Communication, collaboration and belongingness in virtual teams : mapping out enablers and constraints

University essay from Malmö universitet/Malmö högskola/Institutionen för datavetenskap och medieteknik (DVMT)

Abstract: In an increasingly digital world, virtual work becomes more common every year. Additionally, virtual work has suddenly become the reality for a large part of the world’s population due to the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, a study on virtual teamwork is currently of high relevance. The purpose of this study is to gain a deeper understanding and provide knowledge on enablers and constraints for communication, collaboration and belongingness in virtual teams as well as ICTs impact on the virtual teamwork. The study has a phenomenological research design with a qualitative approach. Empirical data has been collected by studying three transnational, virtual teams by conducting six semi-structured individual interviews. The sample was selected through a strategic selection. A thematic analysis has been conducted to compile and analyze the data, which thereafter has been set in relation to the theoretical framework of the study. The enablers found in the results were flexibility and availability for communication, clearly defined roles, high level of both task- and relationship based communication as well as depth of relationships, trust and shared understanding for collaboration, and responsibility, seeing into team members homes and virtual social team activities for belongingness. Additionally, ICTs were found as a main enabler for all themes. The identified constraints were time dispersion for all three themes, as well as virtuality as a whole. Additionally misunderstandings was identified for collaboration and lack of natural and spontaneous social conversation for belongingness. Furthermore, the findings implicate that ICTs with characteristics of richer type in relation to media richness are preferred most of the time to enable a better virtual work climate regards to communication, collaboration and belongingness. However, some criteria for media richness cannot be fully utilized in virtual teams due to time dispersion. Lastly, findings implicate that the choice of ICT based on previous experience, rather than linked to suitability, might hinder an optimal model of ICT usage for a well-functioning virtual team.

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