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Globalization requires companies to intelligently distribute work across time and space. Therefore, organizations increasingly turn to virtual teams (Majchrzak et al. 2005). Research defines virtual teams as groups of geographically distributed individuals that rely on information technology for accomplishing their work (Powell et al. 2004). Modern organizations increasingly require the formation of structurally diverse teams, where employees work with team members from different business units, overseas branches or delegates of other companies (Cummings 2004). Structurally diverse arrangements allow for sharing knowledge and integrating different perspectives to expedite implementation of new ideas and spark innovation across locations (Majchrzak et al. 2004). Moreover, facing increased market pressure to cut costs, companies increasingly outsource business functions to external providers. For this purpose, work teams of outsourcer and provider have to coordinate the provision of services and the transfer of business specific knowledge across time and space (Dibbern et al. 2008).
In contrast to co-located teams, virtual teams hardly meet in person and therefore have to fully rely on information technology (Robert et al. 2009). Technology, however, severely limits the means of communication and thus tremendously changes the way people work together (Powell et al. 2004). Consequently, a plethora of studies have sought to investigate why collaboration in virtual teams is much more difficult than in co-located settings (Hinds and Bailey 2003; Powell et al. 2004). A fundamental problem of virtual collaboration is that team workers lack awareness about their team members’ activities (Kraut et al. 2002). According to Dourish and Bellotti (1992, p. 107), awareness denotes the “… understanding of the activities of others,which provides a context of [ones] own activity”. In co-located teams, peo ple learn about each other’s activities by simply observing their team members carrying out a task, speaking about their activities in scheduled meetings as well as during chance encounters in the office space. In virtual teams, however, people cannot observe their colleagues and rarely meet in person (Kraut et al. 2002).