no fossil fuels may be being used outside of what was used to create the equipment needed for the virtual team. It really is a friendlier working experience for the planet.
The Cons of Virtual Teams
1. It can be very difficult to manage the time zones.
Let’s say someone in Seattle decides to hire someone in Singapore to be a member of their virtual team. Singapore has a +15 time zone compared to Seattle, which means there are very limited times when the team can get together to share ideas or have a real-time conversation. This is one of the greatest inconveniences of virtual teams.
2. Employees can struggle to balance life demands with work demands.
There is greater flexibility in working as a virtual team member, but that flexibility comes at a price. It can be difficult to resist the temptation to watch TV, play video games, or even wash the dishes instead of work for several hours at a time.
3. Communication becomes limited by nature.
More than half of our communication with other people is non-verbal in nature. For some people, up to 90% of what they say is done without words. Virtual teams force people to use specific words to communicate because in-person meetings are quite rare with this type of employment arrangement. It is not unusual for long message chains to be created because there is a misunderstanding of expectations in one way or another.
4. Team members don’t bond together.
Most virtual teams are composed of remote employees that don’t really know or interact with anyone else on the team. This makes it a challenge for a virtual team to work together cohesively because there are few opportunities available to get to know an individual’s working style, attitude, or perspectives on life. The costs of getting a virtual team to one place at the same time is also prohibitive, which means there is a greater risk of having someone “go rogue” on a virtual team compared to a traditional environment.
The pros and cons of virtual teams show that money can be saved immediately by making this transition. As long as the key points that could turn into negatives are effectively managed, a transition to having a virtual team could be highly beneficial.