Not likely to happen. Buggy whip companies did not voluntarily convert themselves into automobile manufacturers. What IS more likely to happen is that successful emerging companies in the digital communications era will adopt dramatically different workplace operational models and beat the competitive pants off recalcitrant ancients.
To explain “virtual distance,” Dr. Sobel-Lojeski first diagnoses the symptomatic “problems:”
· After more than a decade of technological communication, why are people in the workplace feeling increasingly displaced and isolated?
· With almost unlimited flexibility on where and when one worked, how could it be that so many people were feeling more stressed than ever?
· In spite of all the media hype about productivity increases, what was causing personal productivity actually to be decreasing by every measure of extensive workforce and management surveys?
Karen discovered the concept, and coined the phrase, “virtual distance” to describe the psychological distance that begins to grow when humans rely heavily on information and communication technologies. “While physical distances still posed challenges, it was social and emotional distances that were exponentially rising. Ironically — as the world shrank in terms of communication reach — huge cracks in human relations were shaking the very foundations of work.”
Based on her extensive research of the problems, she developed the Virtual Distance Index as a tool to measure underlying factors and present the assessments in a summary manner to depict exactly how much and where Virtual Distance dissonance exists in an organization. Eleven measured benchmarks provide the framework for corrective measures and organizational improvements. Karen clusters these into three groups: physical (consisting of three distance factors), operational and affinity (four factors each) to “help pinpoint the root causes of Virtual Distance within a specific team or between teams. [The Virtual Distance Index] can also suggest directions for improving organizational performance and innovation.”
The diagnosis and assessment can impact critical organizational success factors such as: customer satisfaction, innovation, performance, learning, organizational citizenship behavior, trust, job satisfaction, role and goal clarity, among others.
When Virtual Distance is high, innovation, trust, job satisfaction, performance, and leadership effectiveness all are sacrificed, and measurably so. When companies act to consciously reduce Virtual Distance, team members work together and maximize each other’s contributions and the success of the team.
Through case studies based on her extensive research, Karen provides specific examples of the costs and adverse consequences of high Virtual Distance and the benefits and rewards of actions that reduce Virtual Distance in the workplace. Amorphous concepts, like “flexibility,” are replaced by concrete analyses and assessments of what companies can do to improve worker satisfaction and output in today’s more complex digital communication-dependent enterprises.
Karen just finalized an agreement with
to offer (in 2012) the first Virtual Distance Management Certification program
to train managers to be Virtual Distance Management Professionals. Babson College
This June, she delivered several keynote addresses and workshops in
and at the Stockholm School of
Economics. Stockholm, Sweden
Finally, the World Economic Forum’s Global Leadership Fellows Programme added two sessions on Virtual Distance to this year’s weeklong leadership program held at the
School, . University of Pennsylvania
All providing clear evidence that the global economic marketplace sees Virtual Distance as a crucial part of managing today’s more valuable human resources in the modern digital workplace.