Where do the obstacles and opportunities of the new world of work lie when it comes to teamwork?
The increased use of digital tools in the wake of New Work makes it easier than ever to work remotely. This is causing established communication and collaboration structures to change profoundly.
Teams no longer meet primarily at the office, but in a virtual space. Communication and collaboration with customers, suppliers, and partners is also no longer analog on site, but location-independent and digital. This has an impact on the nature of work, professional and informal interactions, the company’s meeting culture, and also team spirit, among other things.
Currently, the business world is still in the process of transitioning from previously learned structures and processes to the development of a new way of communicating and collaborating. To make the most of this transformational period, targeted measures must be devised to promote interaction, safeguard and further enhance the organizational structure, and maintain and promote the well-being and health of employees.
A particular focus within the organization is on the corporate culture – it is essential that its elements can be experienced digitally. After all, a positive culture is the basis for empathetic interactions and improves location-independent, digital teamwork. Possible reservations about new standards and processes due to the new situation, such as turning on the camera during digital meetings, must be taken seriously. An open and appreciative working atmosphere, a constructive world of ideas, and team spirit even in difficult phases are only possible by consciously addressing the topic of digitization.
Strong team cohesion gives geographically separated teams security and thus creates a foundation of trust, which is strengthened by diverse, performance-related, and social interaction. Employees identify with the team and the common tasks despite working in different locations.
What are some of the challenges of decentralized work?
The first step is to identify potential challenges arising from digital transformation and remote work that could make teamwork more difficult. After all, only effective planning that takes all eventualities into account will be successful over the long term.
Working From Home Dissociates Employees
Many employees’ desires, particularly the ability to work from home, are forcing companies to take action. Working from home or working remotely is not simply a trend, but will instead become an established part of a hybrid working model over the long term. Being able to work from home or from another location inevitably leads to team members working physically apart from one another more often. Quickly asking a coworker a question is not as easy as it used to be. The physical separation can create the feeling that everyone is working for themselves. As a result, team spirit suffers.
Capacity for Innovation Decreases
Random meetings and interactions in the hallway or in the break room – the “office grapevine” – no longer occur. This has an impact on innovation, because it is often through such informal, unplanned conversations that new ideas and solutions emerge. Change is usually brought about by the group, not a single individual.
Employees Lose Sight Of the Big Picture
Another obstacle for companies arises from the current nature of project work. The previously established and functioning methods cannot be directly transferred to a hybrid working environment. Because employees work on specific aspects of the project on their own and physically separate from their coworkers, they may lose sight of the big picture.
Visible Elements of the Corporate Culture Disappear
An employee’s home office lacks the visible elements of the company’s corporate culture, which are evident at the office through a variety of elements. This has an impact on employees’ team spirit and their identification with the team and the company.
The Boundary between Work and Private Life Becomes Increasingly Blurred
Digitization has already made the boundary between work and private life permeable. Remote work pushes this even further. Working from home is more likely to lead to employees working on tasks outside of their actual working hours, increasing their risk of becoming overworked and experiencing physical and/or mental burnout as a result.
How can companies strengthen team spirit in a hybrid world of work?
Create Open Spaces for Social Interaction
Social interaction within the team plays a crucial role in achieving the best possible results through collaborative work. This makes it all the more important for companies to accept formal and informal communication as an integral part of their business. Open spaces must be created in which agile communication can flourish within the team. Platforms, formats, and the flow of this communication can be determined individually by the team.
Boost Team Spirit
To ensure that distributed teams can work together successfully, the top priority must be to provide all employees with a working environment in which team spirit is fostered and lived out on a day-to-day basis – despite the physical separation. Tasks and objectives must be tailored to each individual in order to make the best use of each person’s strengths and to benefit from the diversity of the team. After all, a strong, diverse community is best able to generate innovative ideas and concepts.
In a decentralized working environment, the strengths of agile project management become clear – through frequent but brief alignment meetings, all of the team members are always up to date and can quickly counteract any undesirable developments. These alignment meetings as well as the workflows can be decentralized and managed by the team itself. The team gets their manager involved as needed and regularly communicates interim statuses or results. In this way, the manager can keep track of the project’s progress without being too involved at the operational level. The benefit is that when employees are allowed to determine the requirements of their work themselves, it fosters their self-reliance. This must be supported or accompanied by functioning processes that can be adapted by the team itself. This is how teams can achieve even the most ambitious goals.
Make It Possible to Experience the Corporate Culture
When employees no longer work exclusively or even sporadically at the office, team events – whether physical or virtual – and internal communication become increasingly important. In this day and age, it is particularly important to make the company’s culture something that employees can also experience digitally, thus increasing their identification with the company as a whole. Through a shared corporate culture, newly formed teams can also find common ground and jell more quickly.
Promote Employees Physical and Mental Health
Motivation plays a major role when working on decentralized teams. People who enjoy their work and receive appreciative, honest feedback are more resilient and feel connected to the company. In order to leverage this factor over the long term, collaboration should be supplemented by activities that promote a healthy lifestyle and motivation. Employees and their physical and mental health must be a top priority, especially in the digitized world of work. And this is especially true in difficult or time-sensitive situations. This is also a good way to reduce the number of sick days. In this context, it is also important to keep an eye on the additional workload resulting from working remotely, in order to be able to divide up this work in a subjectively fair manner.
How can we effectively support you in the field of "Team to Work"?
In order to overcome the individual challenges of working in decentralized structures, Ingenics AG offers a variety of measurable solutions that relate to the following three fields of activity: company, process, social aspects.
Below are some examples of how we will work with you.
- On the one hand, we analyze the specific requirements of your company as a whole and draw up a customized list of recommendations. On the other hand, we also approach the issues from the employees’ point of view and get them involved in the development of suitable measures. To understand needs, we create personas – prototypical employees – that either reflect the current system or are designed to meet the needs of the future. Together with your employees and managers, we develop a customized toolbox specifically tailored to your company.
- We analyze your procedural landscape and translate it into a language your employees can understand. From our experience, it is not always possible to translate existing processes to hybrid or entirely remote working environments. In workshops, we clarify your company’s individual challenges and identify appropriate measures to be taken at the organizational, physical, or virtual working level. Where possible, we work with you to establish metrics to measure and evaluate the success of the measures. You will find an overview of potential metrics in our E-Paper. In addition, we establish codes of conduct and rules for collaborating in hybrid or entirely virtual workspaces in consultation with you. The parameters defined in the process are specific to each company and help strengthen its corporate culture.
- Particularly when it comes to implementing the social aspects, our focus is clearly on the individuals. Whether peer coaching or internally managed communication loops – we make sure that both formal and informal discussions, both in terms of their subject matter and technical aspects, develop from within the team and are thus accepted and used by the team over the long term. We are firmly committed to hybrid work and believe that when collaborating via virtual platforms, it should make no difference whether someone is physically present on site or not.