How virtual are we? Measuring virtuality and understanding its impact in a global organization
Abstract. Employees in global corporations are increasingly involved in ‘virtual teams’ on a regular basis. Conflicting definitions of virtuality make it hard to measure such things as how much virtual teaming occurs and how virtual teaming affects performance. As a consequence, it is hard to allocate funding and to design infrastructures and software to support this specific mode of working. Using the concept of discontinuities, or changes in expected conditions, we propose a virtuality index to assess how ‘virtual’ a given setting is. The discontinuities used include geography, time zone, organization, national culture, work practices, and technology. The index separately measures these aspects of virtuality and their effect on perceived team performance. Data collected at a large multinational corporation clustered into three overarching discontinuities: team distribution, workplace mobility, and variety of work practices. The study revealed that being distributed in and of itself had no impact on self-assessed team performance. Work practice predictability and sociability mitigated effects of working in discontinuous environments, while variety of practices (cultural and work process diversity) and employee mobility negatively impacted performance.