Virtual teams are sometimes confused with remote teams for the sole reason of them both constituting a group of geographically dispersed individuals, with complementary skills, brought together to work on resolving certain issues or to perform specific tasks in a project.

The difference, however, lies in the fact that unlike members of a remote team, the members of a virtual team primarily report to their own functional or line managers.

The coordination and administration of such teams require special abilities, known as the skills of managing virtual teams, because the manager does not have the usual ‘hire or fire’ power over the team members which he could use to get the work done.

Why are the skills of managing virtual teams important

The skills of managing virtual teams effectively are important to acquire the following benefits:

  • Job satisfaction of employees. Effective management of virtual teams means the team members have flexible working hours which can contribute to their work-life balance. Team members have the freedom to choose their preferred physical space and environment for work, according to their own comfort.
  • Cost reductions. By not having a physical work space for team members, the company saves money on rent, utility bills, transport, as well as other facilities that it would otherwise have had to provide to the team members.

How to improve the skills of managing virtual teams

Since it is clear that members of a virtual team do not work together normally and different bosses to answer to, it becomes very difficult for the manager of a virtual team to get work done by such members. Therefore, following are some helpful tips for improving your skills of managing a virtual team:

  • Choose video calls over emails or chats. With emails and Skype being just one click away, it is always convenient and tempting for team members to use them for communication. However, video calls have the tendency to connect team members on a more personal level, avoiding misunderstandings most of the time. It can also help the members to build rapport, which is quite a challenge otherwise.
  • Ensure to overlap some working hours. Whatever are the time zones in which team members are working, be sure to have daily three to four hours (on average) where majority of the team members are online simultaneously.
  • Communicate the details of all deliverables. Give detailed instructions on how the assigned tasks are supposed to be performed along with complete descriptions of what the end results should look like. Along with a freedom of execution, members should be clear about what and when are they supposed to deliver.
Job profiles that require this skill