A virtual team is a group of people working interdependently via various types of electronic media across organizational and geographical boundaries for a shared purpose (D’Souza & Colarelli, 2010). Research indicates virtual teams are becoming increasingly popular in organizations across the United States and the world (D’Souza & Colarelli, 2010; Rusman, van Bruggen, Sloep, & Koper, 2010). These teams vary in size, degree of geographic dispersion, prior shared work experience, nature of assignment, and expectations of a common future (Rusman et al., 2010). Although virtual teams have potential advantages like the removal of physical boundaries, the ability to form new partnerships, and optimization of competencies (Chinowsky & Rojas, 2003), they also introduce many challenges that may not be as prevalent in traditional teams.
Remaining focused on the overall goals and objectives of a project can become an issue if these are not consistently restated by managers or team leaders. Without the advantage of regular and ad hoc personal meetings, members of virtual teams may misinterpret, inadvertently change, or lose focus on the goals of the project. Because of this, individuals are charged with a greater responsibility to remain focused on both expected outcomes and objectives (Chinowsky & Rojas, 2003).
A reliable environment for teams to exchange information in a secure manner may be a necessity for virtual teams; therefore, security can pose another challenge. Different types of projects may require different levels of security. A virtual private network may be necessary to ensure that information is passed securely to the desired recipients. Authentication and encryption techniques can guarantee secure transmission of electronic information within this virtual environment. Management must ensure that proper authentication is set up for each member of the team. Levels of security may vary across team members. Encryption techniques may be required so information is only legible to the intended recipients (Chinowsky & Rojas, 2003).
Members of virtual teams may cross psychological and physical boundaries creating levels of complexity that traditional teams do not have. These boundaries include culture, language, time zones, and disciplines (Platt, 1999). Team members may be spread across different offices, cities, states, countries, and even continents. This distance can create issues like spanning multiple time zones which may require reorganizing workdays to accommodate others’ schedules. This may potentially cause frustration or confusion as delayed responses from team members may produce setbacks when responses are needed to proceed (Mortensen & Hinds, 2001).
Reliance on technology creates another set of challenges. Even though technology makes the use of virtual teams possible, Chinowsky & Rojas (2003) state that it will not guarantee the success of the team, but it can possibly lead to the failure of the team. Team members are forced to...