• Dr. Ravit Oren

It's official: your physical location doesn’t affect teamwork. Team wellbeing does.

A recent study has found that most teams at work suffer from communication issues and complain about poor organizational culture. ■ What makes a team “healthy” and how can it be achieved?

Location doesn’t matter: "the push to get workers back into the office is counter-productive"

Throughout human history, teamwork and collaboration have been the foundation for efficient work processes, high-performance results, and profits. Studies on the topic have begun in the 1920’s when Prof. Elton Mayo, the founding father of the human relations approach and initiator of the Hawthorne Experiments, studied the impact of relationships between team members on performance and satisfaction.

While this is a basic stipulation in normal times, it becomes even more important in times of crisis, particularly in light of the roller coaster we experienced in the past two years. With the ongoing pandemic, leading to a global economic depression, the transition to hybrid work, the wave of resignations, and the challenges of employee retention, we must pay more attention to the well-being of our teams while observing group dynamics and interactions among its members.

So, what challenges teamwork?- the 2022 version

Generally, team well-being is not regularly addressed in organizations. A recent study of 1,568 teams in the U.S. and Australia examined the current state of teams. Some of the participants work in the office, some work remotely, and some work hybrid. From the data collected the researchers tried to define what makes a team healthy and to identify factors that affected a team’s health positively or negatively, and in light of that to rate the health levels of the teams. The results presented the following conclusions:

  • Most teams are unhealthy: Only 17% of teams were rated as healthy, 29% were rated as unhealthy and 59% were rated as partially healthy.

  • The climate in most teams needs improvement: 56% of participants reported poor interpersonal communication between team members, while 37% reported poor psychological safety including the inability to express themselves freely or promote new ideas.

  • Performance in most teams needs improvement: 57% of participants indicated that their team was not operating efficiently, while 12% indicated that their performance has disappointed stakeholders in the organization.

  • Location doesn’t matter: When reviewing the breakdown of teams by location (office, remote or hybrid) it became clear that the location from which work is conducted did not affect the team’s health. Therefore, in other words, the push to get workers back into the office is counter-productive.

  • Organizational culture definitely counts: When reviewing healthy teams, it became clear that organizational culture had a definitive influence on the health of teams. Characteristics of organizational culture, such as trust in leadership, respect for diverse viewpoints, transparent decision-making, well-defined roles, clear goals and strategies, coordination in and outside the team, and psychological safety - have all had a positive and direct effect on team health and how they function.

Tips for Team Leaders:

Even if your organization is not culturally perfect, you can have a positive impact on your direct teams and improve their health. The following rules of thumb will get you started:

  • Frequent and good communication: Spend time and resources to get to know your people personally, and to identify their team and personal needs. In professional matters, especially when the team is working from different locations, make sure communication is asynchronous so that information is available to everyone at all times.

  • Reflect goals and processes: Ensure that all team members are aware of project goals, the work plan, their specific roles, and the interfaces available to them. Conduct regular team meetings to review progress and reflect on challenges and needs.

  • Be authentic: Studies have shown that managerial authenticity and transparency influence the level of performance. The more you share with your team, reflect on challenges, and ask their opinions, the more they will understand and feel comfortable in speaking their minds and feelings.

  • Provide meaning: Studies have shown that teams whose work is meaningful to them are more motivated and remain in an organization longer. Reflect to your team, why their work is important and how it makes a difference.

  • Be flexible, but stay in sync: Flexibility is the name of the game, especially for remote and hybrid work. Make sure all team members are on the same page with tasks and scheduling. A variety of technologies are available to help you with that.

  • Embrace initiatives and show compassion for errors: "Those who do nothing make no mistakes". In order to build a team that comes up with bold new ideas and solutions, you must learn to cope with mistakes with compassion and avoid pointing fingers. Encourage learning from failed initiatives.

  • Throw in a good word: Express appreciation and gratitude for good teamwork, in words and actions.

  • Listen: Be attentive to your team's wellbeing and every individual member. When in doubt about the wellbeing of a team member, open your heart, listen and offer assistance.

 

Written by Dr. Ravit Oren, an HR expert specializing in innovative Talent Management, reward systems, and performance evaluations. Dr. Oren is a renowned lecturer for organizational leadership at Bar Ilan University and the Israeli Institute of Technology — Technion. Currently, Dr. Oren is the Chief of Research at Keepy.ai, which provides tools and insights to assist managers to better understand their people’s needs and act to create a supportive environment. This article was published on TheMarker.