Theses Doctoral

Inclusiveness: Exploring the Context of Working From Home

Osuna Jr., Carlos

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reshape how organizations operate, working from home has become more prevalent. While working from home is not new, organizations face unique challenges in fostering an inclusive virtual work environment. This modified qualitative case study was designed to explore with a group of 20 organizational leaders their perceptions of what is needed to create a more inclusive virtual work environment and how they learned to foster such an environment.

The researcher based his study on five assumptions: (1) inclusivity for virtual employees and teams is possible; (2) the virtual team leaders are capable of learning how to be inclusive leaders; (3) there is a correlation between innovation and diversity, thus, inclusion matters more than ever, and all team leaders are focusing on becoming more inclusive; (4) the use of different technologies for communication is essential in creating an inclusive environment; and (5) a more inclusive work environment involves managing and changing power dynamics.

The study population includes virtual team leaders who managed teams during and before the global pandemic. Participants’ teams were either 100% virtual and/or hybrid. The primary sources of data were in-depth semi-structured interviews of 20 team leaders, a virtual focus group of four team leaders, and critical incident reports.

Key findings of the study revealed: (1) All participants indicated that managers’ support was critical in a virtual work environment, while an overwhelming majority of participants described that establishing human connection among the population is vital in a virtual work environment; (2) An overwhelming majority of participants described that creating a psychological safety net and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion are two essential elements in a virtual work environment; (3) An overwhelming majority of participants indicated that building cohesion among working models was a key challenge in creating and supporting an inclusive virtual work environment; and (4) A strong majority of participants described they learned to create an inclusive virtual work environment primarily through informal ways like critical reflection.

Numerous recommendations were provided for current and aspiring organizational leaders, including team leaders, people managers, and multiple stakeholders—such as senior executives and HR professionals. These recommendations include suggestions for implementing practices that increase connection among team members, establish clear policies and guidelines for virtual collaboration, provide guidance for how to build a culture of psychological safety, how to use technology to facilitate more open communication and transparency, and suggestions for how to create an inclusive hiring process.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Volpe, Marie
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
May 24, 2023