Remote Work: Will it Work with Companies with Poor Team Cohesion — and Team Conflicts?

In the new era of hybrid work, companies are looking to restructure work systems without affecting team cohesion. For companies with an intact staff, it’s a little adjustment. For new workers, it’ll be tricky how they can get noticed at work beyond their weekly recaps. It’s also not easy for long-term remote workers who have been consigned to meager work and have accepted the fact that their best ideas for their employers will be unheard: out of sight, out of mind. To add: Out of sight, out of the team.

Serendipity happens on job sites, not on conference calls. Remote work does work but the question is how well. Global mobility professionals will need to reach out to both CEOs and their talents for inputs. In a 2020 study by Predictive Index, CEOs found working well remotely far more challenging at 51% compared to finding the right talent at 25% and building operational processes at 24%. In 2019, the main challenge was finding the right talent.

Team cohesion

Employee performance is of high concern, as it rose up dramatically from 36% to 56%. The concern is higher than that of COVID-19 at 48%.

Since the pandemic began, fewer CEOs believe their teams have strong cohesion. As of September 2020, CEOs believed their executive team’s strong cohesion had gone down by 10%. Remote work is reportedly amplifying the lack of cohesion. 

The closer the organizations are to being fully remote, the more significant their cohesion issues. The culprit lies in one most unspoken issue: Team conflict. If a company had some issues with their teams, it would be more magnified in a remote setting, as this study learned:

  • 81 percent of remote professionals have experienced workplace conflict 
  • 46 percent use a work messaging app for their arguments
  • Nearly 2 in 3 workers (65%) have experienced conflict with their co-workers—19 percent with their direct manager, 11 percent with an external manager and 5 percent with an employee working at another company
  • The cause of conflict came from “lack of transparency/honesty about something important,” according to 18% of respondents; a “clash of values,” said 9%; or a “false accusation,” said 2%
  • More than one-third of respondents (36%) felt that their bosses were too aggressive in their texts
  • After enduring virtual conflict with a co-worker or a boss, 39% of respondents said they wanted to leave or actually left their jobs due to the problem

Critical team issues require mediation, which often happens in person, not on a conference call. Serious team conflicts may simmer for far too long if those involved cannot settle it because they are working remotely. In some cases, employees could simply ignore their colleagues and no one would know. The problem doesn’t go away. 

For other companies that may not have outright conflicts but a work system that involves employees just randomly bumping into each other in the hallway, then it’s safe to say there was no team cohesion in the first place. It’s just as bad. 

A global company would not have the luxury of working inefficiently remotely, when the closest person to him could be 500 miles to 1,000 miles away. Still, global teams have different work assignments and work with their own teams — still with a team. So if it appears they still work well together, there are still teams working together, coming together, to produce quality work. 

Locals are not interested but expats are eager

Meanwhile, local workers are hesitating to relocate in contrast to expats who are eager to be relocated for a good job. Which would be normal, but even those minutes away from their office are hesitating to come back to work at their offices. 

Local job seekers who relocated fell to 5% in 2020 and 4% in the first 3 months of 2021, according to quarterly surveys of about 3,000 people from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

This could accelerate when more companies ask their employees to come back to work full time. Some employers may dangle the hybrid work setup in the beginning as a gradual way of easing them back into the workplace until such time that things get back to normal and they’re required to show up 5 times a week.

Those who are against it may be ok with it for now until employers realize what many would dread, when employers start off-shoring the job altogether in the near future. One software engineer in Silicon Valley said this is not going to happen because there are enough talents in the Bay Area, not realizing that many of the software engineers are from different countries.