What Matters Most for Remote Work

Some recent research suggests groups working remotely can be just as effective as groups working in-person. So what does influence a group’s ability to work effectively together on a range of tasks? The research finds that how the work is done and who is doing it both appear to be strong predictors of collective intelligence in a group.

For instance, the largest predictor of collective intelligence is a group’s collaboration process. More specifically, two aspects of how groups coordinate their efforts are important: first, that they figure out which member is the best at different tasks and have that person take the lead on it; and, second, that members coordinate their efforts so that they cover all of the different tasks and don’t leave things unfinished. Our analyses show that coordinating members’ skills and covering all of the tasks are just as important for remote teams as they are for face-to-face teams, and collectively intelligent teams are able to coordinate in these ways regardless of where they are working.

In addition, we observed that who is doing the work has a significant influence on a group’s collective intelligence — not only whether they had skills relevant to the tasks, but also their social skills, especially their social perceptiveness. Groups whose members are more socially perceptive pick up on all kinds of subtle nonverbal cues, and we observed that they are also able to coordinate more effectively in the ways we have described — even when working remotely.

Remote teams have better tools at their disposal than ever before. But does your organization have the right processes in place? This is the question you should be exploring.