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One Year Later, Leaders Cite Relationships, Culture and Communication as Barriers to Effective Virtual Work

NEW YORK, NY / AGILITYPR.NEWS / March 24, 2021 / One Year Later, Leaders Cite Relationships, Culture and Communication as Barriers to Effective Virtual Work

ExecOnline Leadership Survey Finds Managing Workload With Fewer Team Members a Top Concern

View survey results/slidedeck 

A new leadership survey from ExecOnline, an enterprise platform partnered with top business schools to deliver online leadership development programs, has found that there are still critical barriers that exist in the virtual workplace even as the US marks the one year anniversary of the broad move to remote work.  

According to the company’s latest survey, which polled thousands of leaders participating in ExecOnline leadership development programs, nearly half (49%) of respondents said that managing workloads with fewer team members is a top challenge, which is up significantly from 30 percent of respondents from last Spring. 

Additionally, 48 percent said keeping their employees motivated without monetary or promotion incentives was a top challenge, unchanged from last Spring’s survey. But there were also some signs that leaders have found better ways to manage their virtual teams; 45 percent said supporting their team members’ overall well being was a challenge, but that is down from 61 percent who said so last Spring, and 44 percent said balancing their own personal and professional obligations was a top challenge, down from 48 percent last year. 

“In the past year, leaders around the world have grappled with brand new and unexpected challenges related to maintaining an effective workplace, but now is the time to move from recovery mode to finding sustainable solutions for what the future of work will look like,” said ExecOnline Co-Founder and CEO Stephen Bailey. “As the modern workplace evolves, corporate leaders need to support the growth and development of Future Ready Leaders, promote equitable opportunities for career advancement, and prioritize removing any barriers that are inhibiting teams’ ability to succeed.”

“While there are certainly positive signs that the ‘workplace’ is adapting to the volatile changes witnessed in 2020, leaders should not lose sight of the need for aggressive leadership and professional development opportunities, especially with the significant changes in the makeup and size of their workforce,” continued Bailey. 

When asked what barriers are preventing effective virtual work, nearly two-thirds (65%) said “relationships” as it’s been difficult to build and maintain them within teams, cross-functionally and with clients - this is up from the 56 percent who said “relationships” last Spring. Additionally, 44 percent said “culture,” up from 39 percent last year and one-third (33%) said communication, also up from 30 percent last year. Managing teams’ well-being was listed as a barrier for 24 percent of respondents, similar to the 22 percent who said so last year.  

Though it’s not all bad news: just 28 percent said at home productivity is currently a barrier to the virtual work environment, down significantly from 45 percent last year, and 16 percent said technology is a barrier, down from 23 percent last year. 

As the work-from-home situation lingers, there is increasing concern about burnout among leaders. When asked about the extent to which they are concerned about burnout within their organization, more than three-quarters (78%) said they are moderately to extremely concerned - similar to the 77 percent who said so in a previous survey last Summer. 

And, in a sign that women may have started getting the help they need at home or have found other solutions, fewer women in positions of leadership in this survey say that balancing their personal and professional obligations is one of their biggest challenges. While still nearly half (46%) are actively working to balance their home and work lives, it is down from the survey high of 53 percent who said so during the summer of 2020. 

Interestingly, slightly more men say that balancing their personal and professional obligations is one of their biggest challenges; after dropping to 40 percent during the Fall of 2020, 43 percent of men say finding that balance is their biggest challenge. 

When asked about the benefits of virtual work, nearly eight in 10 (79%) said that the time savings/lack of commute is a benefit, and 55 percent said that the flexibility to work at different times is a benefit; another 51 percent said that location flexibility is a benefit, and 44 percent said greater time with their family is a benefit. 

ExecOnline regularly polls thousands of its affiliated corporate leaders five times a year to gauge top trends in leadership development, culture and barriers to effective work. 

About ExecOnline

As the pioneer of online enterprise leadership development, ExecOnline has delivered transformational learning experiences to corporate leaders at over 500 global organizations since 2012. Through partnerships with elite business schools such as Berkeley-Haas, Chicago Booth, Columbia, Duke CE, IMD, MIT-Sloan, Stanford GSB, Wharton and Yale, ExecOnline consistently provides top-tier leadership courses. Our proprietary online ecosystem combines the engagement of on-campus study with the convenience of online education, through dynamic, high-impact experiences tailored to the unique strategic, innovation and operation concerns of corporate executives.

Visit execonline.com to learn more.



Kathy Allen



Phone: 2028217513