How to Prepare Your Virtual Teams for the Long Haul


May 26, 2020


180 Engineering

180 Insight

Before the pandemic, there were no playbooks for how to convert a co-located team to 100% virtual in a matter of days and we’re finding in our research that the conversion process — and the results — has differed substantially from team to team, even within the same organization. This variability puts tremendous strain on individual employees who are now navigating not just one whole new way of working, but often several.

The pressures on teams will continue for the foreseeable future as companies shift their focus to how and when to return employees to the office setting. Now is the time to take stock of the design and status of your organization’s teams, considering both their tasks and people. Doing so will allow you to triage problems, create stability, and invest in sustainable solutions.

Teamwork Has Gotten Harder
In December, before the coronavirus was widespread, we conducted a survey of over 200 executives working in a wide variety of multinational companies. These professionals sat on an average of three teams each and even then, they found working across these various teams challenging. For example, 76% reported having difficulty feeling connected to their teammates, with cited reasons ranging from perceived differences in personality to the strain of working across time zones.

Now, during the pandemic, those executives have been traversing multiple teams with the added complications of being forced to work remotely and under the stress of the crisis. Plus, due to the rapidly evolving context, many are being more frequently shifted in and out of teams. Roles and missions are changing too, as companies adapt.

Years of research and study have taught us that these ingredients — unclear missions, inconsistent social norms, low common identity, unclear roles, and unstable membership — are the recipe for team disasters. They result in inefficient, often unproductive, teams full of disconnected, sometimes disgruntled, members.

With the pandemic, we are seeing warning signs of these disasters. Last month, for example, we solicited data from more than 275 managers across the world about how they are coping with Covid-19. They reported a lack of clarity about their team’s role in the leadership agenda, fading interpersonal connections due to…continue reading the article