What Is a Virtual Team? Definition & Examples

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“Virtual team” is an odd phrase. It sounds like something that only exists in a digital alternate reality. But virtual teams are very much a reality, and they’re becoming more prevalent with each passing day.

A virtual team is no longer an outlier. Organizations have realized the benefit of using technology to look beyond their local community for talent. It’s almost become the norm—and of course, the whole virtual trend has been boosted by the recent pandemic.

Regardless, it’s clear that virtual teams are here to stay. You’ve likely worked on one or are thinking about initiating one in your company. Great! But there are considerations to be made as you weigh your decision. The first, and perhaps the highest, is understanding what virtual teams are and why they’ve gained such popularity so quickly.

What Is a Virtual Team?

A virtual team is a group of workers who communicate and work together using digital tools. While they can be located in the same physical space, virtual teams are often distributed, working remotely in different parts of the city, state or country—even on the other side of the world!

There are other names for virtual teams, such as “geographically dispersed teams” or “remote teams,” but they all mean the same thing: people working together without being physically together. They do this through the use of online tools, such as project management software, to communicate and collaborate.

Because of the distance between virtual teams, it is imperative that they develop trust in the group and foster good communications in order to avoid costly misunderstandings. This can be a high hurdle to clear, as people tend to bond in person. But, there are virtual project management techniques that can help.

virtual team collaboration on a project task
A virtual team can collaborate on tasks and projects with ProjectManager.com—Learn More!

Virtual Teams Are Trending

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since 2019, 22% of U.S. workers are working from home, while 50% are working in some capacity with virtual teams. That’s a staggering number! It’s only going to rise as organizations become more comfortable with virtual teams, and as teams demand greater flexibility.

Workers want work-life balance and organizations want to expand their net in capturing talent. And sometimes larger forces make working from home the only way to keep a company functioning.

Whatever the reason, the need for virtual teams is spiking, but the knowledge of what a virtual team is and how to build, lead and manage one is lagging. There’s no time like the present for a crash course in virtual teams!

Examples of Virtual Teams

Not all virtual teams are the same. There are several varieties, which depend on the lifespan, objective, goals and roles of the team members. Some of them follow.

Networked Teams

A networked team is made up of cross-functional team members who are assembled because of their experience and skills on a specific issue. The team is open to new members as needed, and those already on the team are removed after their role is completed.

Parallel Teams

A parallel team comes from the same organization, and is tasked to develop recommendations on a process or system. They are usually only together for a short time, with all members staying on board until they’ve achieved their assigned goal.

Product Development Teams

A product development team is a group that is brought together because of their expertise at accomplishing a specific goal. The members of this team get clearly defined roles and work independently, with their collective work combined to achieve the end goal. While not always a virtual team, when those experts are situated in different states or countries, they become virtual.

Service Teams

A service team is made up of members who occupy different time zones. They work independently. However, their shifts overlap to offer continual service. So, for example, when one shift is complete on the East Coast, the West Coast team takes over their duties.

Management Teams

A management team is a collection of managers from the same organization. While they often work under the same roof, if they work in different places, they become a virtual team. Management teams work together to develop corporate strategies based on organizational goals and objectives.

Related: 7 Tips for a Smooth Virtual Meeting

Action Teams

An action team is put together for a short duration and is tasked with responding to an immediate problem. Once that problem has been resolved, the team is dissolved. As with the last example, an action team is not exclusively virtual. But as people become more familiar with working with virtual teams, the use of them increases beyond the traditional use.

Why Should I Start a Virtual Team?

While we touched on some of the reasons why virtual teams are becoming more accepted, let’s take a moment to dive a bit deeper into this trend. The growth of the global economy is one of the pillars propping up the need for virtual teams. International companies often have offices in different countries, often working on the same projects.

Because of the developments of the last two decades, virtual teams are becoming increasingly more common. According to a 2019 study by IWG, 70% of professionals work remotely in some capacity at least once a week, with 53% doing so for half the week.

Innovative Atmosphere

There are also internal forces that are driving the move to virtual teamwork. According to the Harvard Business Review, virtual teams are more engaged than those who are working in the same location. That may sound counter-intuitive, but according to the research, working in the same office creates tends to create complacency—especially for team leaders. But when managers are not physically present, they make more of an effort to connect.

Financially Prudent

Virtual teams are also a potential financial windfall for organizations. They don’t have to set up additional infrastructure in places where they want to have a footprint. Renting out a physical space might not be necessary, so a virtual team can be a cost-effective alternative.

The absence of a physical office also eliminates some common problems companies face. This can include

  • Acts of God
  • Governmental policy changes, like visa regulations
  • Political or medical emergencies that make it difficult-to-impossible for team members to move about

Virtual teams keep everyone working and productive. That prevents an organization from having to add to its payroll with new hires, too.

How ProjectManager.com Helps Virtual Teams

If you’re ready to take the plunge into the world of virtual teams, you’re going to need the tools that help you manage your team and give them the features they need to work together better. ProjectManager.com is an award-winning software that has everything you need to support a virtual team.

Stay Connected Anywhere

By definition, a virtual team must be connected to the internet. It only makes sense that the software they use isn’t only accessible on their desktop. If it is, you’re going to have to invest in other software to connect the team, which is an inefficient waste of time and money. Our software is cloud-based, meaning it’s accessible anywhere, anytime.

Team view in ProjectManager.com, showing the different members assigned to a project with key statistics, including progress on tasks, team roles, and whether they're ahead or behind schedule.
Team view in ProjectManager.com

Teams need to collaborate, whether they’re in the same room or working virtually. Without connecting team members, you might as well hang up the whole virtual team experiment.

We give teams the tools they need to connect. Every task they’re assigned to can be commented on, and they’ll be notified by email when there’s a response. Even if they need to talk with someone not assigned to the task, all they have to do is tag them. Everyone is on the same page.

Stay Informed Without Hassle

When you’re managing a virtual team there’s a tendency to become overbearing, looking over their virtual shoulders and micromanaging. But that can backfire, sapping productivity and eroding morale. Our software gives you transparency into the process. You get updated on our project dashboard view instantly as statuses on tasks change.

ProjectManager.com's dashboard automatically updates, showing project data in real time for better decisions

There’s so much more that ProjectManager.com offers to help virtual teams. We have features that assist from planning to execution, monitoring and controlling, even reporting on the project for stakeholders. See how our software can help you manage and support your virtual teams today by taking this free 30-day trial.

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