Benefits and risks considered, many workplaces are ripe for
a greater virtual presence.
To identify the challenges, trends, and opportunities provided by
virtual teams, Chronos Consulting recently surveyed organizations
from a variety of industries in North America, including financial
services, oil and gas, telecom, cable, call center operations, and
consulting and transportation.
According to The State of Virtual Team Utilization in the 21st
Century, virtual teams and workforces consist of employees from
different functions of an organization, and can be distributed
across disparate locations and between companies. They may include
remote workers, mobile employees, independent workers, or
outsourced servicesor anyone who does not work solely in one place.
The survey results identified distinct benefits to organizations
that use virtual teams: reduced labor costs, access to a wider
talent pool, improved employee productivity, improved employee
morale, lower rates of employee turnover, better collaboration
between software and tools, and the ability to hire more flexible
Of the 52 organizations that participated in the survey, 57 percent
report that they plan to use more virtual teams in the future, with
72 percent citing cost reduction as the primary reason for
implementing virtual teams. One company saw a cost savings of 21
percent in just one year through the implementation of a virtual
With an increasing number of organizations turning to a virtual
workforce as a cost-cutting measure, success may depend on the
organizations preparation. The report suggests: Transitioning to a
virtual team model is best done in a scalable manner. A pilot
(proof of concept project) should be planned and implemented
successfully. The lessons learned from this experience can then be
applied in an incremental transitioning.
The survey identified three main problems when using virtual teams:
additional training and guidance needed; communication barriers
(especially cross-cultural communication); and time zone and
distance issues. Implementing and managing a virtual workforce can
be a difficult task that, if an organization is not equipped to
execute, can potentially drain its resources.
Because every organization has unique challenges and needs, there
is no one model for virtual teaming that works across the board.
However, the report suggests that an organization interested in
implementing a virtual workforce would benefit from a customized
assessment used to identify the specific benefits to the business.