Virtual teams (i.e., geographically distributed collaborations that rely on technology to communicate and cooperate) are central to maintaining our increasingly globalized social and economic infrastructure. “Global Virtual Teams” that include members from around the world are the most extreme example and are growing in prevalence (Scott and Wildman in Culture, communication, and conflict: a review of the global virtual team literature, Springer, New York, 2015). There has been a multitude of studies examining the difficulties faced by collaborations and use of technology in various narrow contexts. However, there has been little work in examining the challenges faced by virtual teams and their use of technology to mitigate issues. To address this issue, a literature review was performed to highlight the collaboration challenges experienced by virtual teams and existing mitigation strategies. In this review, a well-planned search strategy was utilized to identify a total of 255 relevant studies, primarily focusing on technology use. The physical factors relating to distance are tightly coupled with the cognitive, social, and emotional challenges faced by virtual teams. However, based on research topics in the selected studies, we separate challenges as belonging to five categories: geographical distance, temporal distance, perceived distance, the configuration of dispersed teams, and diversity of workers. In addition, findings from this literature review expose opportunities for research, such as resolving discrepancies regarding the effect of tightly coupled work on collaboration and the effect of temporal dispersion on coordination costs. Finally, we use these results to discuss opportunities and implications for designing groupware that better support collaborative tasks in virtual teams.

Morrison-Smith, S., Ruiz, J. Challenges and barriers in virtual teams: a literature review. SN Appl. Sci. 2, 1096 (2020).