Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the factors that enable work engagement to develop when asynchronous communication is used in virtual team (VT) projects. Design/methodology/approach: Using a qualitative approach, a longitudinal study of an eight-month long VT project was carried out. Data collected included an extensive e-mail archive, project documentation, observation of team meetings and interviews with project members and leaders. Findings: The findings show that VT leaders can actively promote work engagement through the effective use of resources along with appropriate practices that foster its development. They can also sustain and nourish work engagement throughout the different phases of the VT lifecycle project. Research limitations/implications: The study has examined work engagement in asynchronous mediated settings. Future work should involve studying the effect of synchronous communications on work engagement within VTs. Practical implications: Organizations that are interested in promoting effective virtual work practices need to train VT managers on how to keep VT members engaged throughout the various phases of the VT project. Social implications: It is posited that developing work engagement is not a one-off practice, but instead, requires ongoing effort that should be evident and supported across the different phases of the VT lifecycle. Originality/value: This paper forwards an important debate on work engagement in alternative, non-permanent, work settings.