One of the biggest points in discussing the benefits and challenges of virtual teams is the cost savings. Telecommuting allows saving a lot of money you would otherwise spend on an office, furniture, supplies, and even power and water bills.
This doesn't mean you won't have to spend money on your employees at all. You might have to spend more on software and other communication tools, and, in some cases, you would need to provide some allowance to the team members. However, overall, this is still one of the major advantages of a virtual team.
Remote work allows employees to have more control over the circumstances they work in. They have more time to spend with their loved ones, save the time they would otherwise spend on the commute, organize their working hours according to their biological clock, take better care of their health and wellness, etc. This might seem like one of the benefits of a virtual team for an employee rather than for a business, but there is a direct correlation between one and the other. Happier employees have been noticed to be more productive, thus being more beneficial to the employer.
Another point in the discussion between traditional teams vs. virtual teams for the latter is the worldwide reach you have in terms of talent to hire. You don't have to rely on your local community or even your country – you can cooperate with the person on the other end of the globe. The talent search should not be too complicated as well – nowadays, multiple online platforms allow you to hire a freelance worker in a matter of minutes. Team diversity will also improve the quality of discussions and ideas your team will come up with.
An Ability to Operate Within Different Time Zones
This one of the virtual team benefits results directly from the previous point. If you need for your business to operate during unusual for your time zone hours, all you need to do is hire professionals from another country to be comfortable for them to work when it is nighttime for you.
This is also perfect if you need to establish your presence in a different country or culture. Hire team members from that country and have them represent your business on a local level. They will be able to adapt your product to their local audience better than you ever could.
Advantages of a Virtual Team Approach
Lack of Non-Verbal Communication
Potential Technological Mismatch
If you find the software solution that suits your team and your development process the best, you need to make sure that everyone has the resources to use it. A technological mismatch can cause many problems, even if everything seems fine at first glance.
The ideal solution to this problem is to provide all the team members with the same hardware. However, not every company has the budget for such an expense. Another solution is to filter out the mismatch early on, like including the hardware requirements on the job listing.
The significant disadvantage that often gets mentioned in the discussions of the pros and cons of virtual teams is the lack of personal interactions between the team members. This can often negatively impact the person's mood and motivation, thus negatively impacting productivity.
The lack of social interaction also results in the absence of a team spirit. When team members have no idea who they're working with outside the work environment, they have nothing to bond over. A simple discussion of their day-to-day life can go a long way in establishing a more personal relationship. Its absence can result in a lack of cooperation between the team members, which is essential for certain tasks.
While there is a technology that can improve the communication between long-distance coworkers, it cannot make the process as simple and effective as an eye-to-eye conversation. Even during the video chat, there are certain context clues and non-verbal signals that get missed.
The lack of non-verbal clues to rely on can lead to some unfortunate misunderstandings. If these misunderstandings don't get caught on fast enough, they might result in conflict or errors in the work process.
Virtual Team Disadvantages
Reduces Your Time to Market
One of the best practices you could ever employ with virtual teams is around-the-clock production. For example, you can have one of your developers take over once the developer from the other time zone finishes their work. This will greatly reduce your overall time to market and help you to stand out among your competitors.
However, here's where one of the virtual team disadvantages comes into play; as for the effective 24-hour cycle, you need to have effective communication and leadership, which can often be challenging to achieve.
Require Different Leadership Skills
When talking about the advantages and challenges of managing a global virtual team, you should remember that it is a fundamentally different process and requires a fundamentally different skill set. You would need to set appropriate boundaries and find a tricky balance to accommodate every team member.
Among the pros and cons of managing virtual teams that are worth mentioning are that you can solve a lot of previously mentioned problems with the right management and activities planned. Still, you would also need to better plan your working hours (or hire some help) if your team works around the clock.
Lack of Team Collaboration
Virtual teams often consist of freelancers that are used to working alone. Sometimes they prefer to fall back to old habits and work on their separate task independently. While for some teams a separate effort of each team member is enough to complete the project, for most industries, it's not the case, and collaboration is essential to succeed. It's the job of the team's leader to ensure an active collaborative effort and control the process. However, in some cases, the differences in opinions are not easily reconcilable, so the only way to improve the cooperation is to change the team. This decision is difficult to make, and you need to be sure that there is no other way before you make it.