The State of Teams
Atlassian’s ongoing study revealing macro-level trends and providing leaders with research-backed ways to foster happier, higher-performing teams
Flexibility is good for employees and employers
Location, location, location! Turns out, it affects knowledge workers as much as it affects real estate prices. Our latest round of research reveals that the flexibility to work in the location(s) of one’s choosing significantly improves outcomes related to innovation, wellbeing, burnout, and perceptions of organizational culture. This reinforces findings from our 2021 State of Teams report, which showed that teams have an equal shot at success regardless of where they work.
What’s more, these improved outcomes create a ripple effect that yields even more favorable outcomes. For example, flexibility is linked to positive perceptions of the organization’s culture, which in turn is strongly associated with higher employee retention rates. Plus, people from hybrid and distributed companies are more likely to identify their teams as innovative.
That said, the flexibility to work in a distributed fashion presents unique challenges. First, when people have different schedules (aka, “fun with timezones!”) it can be harder for teams to stay aligned on the specific tasks underway. Our research also found that people with greater location flexibility are more susceptible to impostor syndrome, perhaps because they’re less likely to get incidental positive feedback and cues from colleagues when they’re physically separated. Both findings help refine our understanding of what it means to run a successful distributed team. Below, you’ll find recommendations based on what Atlassian has found to be useful in addressing these issues.
Where teams are working
Impact of location flexibility on employee outcomes
Exhibit burnout symptoms
Positive outlook on the org’s culture
Consider their team to be innovative
Exhibit imposter syndrome symptoms
What about team health overall?
New queries in this year’s report
The downside of highly innovative teams
42% of respondents acknowledge they exhibit at least one sign of impostor syndrome. Interestingly, the rate was higher among people who identified their teams as innovative – possibly due to team cultures that emphasize brainstorming and critique. Considering that we also found strong links between impostor syndrome and reduced engagement, it behooves leaders to make sure the merits and limitations of an idea get equal airtime.
Experiences one or more signs of impostor syndrome:
On more innovative teams
On less innovative teams
Counter impostor syndrome and attrition in one fell swoop
It’s amazing what a simple “thank you” can do. Members of teams with a habit of expressing appreciation and encouragement also reported higher levels of psychological safety, which buffers against impostor syndrome. They also tended to have a more positive view of their organization’s culture, which is associated with stronger intentions to stay at the company long-term.
“Not getting recognition makes me feel bad enough that I would just start looking for a different job [if I didn’t get it].”
– Research participant
That agile/digital/cultural transformation you’re in the midst of? Keep going, but keep a close eye on how it affects employees. (Even the best-run transformations can feel chaotic.) 83% of respondents who’ve been through a transformation say it was beneficial for the organization. However, transformations take a toll on individuals: this group was more likely to report symptoms of burnout and thinking about quitting recently.
This Zoom call could’ve been a Slack thread
While office-only workers have roughly five hours of meetings in an average week, it’s more like eight hours for people on distributed and hybrid teams. Why does it matter? We found that spending more time in meetings is linked with a significantly higher risk of burnout, which aligns with the body of research around “Zoom fatigue.” And if your company is struggling to cut down on meetings, you’re not alone. This is a challenge for Atlassian too, so we developed a “ritual reset” exercise to help teams be more intentional about synchronous vs. asynchronous work.
I experience one or more signs of burnout
People with up to 15 hours of meetings per week
People with 20+ hours of meetings per week
“Exceptional teams are great at many things. But if a team had to focus on only one thing, they should focus on psychological safety. With psychological safety, everything else becomes easier. It becomes easier to be aligned, it’s easier to be connected, and it’s easier to be innovative. By focussing on psychological safety, a team can kill many birds with one stone.”
Dr. Mahreen Khan
Takeaways for leaders
Our research revealed many organizations still struggle with challenges related to wellbeing, distributed work, and innovation. If that sounds like your company, no worries! We’ve been there. We found a number of effective ways to make distributed teamwork work at Atlassian. Here’s what we recommend.
Promote psychological safety
- When someone (respectfully!) voices dissent or offers a different idea, thank them for speaking up.
- Model vulnerability by being quick to admit mistakes.
- Designate retrospectives and post-incident reviews as as spaces where failures are treated as team failures instead of pointing the finger at individuals.
- Offer people the flexibility to work in the office, from home, or some combination of the two.
- Give employees the option to live in a different city or state, as long as team members share a minimum of four hours of working time overlap – this will help them stay aligned on tasks.
- Make sure goals, roles, and tasks are clearly defined in distributed and hybrid work environments.
Curb impostor syndrome
- Go out of your way to express appreciation and encouragement, especially in distributed and hybrid work environments where spontaneous high-fives are less frequent.
- Focus on balanced feedback, highlighting the merits of an idea, and not just its limitations.
- When celebrating team accomplishments, be sure to acknowledge the contributions of each person involved.
- If embarking on a transformation or other major initiative, err on the side of over-communicating how the change will affect everyone’s jobs and what’s happening at each phase of the transition.
- Conduct a “ritual reset” workshop to decide if you’re getting the most out of your meetings. Synchronous time is best used for complex problem-solving and personal connections, while status updates and reviews are easy to do asynchronously.
- Encourage team members to hide their self-view during video calls to reduce the “mirror anxiety” caused by looking at oneself for long stretches.
- Schedule meetings to start 5 min “late” so people get micro-breaks between calls.
About this research
1710 knowledge workers across Australia and the U.S. participated in this study (525 from Australia; 1185 from the U.S.) The population of interest in this research was knowledge workers aged between 21 and 65 operating in teams. The average age of participants was 40.21 years (standard deviation = 10.21 years). The majority worked full-time (95%), and worked in larger organizations (50% worked in organizations of 1001+ employees; 39% worked in organizations containing 5001+ employees). The sample comprised 43% women and 57% men.
The survey administered to participants was 15 minutes in length. Questions included demographic data, and variables informed by relevant organizational psychology literature (e.g., organizational culture, team health). Our analyses included descriptive statistics and regression analyses. The margin of error is +/-2% for the entire sample based on a 95% confidence level. Additionally, six post-survey interviews were conducted with knowledge workers located in Australia and the U.S.
Average age of participants