What Is a Virtual Team? – All the Types and When to Use It
1. What is a Virtual Team?
Firstly a “Virtual team” is not a bunch of gamers participating in virtual reality or the new version of imaginary friends. We use the term Virtual team when you organize your workers not on the principle of geography but on the basis of the perfect fit regardless of where in the country or indeed even in the world the person is based.
It’s a concept that has been growing for a while and was always likely to become more popular, but suddenly for obvious reasons virtual or remote teams are not just fashionable and useful but also necessary. Virtual or Remote teams are a thing and they are a thing that isn’t going to go away any time soon. There are some huge advantages (and a few potential disadvantages) to consider when setting up a Virtual team. There are also different types of Virtual teams.
So let’s take a look at why Virtual teams are growing around the world, what kinds of teams exist, what kind of fields they work in, and consider the advantages and disadvantages of setting up a Virtual team for your business.
3. Virtual Team – A Definition
A Virtual team is at its most basic form a group of colleagues who largely work in physical spaces apart from each other. The team can be spread over a relatively small area such as a city or region or even in different countries and continents. This group works as a team by interacting through digital and electronic channels most typically online and share digital tools and resources.
Virtual teams can also be known as Remote teams or Dispersed teams.
4. Virtual Teams – Why The Growth?
It would be easy to put the growth of virtual teams down to the global pandemic of 2020 and there is certainly an argument that necessity breeds innovation. When global governments have encouraged and in some cases legislated people to work from home, there has been little choice but to look into the possibilities of Virtual teams or at the very least some form of remote work.
Although many people were successfully engaging in Remote work before the pandemic; freelancers, private tutors, international businesses, etc. there has been a necessitated expansion beyond all predictions. Obviously, the closure of schools and other educational institutions has forced teachers online, and this is just one of the clearest examples. The rise in Remote work has been phenomenal, Google has analyzed mobility trends of places of work and found that nearly 40% fewer people were spending time at their physical workplace in the US. This rises to 55% in the UK and over 60% in Spain and Italy. Worldwide 88% of businesses have asked employees to work from home and 4.3 million people in the USA alone are working from home at least half the time according to Global Workplace Analytics. The stats go on and on.
You may also be interested in 7 tips for managing remote employees effectively.
Alongside the obvious necessity to work Virtually, there has been a remarkable rise in the possibility. Without internet connections and software tools such as communication software, project management tools, etc. working remotely would be almost impossible for many people. However, connectivity is improving all the time in scope, spread, speed, and reliability. Together with these infrastructure improvements are the creative software tools and solutions that allow people to work from home, yet still, collaborate and communicate on joint projects or work-related issues. These have been taken up by many people how might have been reluctant previously. Skype and Zoom have become parts of everyday conversation as indeed have many other packages.
Over the last decade, more and more people have chosen to work from home, or at least outside the usual physical setting. For some workers, it is a lifestyle choice, giving them the freedom to organize themselves and their routine, mix their work with other aspects of their life such as childcare, allowing them to work from other countries, avoiding travel, etc. The enforced nature of the latest virtual work situation has allowed many workers to reevaluate their work/life balance. According to a survey by Buffer in the US, when asked “would you like to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of your career?”, an astonishing and frankly unbelievable 99% said they would. Whether this will hold long term is questionable but it seems certain that workers would prefer greater flexibility and options to their traditional work practices.
4.4. Business Practicality
Without a doubt, some business fields are more suited to Virtual work than others, the I.T industry being top of the pile but it has become clear just how many businesses have managed to adapt in a short space of time. From a practical point of view more and more businesses are taking up the idea of Virtual teams. There are clear advantages, not least the need for less expenditure on overheads and physical office space. Virtual teams cans serve as a highly practical solution to many business problems, and we’ll look at more advantages a little later.
5. Types of Virtual Teams
We have up to now been discussing Virtual teams in a very general sense. The type of virtual team clearly must depend on the need and function of that team. We often categorize these teams but many teams will contain mixed types and multi-purposes.
5.1. Virtual Service Teams
A team made up of individual workers in different time zones. The central idea of this type of team is to provide continual service at any time of day or night. A typical example would be customer support teams who offer support for services and need to be available 24-7. This could be international or even based within one country with several time zones such as the USA. By establishing a team in different time zones you can avoid the need for team members working anti-social hours and the extra expense that entails.
5.2. Virtual Parallel Teams
Usually, we form a Parallel team with a short-term specific goal in mind by picking members of your current organization who you consider suitable for specific tasks. This team works on one project and can then be disassembled on completion of the assignment. An example could be a team working on a specific software package, upgrade, or improvement.
5.3. Virtual Product Development Teams
A Product Development team is a production team in which individuals get specific roles and responsibilities which then combine together to produce the final resulting product. This is a team of experts and specialists and whilst not necessarily a Virtual team, the remote aspect allows you to select the best people for each role regardless of geography. These teams exist for a long as the project length until completion. It is similar to a parallel team but the members do not have to come from the organization itself.
5.4. Virtual Networked Teams
Networked teams are made up of a group of members. Each member has expertise, experience, and specialisms in a particular area. In such a team is important that the members are cross-functional. They should share their talents. for the good of the whole team. This is a fluid team where people are brought into to do or fulfilled a specific purpose as required. When done they can leave the team.
5.5. Virtual Management Teams
A Management team is a group of managers from a single organization. They work together to form business strategies and set targets, goals, aims, and objectives for the future. Of course, management teams exist without needing to be virtual but in a large business or corporation, the virtual nature means that you have wider diversity, and there is an ease to the practical restrictions that often prevent this teamwork or make it least frequent.
5.6. Virtual Action Teams
A team assembled to solve a specific issue or problem, hopefully, in the shortest possible time. Typically it involves individuals who you believe are capable of sorting out specific problems. You then join them together to take the action required. Solve the problem then break up the team.
6. Why Virtual?
It is clear that many of these Virtual teams are extensions of more traditional in-house teams. The difference is only the locations. So the question remains, why do these teams need to be virtual?
The answer is that often they don’t need to be virtual at all. However, there are some sound business reasons for considering the option. Some tremendous advantages for both the business and the worker.
Establishing Virtual teams as part of your business has some clear benefits. Virtual teams will be a feature in the future business landscape. You can be pretty sure that after 2020 the world of business is never going to be the same again. It was a change that was always coming, but the pace has picked up, to put it mildly. If this latest push has shown us anything at all it is how quickly we can adapt. Especially when we really need to.