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Reflect and update – a key to increasing productivity in digital work

In 2016, the World Economic Forum (WEF) suggested that complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity will become the top three skills workers will need in 2020.


Published : 15.04.2020

Nobody could have predicted a pandemic like a coronavirus (COVID-19), but suddenly WEF’s analysis and prediction about the future working skills feels very true.

The pandemic has forced a great number of people to work virtually from home and worry about the health of their own or those close to them, as companies around the globe have rolled out mandatory remote work. At the same time, there are many of those who are less lucky. People who are forced to lay-off, because of the deep recession coronavirus has pushed us into.

It takes a lot to cope with the crisis, not to mention all the changes we need to go through in order to maintain our productivity. The pandemic is forcing us to think in new ways to reach our maximum potential, as we sink deeper into the virtual world. In virtual or digital work, with a lot of invisible things going on, innovative thinking and productivity can be encouraged by adopting a virtual working mindset, respecting collective intelligence and developing skills, tools, and spaces for social bonding.

A virtual working mindset means understanding virtuality as part of a social network that allows collaborative interaction between people based on mutual trust and responsibility. Moreover, it includes uncovering and understanding what is unseen and unheard of. A person who has a virtual mindset realizes that working, leadership, and context are intertwined.

Another fundamental attribute to a virtual working mindset is determination, which means clear shared tasks and jointly agreement on rules, and a consistent and fair course of actions and processes. Personal means to maintain and enhance productivity in virtual remote work include actions, such as thinking outside the box by learning and trying out new tools and ways to work, giving up the old and ritual ways of working and scheduling the workdays in a new way to maintain one’s working capacity.

Secondly, respect for collective intelligence means proactively encouraging diverse thinking, learning, interaction and common reflections with different people. Stimulating open conversation, interaction, and listening contribute to productivity among a virtual workforce. Organizational and team-related practices influence communication-related well-being in the digital work environment and influence productivity, too. Consequently, more focus is needed on conscious, ethical, emphatic and diplomatic interaction, appreciative collaboration, and coordination of the collaboration. It is useful to keep in mind that respect for collective intelligence together with virtuality and ICT offers a seedbed for a critical reflection and testing of new solutions.

Thirdly, appropriate skills, tools, and spaces are vital for social bonding in virtual work contexts, both inside the organization, and with customers and other stakeholders. Especially in remote virtual work, people and their interactions are in focus, and the role of technology is to create suitable means for creative interaction.

At best, virtual work offers opportunities to take advantage of interpersonal interactions and thus enhance the development of learning environments and productivity. Therefore, enhancing participatory learning across role boundaries and stopping to reflect lessons learned is essential in the digital era.

Further, more attention is needed for the recruitment and orientation of people working remotely as well as to developing proper incentives and compensations for people. New tools and methods that help to foresee individuals’ emotional baggage in time to avoid frustration, a sense of disaffection, demotivation, or burnout in virtual remote work are also very welcome.

Photo: Girts Ragelis /