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‘Interdependence’ crucial for virtual teamwork

By Jack Campbell | |6 minute read

The ability to work virtually is crucial in the post-COVID-19 era of work. With hybrid and remote working becoming extremely common, workers must be able to work effectively online.

Interdependence is necessary to perform well, according to a study by Deakin University and the University of Western Australia. This is defined as “the dependence of two or more people or things on each other”.

In simpler terms, teamwork makes the dream work. But so, too, does access to necessary tools. The two important types of interdependence are:

  1. Resource interdependence: A work structure that indicates how much team members have to rely on one another to access critical information or resources. For example, some team members may hold access to specific pieces of information or resources versus all team members have access to all resources.
  2. Process interdependence: A work structure that reflects how collaborative the workflow between team members is. For example, team members working separately on a task, like a production chain, and then just piecing it together versus all team members working intensively together.

The research revealed that virtual teams were most effective when they had low resource interdependence (everyone had equal access to all resources) and high levels of process interdependence (when they were encouraged to work more collaboratively).

“These results are important for managers and organisations in thinking about how they can design work for virtual teams to help them improve their performance,” commented Deakin Business School’s department of management researcher Dr Florian Klonek.

“For example, if you work in a virtual team, it’s important to have a shared folder where everyone has the same access to information and resources so they can be effective.”

He continued: “Managers also need to rethink how workflows are structured and who engages with whom. Virtual teams tend to be less connected, but our research shows that managers need to try to increase connection for workers to feel engaged and work through a task effectively. This approach is useful when thinking about hybrid teams, too, which are also increasingly common post-pandemic. It’s important to think about what tasks we need to do when we’re all in the office together and what is better to do when we’re alone and be very deliberate in how we break up work in this way.”

University of Western Australia researcher Dr Lisette Kanse emphasised the importance of virtual collaboration tools as programs in remote and hybrid work settings.

“These online tools allow teams to work more organically with virtual teammates. They allow real-time, live collaborations where people can work concurrently on the same item without creating version conflicts,” Dr Kanse explained.

“For example, when it comes to working through tasks and problems with colleagues, Teams conversations can work far better than email chains, which are sent and received one by one and make work look like a production line.”

She concluded: “As much as possible, you want to emulate a face-to-face teamwork experience because that’s where most people experience the benefits of teamwork.”


Hybrid working

In a hybrid work environment, individuals are allowed to work from a different location occasionally but are still required to come into the office at least once a week. With the phrase "hybrid workplace," which denotes an office that may accommodate interactions between in-person and remote workers, "hybrid work" can also refer to a physical location.

Remote working

Professionals can use remote work as a working method to do business away from a regular office setting. It is predicated on the idea that work need not be carried out in a certain location to be successful.

Team building

The goal of team building is to instil a culture of interdependence and trust among employees so that they feel appreciated for the work they do and appreciate what others bring to the table. Although this may be implemented as a training programme, it mainly depends on morale and company culture to develop a long-lasting, maintained feeling of team.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.