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Definition

Virtual teams have been defined in various ways in the literature. While early definitions described virtual teams as distinctly separate from face-to-face teams, current definitions characterize virtual teams along several continuous dimensions of virtuality, in which teams become more or less ‘virtual’ based on where they fall on these dimensions (Bell & Kozlowski, 2002; Gibson & Gibbs, 2006; Griffith & Neale, 2001; Kirkman & Mathieu, 2005; Martins, Gilson & Maynard, 2004). One reason for the shift in definition from a dichotomous description to a continuous construct could be that the workplace has been undergoing continual changes to meet the growing demands of globalization and technological advances. To remain competitive in such an environment, organizations have been adopting more sophisticated communication media, more flexible work forms and structures, greater complexity in tasks and processes, and a more diversified workforce. As a result, for some work structures such as teams, there has been a merging of traditional and virtual ways of working. For example, teams may use face-to-face and technology-mediated communication to varying degrees, have some co-located and some dispersed team members, and use real-time as well as asynchronous means of communication depending on the nature of the task. In such a situation, a continuum-based distinction between face-to- face and virtual teams would be more fitting. Purely face-to-face teams would lie at one end of the scale, while teams that fall closer to the virtual end of the scale would rely more on electronic media for interaction, have more asynchronous communication and would evidence greater physical and cultural dispersion of members. This suggests that as the virtuality of a team increases, the context in which the team operates changes. This needs to be taken into account when considering the selection and placement of individuals in a virtual team.

 
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