2022 Report

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 imposter 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

2022

Remote
22%
Office only
35%
Hybrid
43%

2021

Remote
34%
Office only
39%
Hybrid
27%

Impact of location flexibility on employee outcomes

Exhibit burnout symptoms

36%

No flexibility

14%

Some flexibility

Positive outlook on the org’s culture

47%

No flexibility

83%

Some flexibility

Consider their team to be innovative

57%

No flexibility

71%

Some flexibility

Exhibit imposter syndrome symptoms

30%

No flexibility

42%

Some flexibility

Workplace flexibility

I can choose between working from home or an office on a given day.

I can choose to live in an area other than where our office is located.

What about team health overall?

2021

17% 54% 29%
Healthy Partially healthy Unhealthy

2022

13% 82% 5%
Healthy Partially healthy Unhealthy

Part Two

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

37%

On less innovative teams

24%

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

Transformation considerations

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

23%

People with 20+ hours of meetings per week

31%

Part three

We’ve cracked the code on high-performing teams!

Our first State of Teams report surfaced some very promising links between the highest-performing teams and the specific traits that make them so successful. Now, this most recent wave of research has confirmed our suspicions.

The secret to building legendary teams comes down to alignment, cohesion, psychological safety, and potential for innovation. Sounds great, but a little vague. So we broke it down further into concrete behaviors that leaders can model and encourage. Not only that, but we’ve also incorporated these findings into our Team Health Monitor! Head over to the Atlassian Team Playbook for instructions and templates you can use to run a Health Monitor session with your team.

What separates legendary teams from everyone else?

Alignment

  • Defining and communicating team roles clearly
  • Linking individuals’ work with the team’s objectives

Cohesion

  • Sharing a common focus and purpose
  • Assisting each other when help is needed
  • Concentrating on getting things done
  • Encouraging each other to perform at their very best

Psychological safety

  • Believing they can speak up when they disagree, have different ideas, or see problems
  • Believing they can actively participate and express themselves
  • Trusting they are recognized, valued, respected, and included

Potential for innovation

  • Having the right mix of skills in their team
  • Believing they can ask questions and try new things
  • Cooperating in order to help develop and apply new ideas

“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

Senior Researcher

Part four

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.

Embrace flexibility

  • 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.

Prevent burnout

  • 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.

40.21 years

Average age of participants

95%

Full-time workers

43%

Women

57%

Men