The Proven Success of Virtual Teams

By Tara Powers

Several years ago, as part of my work with teams and leaders on communication, trust, and leadership, I began taking note that more and more of these team leaders and team members had never met face-to-face and relied solely on technology to stay connected.

The use of virtual teams, fueled by advances in technology and the promise of reduced operational costs, was growing at a rapid rate. Businesses were launching headfirst into establishing virtual teams, with barely a backward glance at the issues of the virtual environment.

The more I investigated, the clearer it became: Virtual teams will continue to grow, but organizations needed to recognize the unique challenges of virtual teams and invest in ongoing training and support in order to realize the benefits. No research addressed this issue, so I conducted my own.

Over six months in 2016, hundreds of participants completed an online survey about their experiences leading or participating on a virtual team. Participants included virtual team members, virtual team leaders, executives that support virtual teams, and people who would soon be on a virtual team. Survey participants represented various industries and sizes of organizations.

Despite the growing data-driven evidence of the benefits of virtual teams, some cynics are still out there. Here are a few key data points from my findings and other sources that can help any virtual team advocate seeking upper-level support:

  • Virtual teams have increased 800 percent over the last five years.
  • Fifty percent of team members agree that productivity has increased being part of a virtual team.
  • Virtual teams can save companies up to 25 percent of revenue.
  • Teams with clear agreements are 18 times more likely to accomplish their goals.
  • Teams with clear agreements are 28 times more likely to be highly productive.
  • Teams with clear agreements are 39 times more likely to come up with innovative solutions.
  • Newly formed virtual teams that communicate effectively were 55 times more likely to be responsive to customers.
  • Newly formed virtual teams that communicate effectively were 12 times more likely to reach their goals.
  • Teams that are effective at using collaborative technology are 98 times more likely to come up with innovative solutions.
  • Teams that are effective at using collaborative technology are 74 times more likely to deliver on time and within budget.