Remote working putting team cohesion at risk, study finds

The bond between team members, trust and information sharing have come out as the top three areas most at risk by remote working.

A survey by the Advanced Workplace Institute (AWI) warned that without active management, these challenges could have a knock-on effect on employee happiness and performance.

The pandemic has served as a proof-of-concept when it comes to sustained productivity in employees when working from home.

Though many are hopeful of more opportunity to work remotely post-COVID-19, there are still critical considerations to be made.

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AWI’s study found that successful virtual working requires an understanding of individuals’ different circumstances and work environment.

It said that most efficient teams have “strong social and cognitive states” meaning they are socially cohesive and trust each other.

This is a concern given some employees have lost trust in their leaders since the start of the pandemic.

AWI’s study also argued that there is the potential for everyone to be a leader in virtual teams as home-based employees respond well to transformational management styles.

Echoing other reports on management of a virtual workforce Andrew Mawson, managing director of AWI parent company Advanced Workplace Associates, said: “Organisations increasingly need to harness their knowledge resources as opposed to controlling and ‘managing’ them. The role of leadership is about creating the conditions for growth and directing the energy.

“When we are working in a more virtualised model, old models become more difficult and we need new understandings and practices to deliver success in a virtualised world.”

AWI’s Findings were delivered through analysis of 35 primary studies and 10 meta-analyses (referencing 715 original studies) on topics related to team effectiveness.

The overall recommendation based on the findings was that trust and communication must be built and reinforced in virtual teams as they are the foundation of cohesion, supervision, information sharing and performance.

Mawson added: “COVID-19 has accelerated the notion that the workplace is wherever you want to work and not necessarily a physical office. Virtual working is here to stay, and this brings serious challenges for managing the modern workforce.”