“So, do you want the good news or the bad news?” asks Julie Nolke in her comedy video, Explaining the Pandemic to my Past Self. Julie-from-the-future begins by confiding, “Things have never been better for climate change.”
What can this challenging time teach us about the relationship between virtual work and climate change? The economic pause these past few months has had a temporarily positive impact on the environment. But soon, companies around the world will emerge from stay-at-home orders and regional economic shutdowns. Virtual organizations have the opportunity to transform business practices for this new world, invent new ways to connect with customers, and bring relevant products and services to a changing marketplace. Forward-thinking leaders will retool companies for the future, aiming for resilience, agility, and sustainability (Intercultures, 2014).
Today, we face economic, and social disruption. Tomorrow, the disruption of climate change will loom over the post-COVID world. The regulatory and market impacts will reshape value chains, stress resources, alter the way employees work and collaborate, and require greater agility, next year, and beyond. Howard-Grenville and other researchers urge managers to devise strategies and adopt actions to mitigate the risk of global warming (2014).
What steps can leaders of virtual organizations take today to position their companies for the long term?
1. Attack Waste to Achieve Quality A quality program that eliminates waste will help virtual organizations improve performance and meet climate change targets (Womack & Jones, 2005). Initiatives that streamline processes make companies more agile and sustainable. When work shifts online, companies shrink the waste incurred by transporting people and physical artifacts. Virtual access to data and analysis strengthens collaboration and shortens decision time-frames.
2. Forge New Value Chains The virtual organization will prepare for the impact of climate change by rethinking value chains. Digital innovations, such as virtual training or product co-creation, create more valuable links and reconnect the transformed organization to customers and partners. Operational metrics need to factor in eco-efficiency. Standard practices will evolve around resource re-use and sustainable process knowledge to improve performance (Ball & Lunt, 2018).
3. Keep the Long View in your Strategy Dashboard Global treaties and national commitments, such as the Paris Agreement, force organizations to incorporate long-term agility as a core competency (Ferreira et al., 2019). Businesses will respond to regulatory imperatives to decarbonize. Knowledge generation and information flow play to the strengths of virtual organizations. Digital transformation will serve companies well into the future (Goldstein et al., 2019).
Eventually, the flattened COVID-19 curve will recede in memory and our attention will return to the next item in the news cycle. Virtual leaders who position organizations to succeed will capitalize on the good news and meet the challenge of bad news. They’ll be ready whenever the next disruption hits.
Ball, P., & Lunt, P. (2020). Lean eco-efficient innovation in operations through the maintenance organisation. International Journal of Production Economics, 219, 405–415. https://doi-org.proxy1.ncu.edu/10.1016/j.ijpe.2018.07.007
Ferreira, A., Pinheiro, M. D., de Brito, J., & Mateus, R. (2019). Decarbonizing strategies of the retail sector following the Paris Agreement. Energy Policy, 135. https://doi-org.proxy1.ncu.edu/10.1016/j.enpol.2019.110999
Goldstein, A., Turner, W., Gladstone, J., & Hole, D. (2019). The private sector’s climate change risk and adaptation blind spots. Nature Climate Change, 9(1), 18-25.
Intercultures. (2014). Connecting Climate Change & Virtual Work, retrieved on May 2020 from https://www.intercultures-global.com/2014/10/28/connecting-climate-change-virtual-work/
Nolke J.. (2020, January). Explaining the Pandemic to my Past Self [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ms7capx4Cb8
Womack, J.P., Jones, D.T., (2005). Lean Solutions: How Companies and Customers Can Create Value and Wealth Together. Simon & Schuster, London, UK.
Dr. Erin Rae Hoffer, email@example.com
Associate Professor and Program Lead, Public Administration, NCU School of Business