Forty-six percent of employers use virtual teams, and those with global operations are more likely to use virtual teams at 66 percent as opposed to U.S.-based operations at 28 percent, according to a survey released by the Society for Human Resource Management.
The survey also finds that government agencies are least likely to use virtual teams at 9 percent while publicly owned for-profit companies are the most likely at 50 percent, followed by privately-owned for-profit organizations at 46 percent.
Among the respondents, 53 percent say they use virtual teams to include talent in different geographic locations, and 49 percent say it is to boost collaboration. Thirty-nine percent of respondents say virtual teams are implemented to improve productivity, and another 39 percent say they use virtual teams to reduce travel costs. As work is becoming increasingly global, 37 percent of respondents say virtual teams are used for more collaboration.
“When virtual teams work, their productivity can be impressive, but getting them to function can be a challenge” says Evren Esen, manager of SHRM’s survey research center. “Improved technology may help facilitate the use of virtual teams.”
Of the most successful teamwork behaviors reported in virtual teams are brainstorming solutions for problems or issues at 72 percent, defining goals for team initiatives and projects at 68 percent and developing plans for team initiatives or projects at 63 percent.
Still, 51 percent of respondents say building team relations for virtual workers can prevent them from being successful while 49 percent of respondents say time differences are a challenge. Thirty-two percent of respondents say the distribution of work to be a challenge, and 26 percent of respondents say differences in cultural norms can be difficult. Another 25 percent of respondents report that leading virtual teams is a challenge.