Good morning, everybody! Or good evening? Cooperation with people from different time zones has become commonplace. A developer in Hungary, a marketing specialist in London, an accountant in Munich… International (and mostly virtual) teams are popular today.

Virtual teams may be the workforce of the future. However, managing virtual teams is not always easy. Managing a virtual team differs from managing a traditional workforce in everything but one aspect.

Covorking vs. teamwork

What is a team? What is teamwork? You must be perplexed. What kind of questions! Who doesn’t know what teamwork is at all? You might be surprised, but people were looking for an answer to this question on Google, typing literally: “What is teamwork?

So I think you should stop making a bewildered face, relax and answer the question. What determines the team? Usually teamwork is collaboration within a project, game or task. Successful or not, effective or not, a team is a team, and teamwork is the joint work of all team members.

Previously, working together meant working in the same room: being in the same geographical location, in the same physical place, people talked, exchanged ideas and made plans.

Today, the phrase “working together” has another meaning. A deeper meaning. You’ve probably heard of co-working – collective offices where freelancers and startups sit at adjacent tables, in adjacent rooms, to save on rent.

Co-workers work in the same physical location, often in close proximity to each other. But usually they do not cooperate at all. That’s why these places have not been given the same name as, for example, “teamwork space”. Now tell me, do the residents of co-workers work together as team members?

No, usually not. And why? Because the residents of co-working have different goals. The common goal is what makes the team a team a team.

Efficient operation of the virtual team

Working together as a team is one thing. Working together as a virtual team is different. And working effectively within a virtual team is the third.

Inefficient teamwork is essentially co-working: people work side by side, but their goals are different. And it’s not bad, but it’s not what you usually want from your team. And especially from your virtual team, because the members of the virtual team by definition do not work side by side.

Members of your virtual team do not sit at the same table, do not gather near the coffee machine. They have nothing in common except the fact that they work for you.

Most of the time these people work on their tasks without knowing anything about the other team members’ tasks. So please tell them your goals. Create projects and tasks that everyone can understand.

And make sure that everyone knows what the team is working on. Together. (You can, for example, use our thoughtful team review function.)

Difficulties in managing virtual commands

Managing a virtual team can be challenging: you assign people to perform tasks, they perform them and let you know when they’re ready.

No lengthy meetings; no hidden (or overt) tension between team members; no personal issues to take care of when working with people… Stop! Although your team is called a “virtual” one, it is made up of living people who can be difficult and challenging to work with.

Everyone on your team can get sick, upset, or even offended if you give the task they wanted to work on to someone else.

Like any real people, your team members have feelings and they need to communicate and have fun. And if you want your team members to work effectively, make sure you create a space where they can communicate, have fun and express their feelings.

For example, Skype Chat is great, but it’s not just about work. It will give your employees the opportunity to discuss personal issues without the involvement of outsiders. Discuss something, or even someone else, and then find a solution together.

Residence of team members in different countries

Working with people from different countries also has its disadvantages, one of the most obvious among which is the fact that your team members are in different time zones. The concept of a working day from 9 to 5 is probably no longer relevant.

In the case of a virtual team, there is no point in considering such a schedule. Personal communication is also impossible. Sometimes even planning a Skype-conference is not easy. What should I do?

First of all, arrange communication between your team members. Choose one communication channel for the whole team. And I’m not talking about email right now: in fact, many successful international teams have completely abandoned it.

Instead of email, these teams use tools (such as Slack, for example) to archive and organize discussions, start and stop conversations when it’s convenient for you and your team members.

Using a single channel of communication will provide the virtual workspace your team needs.

Why would virtual teams need cloud computing?

Virtual teams are almost impossible without the cloud. Cloud computing allows you to create a common space – a kind of virtual office – in which everyone interacts.

Communication; project, finance, and budget management; time tracking; and business intelligence – if all of this is happening in the cloud, all team members can access all of the information they need at any time.

Suppose your Amsterdam-based graphic designer needs some numbers from an accountant in Honolulu to create an amazing schedule for your highly detailed presentation by your London-based marketing specialist.

Without the cloud, virtual conversations (emails) about it will never end. With a sophisticated cloud solution, all members of your team can access the right files (with the ability to view changes and updates) at any time convenient for them.

The future is in the hands of virtual teams

According to the experts, the future is with the virtual teams. This means that a new approach to managing them will be needed. Nevertheless, some things will remain the same: real people will still work together.

Virtual team members can only interact in a shared virtual space, but they will still be a real team. This is the big secret of successful virtual team management: virtual cooperation is real cooperation!

The magic of working towards a common goal, also known as real teamwork, is only possible if you treat your virtual team members as real people.