- Virtual workflows that many organizations adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic have the potential to damage trust, social cohesion and information sharing between team members, according to an analysis of academic papers by the Advance Workplace Institute, an arm of Advanced Workplace Associates, a consultancy.
- In order to prevent such damage, organizations must understand the differences experienced by employees and find alternative ways to operate, Advance Workplace Institute said in a statement. Effective virtual teams also operate within a psychologically safe climate, and they share skills, experience and knowledge freely, the analysis found.
- Such teams also present leadership opportunities for all team members, and home-based employees "respond well to transformational management styles," the institute said. Employers can do so by creating strong team structures, empowering and guiding teams, involving them in the development of group goals and supporting them in reflecting on decision making and outcomes.
The pandemic may reshape corporate approaches to remote work well into the future. In an April survey of employees by OnePoll and Citrix, more than a third said they expected their organizations to be more relaxed about remote work after the pandemic, while 28% said they planned to search for work that allowed them to telecommute. And more than half of HR professionals surveyed in May by social network Fishbowl would want to continue working from home.
But there are some concerns about workplaces' preparedness for these changes and the broader impact on employees. An April survey of full-time employees by work management software firm Asana found more than half of respondents lacked a dedicated desk, personal computer, laptop or reliable internet connection during their shift to remote work — though 80% said their manager was more supportive in managing and communicating work goals since the move. A survey the same month from software platform Smartsheet found that younger workers in particular felt less connected while remote.
"Organizations increasingly need to harness their knowledge resources as opposed to controlling and 'managing' them," Andrew Mawson, founder and managing director of Advanced Workplace Associates, said in the statement. "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."
The situation has spawned a wide range of approaches and solutions. Some companies could opt to preserve social aspects of the in-office experience via a virtual happy hour or a VR chat room. Managers can aid team building by holding check-ins through video conferencing and holding regular stand-up meetings. Sources who previously spoke to HR Dive said that virtual environments present a good opportunity to tap into the soft skills and problem-solving abilities of more experienced employees.
Employers might also note telework's impact in the training space. LinkedIn Learning found that users watched 7.7 million hours of courses on its platform in April — triple the amount recorded in February. The growing demand for such training may be important to note as companies restructure their talent development programs to prepare for life after the pandemic.