Riding on the back of fast advanced communications technology, cross cultural virtual teams became, well, practically routine for many large organisations. People relate to one another based on the norms of the culture they were raised in and, therefore, much of the possible business productivity of cross cultural virtual teams is dissipated in misinterpretations, unspoken assumptions, and sometimes even traumatic connections all born from different working styles. According to statistics no less than 88% of virtual teams believe virtual collaboration is crucial to daily productivity. With international industry growing, and new technologies making it feasible for experts to collaborate from wherever they’re all around the world, I estimate that percentage will grow quite close to 100 in the next 10 years.

But even today, working in cross cultural virtual teams can be painful. Virtual teams continuously face intercultural challenges since they bring together a wide range sometimes very different working styles, which present barriers to productivity and innovation. And, despite investing in technology which makes cross cultural virtual teams simpler than ever before in the past, most organisations still not invest enough in intercultural skills required to get the most out of that technology. Tech is developing, but humans also need developing, too! Language and time zone differences are the most obvious hurdles to working on a multicultural virtual team.

But some of the most common frustrations voiced by many virtual teams are things like lack of participation, lack of engagement, low context communication, and lack of ownership, problems – all of which are open to extreme interpretation based on personal cultural context. Despite their different work styles, virtual team members wish to participate – but sometimes, they simply do not know how.