The effect of remote virtual work during Covid-19 pandemic on internal communication and feedback processes

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Management and International Business (MIB)
The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic caused a sudden shift to remote virtual work during spring 2020. Remote work was widely adopted to decrease physical interactions and prevent the spread of the disease. The sudden shift mass shift to virtual work created unique organizational challenges for both employees and leadership. The working world is on the cusp of a major change. While remote work recommendations have been lifted in Finland and most of the world, many companies and employees choose to continue working remotely; work life will most likely never fully return to the office. The objective of this qualitative study is to explore how the sudden shift to virtual remote work has affected and shaped the communication and feedback processes of companies and what effect these have on employee motivation. This is accomplished by creating a theoretical framework based on previous research literature and comparing it to the responses obtained in the interviews conducted for this thesis. This thesis aims to answer the following three research questions: 1) How prepared are companies in their internal communication strategies when it comes to the shift from office to virtual work? 2)How does the change from office work to virtual work affect the feedback processes of an organization? 3) How has the change to virtual work and subsequent changes in feedback policies affectedemployee motivation? The data collected for this thesis consists of seven semi-structured interviews conducted during April 2022. The results of the interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis. The four evaluation criteria of qualitative research (as introduced by Lincoln and Guba, 1985) were used to demonstrate trustworthiness of the study. The results regarding changes in communication and feedback during remote work are mostly in line with previous research. The main communication challenges highlighted were decrease in communication, lack of ad hoc communication and lack of non-verbal cues. Companies for the most part still provided formal feedback channels such as performance appraisals, but spontaneous and lateral feedback seized to exist almost completely. The existence of feedback processes even before the pandemic could also be questioned. Extrinsic motivation in the form of flexibility, time management and financial compensation increased during remote work, but intrinsic motivation decreased due to low self-actualization and self-efficacy caused by feelings of isolation and a decrease in social interaction.
Thesis advisor
Pälli, Pekka
Covid-19, internal communication, feedback, employee motivation, leadership
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