Executive Leaders Acknowledge Barriers in the Virtual Workplace

The virtual environment is here to stay, and with it comes new challenges and opportunities for executive business leaders.

By now, many of us have grown accustomed to the remote work environment. Zoom team meetings and virtual one-on-ones while wrangling pets or children in the background have become the new normal. And don’t forget the new phrase heard around the world on a daily basis: “You’re on mute.”

Relationship-Building, Company Culture, and Communication Barriers in the Virtual Workplace

No matter how used to this we’ve become, challenges remain in this virtual environment, including critical barriers to work relationships, company culture, and communication. According to a survey of thousands of leaders currently participating in ExecOnline leadership development programs, 65% of respondents identified barriers to building and maintaining work relationships cross-functionally, within teams, and clients, up from 56% in spring 2020.

Relationship-building is a fundamental building block of company culture. What exactly is company culture? Company culture, sometimes referred to as organizational culture or corporate culture, is the variety of elements that make up the culture of the workplace, which can be defined in many ways and take different shapes. Oftentimes, it’s the shared values, attributes and characteristics of an organization, from the leadership structure to the way people interact.

According to the survey, 44% of executive leaders identified barriers to company culture in the virtual work environment, up from 39% in spring 2020. Additionally, barriers to communication went from 30% to 33% among executive leaders between spring 2020 and spring 2021. Women are also facing their own hurdles, as the survey revealed that due to the COVID-19, less women have been able to participate in leadership programs, and that balancing obligations has become less challenging for men than women.

It’s clear that remote work isn’t going away any time soon, though. Consider the fact that the survey also found little barriers to at-home productivity or the usage of technology tools. While this is only one sample, a majority of organizations are moving towards the virtual work environment while creating remote work policies that meet the demands of the workforce, according to newly released research from Worldwide ERC®.

How Leaders Can Break Down the Remote Work Barriers

So how are leaders to break down these barriers to relationship-building, company culture, and communication? The survey suggests that CHROs and business leaders must first perform a cost-benefit analysis on whether to bring employees back to the physical worksite. Then, when deciding whether to have a fully virtual, in-person, or hybrid environment, each organization will need a new way of building company culture, perhaps using interactive and culture-building technologies. Leaders must also focus on leadership development opportunities for women to allow for their continued success.

Common tips to boost company culture in the remote setting include increasing flexibility, developing a strong team mentality, and taking tangible steps to improve communication efforts while recognizing employees for their successes. After an unprecedented year, emphasizing these successes while investing in the employee experience will go a long way in cultivating an even stronger company culture no matter where work is going.

Want to Learn More?

Remote work is sure to continue to shape policies and priorities for HR leaders, and with this comes new challenges and opportunities for business growth and an enhanced employee experience. To gain even more insight, check out Worldwide ERC®’s new research report, Remote Work: Transformation of the Global Workforce now!

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