Virtual teams thrive with independence and interdependence

Virtual teams thrive when they have equal access to resources and engage in close-knit collaboration to achieve shared objectives.
By: | October 31, 2023

A new study has found that virtual teams perform best when they have both independence and interdependence.

The study, titled Interdependence in Virtual Team—A Double-Edged Sword?, found that virtual teams need equal access to resources and information to be effective. However, they also need to be structured in a way that encourages team members to rely on one another and work closely together to achieve a common goal.

The researchers conducted an experiment with 102 virtual teams, manipulating two different types of task interdependence: resource interdependence and process interdependence. The former refers to how much team members need to rely on one another to access critical information or resources, while the latter refers to how collaborative the workflow between team members is.

They found that virtual teams were most effective when they had low resource interdependence (everyone had equal access to all resources) and high levels of process interdependence (when they were encouraged to work collaboratively).

Dr Florian Klonek, Senior Lecturer of Deakin Business School’s Department of Management, said, “These results are important for managers and organisations in thinking about how they can design work for virtual teams to help them improve their performance.” He recommended that managers and organisations create a shared folder where everyone has the same access to information and resources, and rethink how workflows are structured and who engages with whom.

READ MORE: Supporting thriving employees in remote workplaces

Dr Lisette Kanse, Senior Lecturer from the University of Western Australia, said that virtual workplace collaboration tools like Teams, Google Drive, Trello and Slack, allow teams to work more organically and emulate a face-to-face teamwork experience.

“As much as possible, you want to emulate a face-to-face teamwork experience, because that’s where most people experience the benefits of teamwork,” she concluded.