Remote work isn’t hurting your team’s collaboration — a non-inclusive work culture is

New research finds top performers have no problem collaborating remotely, and do so best when their preferred method of working is supported.

We all know the feeling of being the odd one out in a group. Maybe you’re new and joining a group of friends who’ve known each other for years. Their inside jokes and ways of interacting may leave you feeling a bit awkward and more reserved than you would be if you knew them better.

It turns out, the same thing happens with remote employees, and one of the biggest barriers to online collaboration is simply a matter of new team members feeling welcome enough in the company’s culture.


Don’t blame the laptop

Data from consulting firm The Hackett Group studied this controversial matter in a recent report on “Thriving in the Emerging Hybrid Workplace.”

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Top performers were able to collaborate effectively whether working remotely or in-person. (Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels)

Its findings were major because the question of effective collaboration has been at the centre of debates surrounding remote work since companies first began fighting to get employees to return to the office.

Among the many arguments — most of which were soundly disproven — remote work opponents claimed that staff collaborated less when working remotely. They claimed that working in-person was the “only” way to achieve meaningful collaboration and creativity that could yield positive results.

The Hackett Group’s research has knocked that old claim off its feet, finding that “working virtually does not prevent most employees from effectively collaborating and connecting.” Instead, the data suggested that forcing workers to “spend most of their time in the office” is actually what’s counterproductive.

The group acknowledged the “strong perception among some corporate leaders that virtual methods for building connections are inferior to in-person methods,” but resolutely confirmed that this is not actually the case.


What really hurts team collaboration?

Remote work doesn’t hurt collaboration. So, what does?:

  • A general perception of not fitting in
  • Lack of support from management
  • Poor equipment or tech tools
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Workers feeling isolated negatively affected remote work collaboration. (Photo by olia danilevich on Pexels)

According to The Hackett Group, “The biggest factor making virtual collaboration more challenging is not feeling included.

“Lack of trust, inadequate tools and poor coordination and communication processes are also prominent obstacles.”

It’s also not just that a non-inclusive workplace left remote staff feeling isolated, but that the issue was exacerbated among new team members. On the other hand, more tenured, top-performing staff were shown to have the same high level of collaboration and communication whether they worked remotely or in-person.

The research underscores why, rather than casting blame and pointing fingers, businesses need to strengthen their team-building and provide adequate support to remote staff to address collaboration issues.

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