Distinguished professor from University of Nebraska at Omaha gives a presentation about the psychological impacts of virtual work
Roni Reiter-Palmon, Distinguished Professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, gave a presentation Sept. 23 about the impact of virtual meetings on creativity and problem solving as part of the OTTRS speaker series.
The push for virtual collaboration has increased in the last decade, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when many employees were forced to work from home. Reiter-Palmon’s presentation centered around the limitations of virtual work from a psychological standpoint and potential solutions to mitigate these effects.
Disadvantages of virtual teams include multiple locations and time zones, managing from a distance and developing social processes including trust, social safety and communication, Reiter-Palmon explained.
“One of the things that we hear repeatedly from practitioners is that managers find it incredibly difficult to manage virtual teams,” Reiter-Palmon said during the presentation. “They don’t know exactly how to manage from afar.”
The presentation highlighted the social and cognitive processes required to solve team problems. In virtual team settings, social processes tend to be less effective with slower-developing trust, according to Reiter-Palmon.
“In virtual meetings we have fewer chances for casual interactions,” Reiter-Palmon said. “You don’t have those casual interactions like you would when people are together in the office. All of that makes it harder to get to know people which means it’s harder to develop effective communication.”
Potential solutions to mitigate worsened social processes include ensuring all team members get to know each other through introductions, small talk and bios, starting with face-to-face meetings before moving virtual if possible and finding ways to encourage communication outside of meetings. More research is needed to determine the most effective method, Reiter-Palmon said.
Reiter-Palmon and a team of researchers from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Utah published a paper studying this issue in fall 2021.
Watch the full recorded presentation below: