Teams - Remote and Virtual

by Claire Snowdon and Mark Bouch

Why use a virtual/remote team?

Virtual/remote working teams, sometimes referred to as VRW teams, emerged in the 1990s as the speed of economic growth and globalisation led to an expansion in the footprint of companies and reduced the time that they had available to develop products. In particular, international organisations have seen a significant increase in business in the past decade, due to globalisation and widespread use of technology.

With information technology playing a greater role in the daily operations of organisations today, virtual workplaces are beginning to replace the traditional office environment of cubicles and office buildings. The following trends have emerged:

  • The distribution of organisations – organisations increasingly represent a complex network of employees, freelancers, customers and suppliers, both co-located and distributed around the world
  • The availability of technology – technology tools are being consolidated into easy-to-use platforms so that workers can collaborate in a synchronised and non-synchronised way
  • The shortage of knowledge workers – particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects
  • The demand for more work flexibility – organisations will need to offer less traditional ways of working to attract and retain the best talent
  • Pressure for more sustainable organisations and work styles – society and regulations will pressure organisations to improve social and environmentally sustainable work practices.

Remote teaming continues to develop, as it promises additional flexibility and more efficient use of resources. Remote teams are a logical response to a number of factors:

  • Organisations that can mobilise teams to solve challenges as and when required will be more competitive and responsive in today’s dynamic markets
  • Remote team members can improve their productivity and quality of life by spending less time commuting to work
  • The global workday allows the load to be spread over 24 hours
  • The highly talented employees required to deliver a project may be located anywhere in the world
  • Many complex challenges require collaboration and cooperation between companies and/or departments that are not co-located
  • In many economies, traditional production environments are increasingly being replaced by service/knowledge-based work environments
  • Contemporary organisational structures tend to mean that resource is geographically dispersed. Remote teaming provides a cost-effective alternative to co-location.