NEW YORK, June 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Trust, social cohesion and information sharing are the most potentially vulnerable to damage when people work virtually, according to a study of around 750 academic papers conducted on behalf of the Advance Workplace Institute (AWI), a global workplace management body. As organizations rapidly embrace home working in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the study warns that without active management to respond to changes in working, team dynamics are under risk with a knock on effect on both employee happiness and performance.
"Covid-19 has accelerated the notion that the workplace is wherever you want to work and not necessarily a physical office," says Andrew Mawson of Advanced Workplace Associates, the consultancy which founded the AWI. "Virtual working is here to stay, and this brings serious challenges for managing the modern workforce."
The AWI partnered with the Centre for Evidence Based Management, a global network of top-flight academics, to analyze all the relevant academic research. It studied 35 primary studies and 10 meta-analyses (which themselves drew on 715 original studies) to produce a report, Managing The Virtual Workforce, which is released to AWI members today.
The report has six main conclusions:
- Working apart impacts team dynamics, the frequency and quality of communications, levels of consensus and conflict, and the amount and quality of social interaction. All of these impact the performance of teams and the outcomes they generate.
- Successful virtual working requires an understanding of the differences that people experience, compared to being co-located. To avoid damage to team and community performance, people need to respond to the differences and find alternative ways to operate.
- Effective virtual teams are determined by the strength of their social and cognitive states – i.e. the degree to which they are socially cohesive, trust each other, operate within a psychologically safe climate and share skills, experience and knowledge freely.
- While all factors interconnect, trust and communication lie at the foundation of cohesion, supervision, communication, the sharing of skills and knowledge, work relationships and the performance of virtual teams.
- Trust, social cohesion and information sharing seem to be the most potentially vulnerable to damage when people work virtually and must be consciously understood and actively managed – they can't be left to chance.
- In virtual teams there is potential for everyone to be a leader – home based employees respond well to more transformational management styles. This involves creating a strong team structure, empowering and guiding the team, involving them in the development of group goals and supporting them in actively reflecting on decision making and outcomes.
Members of the AWI have noted that organizations globally have adapted quickly to the need for the vast majority of their workforces to operate from home. However they caution that these are early days in the workplace revolution for many organizations, and that they will need to change their management strategies to ensure teams can work as well virtually as they did in a single office.
"Organizations increasingly need to harness their knowledge resources as opposed to controlling and 'managing' them," added Andrew Mawson. "The role of leadership is about creating the conditions for growth and directing the energy. When we are working in a more virtualized model, old models become more difficult and we need new understandings and practices to deliver success in a virtualized world."
Notes to editors:
About the Advanced Workplace Institute:
Formed in 2009, The Advanced Workplace Institute (AWI) is dedicated to supporting inspirational leaders from all areas of business (including Operations, Corporate Real Estate, Facilities Management, HR and IT) as they journey to a future model of Workplace Management.
Workplace Management is the holistic management of all resources needed to design & maintain appropriate, effective and economical workplace experiences that align to strategic business objectives and support people in doing their best work every day, wherever they are.
Members include BP, Google's Deep Mind, Willis Towers Watson and Zurich Insurance Group.
About Advance Workplace Associates:
Founded in 1992, AWA is a multi-disciplined and independent management consultancy that helps organizations make a step change in the performance of their people and workplaces.
SOURCE The Advanced Workplace Institute (AWI)