Table of Contents
2. Virtual Teams
2.2 Virtual Team Effectiveness
3. Trust in Virtual Teams
4. Building Trust in Virtual Teams
Over the past two decades, megatrends such as digitalisation, globalisation, and technological evolution have shaped the nature of work (Großer & Baumöl, 2017). In response, a growing number of organisations are shifting from traditional to virtual environments (Gilson et al., 2015). Organisations are increasingly implementing teams that collaborate online across national, cultural, and organisational boundaries using communication technologies (Hacker et al., 2019). One study reveals that the number of employees working in virtual settings increased by 173 percent between 2005 and 2018 (Global Workplace Analytics, 2020). In 2018, 18 percent of the global workforce worked virtually full-time (Owl Labs, 2018), but that number rose to 69 percent by 2020 (Owl Labs, 2020). Virtual collaboration has increased largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as it requires organisations to enable remote working (Mysirlaki & Paraskeva, 2020). Scholars estimate that 73 percent of teams will operate at least partially in virtual settings by 2028 (Upwork, 2019). Accordingly, virtual teams have become an integral part of corporate structures (Hacker et al., 2019).
While virtual collaboration has benefits, it also poses challenges that virtual teams must face to be effective (Mysirlaki & Paraskeva, 2020). As Gibson and Cohen (2003) explain, building trust among team members is challenging due to the lack of face-to-face interaction and technology-based communication in virtual relationships. However, trust within teams is crucial for their effectiveness (Breuer et al., 2016). Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to investigate the impact of trust on virtual team effectiveness.
Firstly, this paper defines virtual teams and introduces the concept of virtual team effectiveness. Secondly, it examines the impact of trust on virtual team effectiveness. Finally, it points out implications for virtual managers on how to build trust in virtual teams and gives recommendations for future research.
2. Virtual Teams
The following section defines virtual teams and distinguishes them from traditional teams by conceptualizing virtuality in teamwork. Furthermore, it elaborates on the concept of virtual team effectiveness and explains its complex nature.
As virtual teams have gained popularity in recent years, various approaches to their definition have emerged in the literature (Ale Ebrahim et al., 2009). Based on the most commonly identified characteristics, the authors define virtual teams as co-workers that rely on technology-mediated communication to cooperate across geographical locations, time zones, and organisational structures toward a shared objective. Due to the spatial distance, virtual team members communicate electronically rather than face-to-face (Mehta & Shah, 2019). To do so, they use digital means, such as video conferencing, file transfer, and application sharing (Morrison-Smith & Ruiz, 2020).
Early literature suggests that virtual teams differ from conventional teams by their geographic dispersion and use of technology (Gilson et al., 2015). However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more team members have been cooperating virtually without being geographically dispersed (Zeuge et al., 2020). Moreover, teams working together on-site may also use communication technologies (Dulebohn & Hoch, 2017). Therefore, studies have recently taken a more multidimensional approach to conceptualize virtuality (Hacker et al, 2019). Jimenez et al. (2017) conclude that virtuality is determined not solely by spatial distance, but also by temporal and structural dispersion in terms of economic, educational, and demographic backgrounds. Kirkman and Mathieu (2005) specify virtuality based on the use of technology. As they point out, virtual teams utilize digital communication tools more intensively to accomplish tasks and exchange valuable information than conventional teams (Kirkman & Mathieu, 2005). Taken together, the concept of virtuality encompasses whether teams are dispersed across multiple dimensions and the extent to which they apply communication technologies (Jimenez et al., 2017; Kirkman & Mathieu, 2005).
2.2 Virtual Team Effectiveness
Teams strive to perform their tasks effectively. However, team effectiveness is a complex and multidimensional concept (Pangil & Chan, 2014). Ross et al. (2008) note that team effectiveness relates to its performance, behaviour, and attitude. Lin et al. (2008) define team effectiveness based on the team member’s performance and satisfaction. Although the existing literature elaborates on the concept of team effectiveness, little attention has been paid to the effectiveness of virtual teams in particular (Pangil & Chan, 2014). Pangil and Chan (2014) argue that despite the differences between virtual and conventional teams, both are expected to achieve goals. Hence, virtual team effectiveness can also be determined by the team member’s performance and satisfaction (Pangil & Chan, 2014).
Due to the complexity of team effectiveness, the outcomes of virtual teams are difficult to assess (Gilson et al., 2015). Some studies report that virtual teams are more effective than conventional teams (Maynard et al., 2012), while other studies indicate that working virtually decreases effectiveness (Schweitzer & Duxbury, 2010). Previous research has explored various factors that affect whether or not virtual teams succeed.