Virtual teams are now a reality in the workplace. The new trend has allowed teams from different parts of the world to participate in the project tasks and collaborate with each other through the use of their computers and Internet. They can be considered as remote team members or virtual team workers. If this trend continues, it is essential that these members become effective virtual team workers and that will make them valued assets in the project.

To tap the potentials of these virtual team members, it is essential that a project manager possesses the necessary traits and qualities needed to influence virtual workers into virtual teams that can work in unity and cooperation regardless of their location.

Attributes of Virtual Team Workers
There may be various definitions of a virtual team worker but they have these attributes:

  • They work from a particular office which may be a home office or a fixed office location.
  • They work from home for a few days per week and are not expected to travel regularly for work.

How Different Is It to Manage a Virtual Project Team?
As compared to managing a co-located team, managing a virtual team poses more challenges. Virtual team working is not for everyone in every organization. There are more chances that a virtual team worker can suffer feelings of isolation as compared to the collocated workers. If the set up is not right and they have a hard time managing themselves and focusing their efforts, they might not be successful.

For these reasons, project managers need to ensure effective project management by taking into consideration the following aspects:

  • Managing goals. An effective virtual project manager needs to set clear goals and objectives as the virtual team workers cannot physically approach and clarify matters with the manager or with the other team members It is crucial that each virtual team worker understands the project goals and their roles and responsibilities in the project.
  • Managing communications. About ninety (90%) percent of project management time is communication. While this isn’t different with collocated teams, project managers who can understand the communication styles of their virtual team workers are more effective than those who don’t.
  • Keeping people motivated. A virtual team member’s feelings of motivation as well as disconnection have something to do with his or her work efficiency. Therefore, it is essential that a project manager understands his virtual team members’ feelings and thoughts as well as find ways to keep them motivated from the start of the project until completion.
  • Assessing the effectiveness of the remote communications. Since virtual working arrangement is not suitable for all, it is vital that a project manager knows how to accurately assess each virtual member’s level of comfort or willingness to do the assigned tasks as well as know how to handle them at times that they suffer from feelings of isolation or disconnection.
  • Using collaboration tools and other technology. Virtual collaboration tools are in the market and everywhere. They can greatly assist the virtual team in fulfilling its goals and to succeed in their endeavors. A great project manager needs to know how to apply them to work for the team’s advantage.

The effective management of virtual teams and their remote workers depend on a project manager’s ability to work on these aspects.