Working from home: The effects on team spirit

The COVID-19 lockdown has led to thousands of people across the UK working from home – but what effect has this had on the relationship between members of a team?

It has certainly made meetings more difficult, as nothing compares to a face-to-face meeting when it comes to uniting teams and collaborating on projects.

While people have survived and kept businesses afloat as a result of technology that enables video conferencing, maintaining continuity hasn’t been easy. With an increase in miscommunication, conflicts have been magnified and people are appreciating more the value of meeting in person.

We may assume that conflict is more likely to happen face-to-face, but this is a common misconception. Even though teams have been working from home, away from colleagues, conflicts can still rise to the surface in this “new normal” environment.

© Seventyfour / Adobe Stock

Remote conflict
Workplace conflict between employees who work together in close proximity isn’t unusual. However, working remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic has brought about a new issue, labelled “remote conflict”. This has been challenging for HR and managers, as supporting a virtual team can be tougher than speaking to people in person.

Conflict that goes unresolved (allowing delegates to go offline and simmer to themselves at home) can be damaging for the wellbeing and mental health of those involved and can impact on your business, as it affects the wider team. It takes time, resources and energy to resolve the issues.

A workplace dispute can arise for many reasons: task allocation, general behaviour, management style, clash of personalities and other factors.

Virtual communication
When remote working, with HR using virtual communication rather than office-based dialogue, email and instant messaging have their own challenges. The meaning behind the words may be misconstrued and managers must think before sending a hastily-typed message, or it could have the wrong impact.

Some employees are already struggling with video conferencing due to technical problems, so if any subsequent conflict arises, it can be hard to break into the conversation to nip it in the bud. Reading body language is also more challenging when we’re not physically in the same room.

Just about everyone has been significantly affected by the pandemic. The massive lifestyle changes, the restrictions on our freedom and limitations to social contact have caused stress for many of us. The underlying worries about our health and that of our family and friends, plus concerns about job security, finances and the economic outlook have left many people feeling anxious.

Some have to juggle working from home with childcare and home-schooling. Others who don’t have family living with them may feel isolated. While fostering healthy remote teamwork isn’t impossible, it’s certainly challenging.

Benefits of face-to-face meetings
The pandemic has changed many people’s outlook on working life. While we may not have looked forward to getting up for work on a Monday morning, the office hustle and bustle and going to meetings, this would be a welcome relief from the current situation for a lot of employees.

Enforced isolation and home-working may make people value face-to-face communication more when it’s allowed again. According to an employee survey, 83% of employees have worked remotely at some point and 38% of them have found it difficult to maintain close business relationships.

A massive 95% of professionals say they believe face-to-face communication is vital to achieving long-term business goals, although 61% of them agree there are also opportunities to be had through combining this with regular online communication.

It would be a mistake to waste all we have learned during the lockdown about using technology to enhance our collaboration. While meeting in person is the preferred option of many business people, the tech we’ve used to keep businesses running during the pandemic can enhance working practices when we’re back at the office.

Safety measures
&Meetings has a selection of affordable meeting and training rooms available for hire in London. Our venues have a host of COVID-19 safety measures in place to ensure the wellbeing of delegates.

For those of you who can’t wait to conduct face to face meetings again, we’ll be here for you!

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