Enacting interpersonal connectivity remotely during COVID-19: an approach of Danish middle managers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Digital technologies and their connective properties have enabled distance work, which provides autonomy and flexibility for individuals to work and collaborate at a distance. As digital technologies enable us to work at a distance, they also separate and disconnect individuals, affecting task coordination and knowledge sharing, and potentially causing loneliness and isolation. As the outbreak of COVID-19 enforced work at a distance, line and middle managers were faced with a new task to ensure and maintain closeness and connection to the distant team members to minimise the negative consequences and retain employee wellbeing and performance from afar. In fact, research suggests developing and maintaining interpersonal connectivity i.e. one-on-one connection with team members. While research also states that interpersonal connectivity between individuals predominantly forms through faceto-face interaction, the technical capabilities of digital technologies permit establishing a sense of community and close relation development within the community, if users utilise this technology masterfully. However, developing and maintaining interpersonal connectivity between distant workers is challenging and requires deliberate managerial effort. Therefore, this article aims to explore how line and middle managers enact interpersonal connectivity work with their teams at a distance as a means of closing a connectivity gap. To do so, we draw on qualitative interviews within a longitudinal case of a large Danish pharmaceutical company to demonstrate how thirteen middle managers maintain interpersonal connectivity with their teams from a distance during the COVID-19 pandemic, from May 2020 to May 2021. We conclude by considering strategies middle managers utilise to ensure closeness and connection to their teams while balancing employee well-being and performance. Through this study, we observe that middle managers enact interpersonal connectivity by adjusting their behaviour to establish a virtual presence that brings them closer to employees. Moreover, the middle managers use techniques exuding both care and control over their employees through organised virtual interaction points and activities. The study contributes to the body of knowledge on interpersonal connectivity work enacted by line and middle managers over time in distance work. Furthermore, this study informs management practice on relevant skill development for distance work by demonstrating a case that outlines the elements needed when employing interpersonal connectivity work.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 3rd TWR Conference
Number of pages10
Publication date2022
Pages357-366
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Event3rd Transdisciplinary Workplace Research Conference - Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy
Duration: 7 Sep 202210 Sep 2022
Conference number: 3
https://twr2022.org/

Conference

Conference3rd Transdisciplinary Workplace Research Conference
Number3
LocationPolitecnico di Milano
Country/TerritoryItaly
CityMilan
Period07/09/202210/09/2022
Internet address

Keywords

  • Interpersonal connectivity
  • Middle managers
  • Connectivity gap
  • Distance management
  • COVID-19

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