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In the past, everyone is expected to travel to work every day and some even have to relocate for work. Nevertheless, with the development of technology, virtual work has been an answer to the geographical issue. This essay will use management theories to address the advantages as well as drawbacks and strategies for the advancement of organisations and employees.
The body of the essay is going to cover benefits and disadvantages of virtual teams as well as suggestions for the companies.
Employing a virtual team means saving on expenses such as real estate and utilities while companies only need to pay for the level of support and the length of required service. According to Researchers: Flexibility may be the key to increased productivity” reported on Insights by Stanford Business in October 2012, the employee working from home can save the company about $2000 per year. Especially if the business is relatively new, having to support an in-house team can wreak havoc with finances.
As stated in Why working from home is a Future-looking technology on Insights by Stanford Business in June 2017, a study was conducted and revealed that there was a 13% improvement in performance from people working at home for two main reasons. First, those working online work their full shift as they are not delayed by traffic and taking a long break with their colleagues. Moreover, employees at home tend to concentrate better because the office environment is distracting.
As reported in Benefits of Telecommuting For The Future of Work by Forbes in July 2017, a report published by the Royal Society for Public Health in the Uk found that 55% of people felt more stressed as a result of their commute and workers had less healthy and active lifestyles.
What is more, according to Transport Emissions: Driving Down Car Pollution In Cities by Climate Council, transport is Australia’s third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, which takes up 17% of total emissions. Transport emissions have increased by nearly 60% since 1990. In this way, working at home is better for both workers’ health and the environment.
Trust is one of the main factor leading to effective virtual teams and online exchanges. This significant virtue is described as the confidence level of team members in one another and it affects the performance of the team (Pinjani 2013). However, it is complicated to build trust among members in virtual teams as they are unable to have physical contact which face-to-face employees rely on to form trust. Since team members do not trust each other enough, they are reluctant to share their knowledge as they are afraid that their knowledge can be stolen (Alsharo 2017). Therefore, they will not use their full potential and the outcome will be badly affected.
Members of online teams can come from various cultural backgrounds so their perceptions will be different. For example, based on the results of a study of 318 Taiwanese and 245 American business employees, Knutson et al. (2000) (cited in Wenli Yuan 2010) concluded that Americans opted for a solution-driven conflict management style. On the contrary, Taiwanese participants tend to avoid or play down the conflicts because they were more concerned about saving face and maintaining a pleasant relationship with their colleagues (Wenli Yuan 2010). This contrast makes it harder for not only the employers to manage the team and resolve potential conflicts but also team members to cope with the differences.
With a traditional work structure, during lunch break, people tend to gather around and chat. This is a social aspect missing in a virtual team. Although employees still work with other people, they are working at home by themselves. They do not get the chance to share lunch break and socialize with other people. In fact, isolation and loneliness getting from working at home can cause mental health. As written in Work a key factor in depression and anxiety published by HR Magazine in January 2018, 17.8% of the 1200 workers surveyed said that poor mental health was mostly contributed by working alone and 42% of them admitted that their job played a significant role in their mental health problem.
The company should arrange multiple face-to-face meetings for employees to get to know each other and have an idea of what to do. These meetings help colleagues getting to know each other better and thereby increase team bonding. Through these activities, they can develop a sense of trust and be more comfortable sharing ideas and learning from each other. If team members trust each other, they are able to share their viewpoints, the reasons and doubts for their conclusions. Eventually, they can come up with new ideas based on each other’s opinions (Kimble C. 2010). Frequent meetings also engage online employees to participate more in the traditional office environment and reduce the feeling of being socially isolated. Once they have a community to rely upon for support and information, they are likely to accomplish work faster and have a longer-term relationship with the company (Raghuram. S 2001). Thus, physical meetings should be held more frequently to generate higher productivity and more trust.
Vinaja (2003) pointed out that some problems multi-cultural virtual teams experience include time delays in replies, lack of synergy among team members, communications breakdowns, unresolved conflicts, limited hours allowed to be worked and different holidays. In order to deal with these problems, managers can build an accessible file which shares each team member’s personal information such as hobbies, experience etc. Doing this assists them to overcome the differences and get to know each other more easily. Members should also be encouraged to share their cultural norms within the team to foster cross-cultural understanding. Moreover, the whole team also need to agree on team rules that are aligned with everyone’s expectations. For instance, everyone must use appropriate languages and behaviours to respond to emails within 24 hours.
Based on management theories, the essay has covered three advantages which are lower cost for the company, having access to a global pool of talents, increased efficiency and benefits for employees’ health and the environment as well as drawbacks such as lack of trust, cultural difference and social isolation. Organizing regular physical meetings and creating a team profile and rules are also mentioned so that companies can make use of to overcome current issues and improve their performances.
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