Virtual leadership: Moving teamsonline during the covid-19 crisisMaster ThesisAuthors: Evelina Abrahamsson and JonathanOllander AxelssonSupervisor: Stephan ReinholdExaminer: Lars LindkvistTerm: Spring 2020Subject: Degree projectLevel: MasterCourse code: 4FE41EIAbstractGlobalization and technological developments have made it possible to engage in virtual workmodes. Globalization also enabled an enormous spread of the ongoing pandemic of covid-19.A situation that forced previously co-located teams to become virtual teams. This required anadaption for leaders to lead in an environment that differs vastly from traditional ones.We conducted a multiple case study with an abductive approach and qualitative method inwhich 10 semi-structured interviews were held with practitioners across 3 business cases thatwere experiencing a transition into a virtual work mode.The findings suggest that the work relations between leaders and followers change in severalways when previously co-located teams become virtual teams. This entails new challenges anda shift in the use of leadership styles as well as follower behavior.KeywordsCovid-19, leader-follower work relations, leadership, virtual leadership, virtual teamsIIAcknowledgmentsWe would like to thank the interviewees who donated their time and made this thesis possibleduring a pandemic.We want to thank our supervisor Stephan Reinhold who has provided us with insightfulcomments throughout the project.We would also like to thank our examiner Lars Lindkvist for his constructive feedback duringthe seminars.Kalmar, 20/05/2020.Evelina Abrahamsson & Jonathan Ollander AxelssonIIITable of contents1. INTRODUCTION________________________________________________________ 11.1 Background ___________________________________________________________ 11.2 Problem discussion _____________________________________________________ 31.3 Research questions _____________________________________________________ 51.4 Research aims _________________________________________________________ 52. LITERATURE REVIEW__________________________________________________ 62.1 Leadership ____________________________________________________________ 62.1.1 Relationship between leaders and followers ____________________________________ 72.1.2 Leadership as co-production_________________________________________________ 82.1.3 Leadership styles _________________________________________________________ 92.2 Virtual teams _________________________________________________________ 122.2.1 What is a virtual team?____________________________________________________ 122.2.2 Becoming a virtual team___________________________________________________ 142.2.3 Challenges for virtual teams________________________________________________ 152.3 Leadership in virtual teams ______________________________________________ 182.3.1 How does virtual leadership differ? __________________________________________ 182.3.2 What is needed in virtual leadership?_________________________________________ 192.3.3 Leadership styles in virtual teams ___________________________________________ 202.4 Summary ____________________________________________________________ 213. METHODOLOGY ______________________________________________________ 233.1 Interpretivist philosophy and qualitative method _____________________________ 233.2 An exploratory study with an abductive approach ____________________________ 243.3 Case study strategy ____________________________________________________ 253.4 Selecting cases________________________________________________________ 263.5 Data collection________________________________________________________ 283.6 Data analysis _________________________________________________________ 293.7 Quality criteria________________________________________________________ 303.8 Research limitations ___________________________________________________ 323.9 Ethical considerations __________________________________________________ 324. FINDINGS _____________________________________________________________ 334.1 Case A ______________________________________________________________ 334.2 Case B ______________________________________________________________ 444.3 Case C ______________________________________________________________ 505. DISCUSSION __________________________________________________________ 59IV5.1 The importance of spontaneous informal interactions _________________________ 595.2 Followers responsibilities_______________________________________________ 625.3 Autonomy ___________________________________________________________ 645.4 Challenges and opportunities in a virtual environment _________________________ 675.5 Answering the research questions _________________________________________ 706. CONCLUSION _________________________________________________________ 726.1 Key findings _________________________________________________________ 726.2 Theoretical implications ________________________________________________ 726.3 Practical implications __________________________________________________ 736.4 Limitations and suggestions for future research ______________________________ 746.5 Work process and authors contributions ___________________________________ 75REFERENCES ___________________________________________________________ 76APPENDICES ____________________________________________________________ 8111. INTRODUCTION1.1 BackgroundIt has been like a tsunami for us, we are not used to be working like this, andour business has changed a lot. It has been a direct change that we only havereacted on, there has been no time to act and think one step ahead. From thebeginning we have only reacted on how to proceed, but now is the time toact Bianca 24/4-2020.According to OECD is covid-19 the biggest threat to the economy in this century. Besidescausing loss of life, the pandemic has also brought an economic crisis that will impact societiesfor years ahead. The pandemic has shown how ill-equipped nations healthcare systems are tohandle major crises with its lack of testing and intensive-care beds; inadequate workforce;inability to provide the appropriate equipment (Gurra, 2020). Furthermore, as many as 800.000Swedish jobs were assumed to be threatened already March 23rd as some industries are facinga huge decrease in demand (Stockholms Handelskammare, 2020). The repercussions of thepandemic will be unforgiving on the Swedish economy, to what extent is too soon to assess butthe recession we now are facing will be deep and troublesome. Mass unemployment is a threatand the GDP is forecasted to decrease with 6 percent (Konjunkturinstitutet, 2020). Theextraordinary circumstances that the virus outbreak brings upon us show how vulnerable oursocieties are.Additionally, curfews are being introduced around the world (Kotsambouikidis, 2020; SVT,2020). The Swedish government has yet not demanded its citizens to work from home orintroduced any curfews, however, its public health agency declared that if having thepossibility, people should work from home (Eriksson and Falkirk, 2020). Nevertheless, thevirus causes drastic actions to be taken. For instance, due to the covid-19 crisis are all hospitalsin the Stockholm region using military decision-making system acquired from NATO(Rstlund and Gustafsson, 2020). As location-bound organizations currently are forced tochange their ways of leading (e.g., hospitals) or face a massive decline in demand (e.g., hotelsand airlines), some organizations may have additional options to maneuver the crisis.Globalization and technological developments are forces that have brought us new work modesand the possibility to engage in virtual teams (Cameron and Green, 2020). A virtual team (VThenceforth) is defined as a group of co-workers that are dispersed and that together uses2different computer-mediated tools or other technological instruments to accomplish anorganizational task. These teams rarely or never meet each other face-to-face (Townsend et al.,1998). Thereby are organizations in some cases allowed to move previously co-located teamsonline. This indicates that a new working environment will become a new reality for many ifdoing this kind of transition which arguably can have an impact on leader-follower workrelations.Leadership is a very broad topic and more leadership styles are appearing, some of theleadership views are; task-oriented, relations-oriented, laissez-faire, charismatic,transformational, transactional, servant, authentic, practice-based, relational, emotional,distributed, shared, strategic, administrative, complex, coaching, symbolic, visionary, etc.(Alvesson et al., 2017, p.5). Technological developments as an external force are thensomething that makes the list become even longer. Leaders are now allowed to usecommunication systems and work digitally, thus, distant leadership has appeared, as the termLeading by Skype. Managers are here expected to lead with the help of systems which hascreated dilemmas for those who understand leadership as a social process. While others see itas a more effective way since it makes leadership work better, as people meet less often(Alvesson et al., 2017). Those who see it as more effective should possibly not be associatedwith leaders who practice leadership, it is more likely that they are performing management.Leadership is about targeting feelings where leaders provide direction by emotional support.Whereas management takes direction and control (Alvesson et al., 2017). Leadership can beassociated with, for instance, motivation and inspiration which can be equivalent to supportivebehaviors. Whereas management is associated with more directive behavior such as controllingand planning (Northouse, 2013). However, we are interested in leadership within this research,and indications are that new leadership styles come with additional requirements, for instance,to make collaboration function within the new virtual modes of working (Dulebohn and Hoch,2017).Organizations of today are more complex and dynamic than ever, which implies that there is anincreased demand for adaptivity and flexibility (Bell and Kozlowski, 2002). The world israpidly changing, and many people have gone from working in the same building to nowinteract with the use of technology. People can work from different places and reach one anotherwith the help of all that is now available. Hence, technology makes it possible to work remotelyand engage in VTs.31.2 Problem discussionVT leaders have the same roles as co-located leaders as they must empower and motivate VTmembers to achieve set goals, however, this in a virtual environment in which communicationis more limited than in traditional teams (Mehtab et al., 2017). Virtual leaders lead in a muchfreer environment in which it can be more difficult to follow as it can be to motivate employeesand to motivate in accordance with the organizations purpose is paramount (Kuscu and Arslan,2016). Therefore, VTs call for additional skills as behavior in co-located teams cannot betransferred into a virtual setting and assumed to be successful (Zigurs, 2003).It has shown that the frequency of communication is more important for VTs than for otherkinds of teams. VTs often lack the more traditional way of communicating and sharinginformation face-to-face, they might also lack the tone of voice and other nonverbal cues(Schmidt, 2014). The environment for leadership in VT is characterized by vaguecommunication and self-leadership among members is a necessity. For leaders to successfullymanage VTs they have to facilitate, communicate more frequently, and raise the visibility ofVT members activities (Zigurs, 2003).We have recently entered the worldwide crisis of covid-19. Virtual leadership is, therefore, animportant and relevant topic to consider, and this especially now when an unpredictablesituation has occurred. Leadership can furthermore be understood as a process involving leadersand followers, which is socially constructed (Uhl-Bien, 2006). However, when leaders are notable to be physically present, they face challenges to know when employees need socialinteractions or when they are getting slow (Malhotra et al., 2007). Taken together, people willdue to the crisis unavoidably have to work remotely more frequently than usual in toreduce the spread of the virus. Organizations that typically conduct their businesses at theworkplace might soon choose voluntary, or be forced, to engage in VTs. This calls for thedevelopment of new skills to be able to lead their workforces virtually, something that theseorganizations might not have tackled before. For instance, how to maintain relationships in avirtual environment (Pauleen and Yoong, 2001).Even though the ways we collaborate are rapidly changing, a large portion of the research onteams is still concerned with the classical team and its more clearly defined boundaries ofleadership, membership, and purposes, compared to VTs (Wageman et al., 2012). What hasbeen explored by several researchers is the importance of trust within VTs. The success of VTsis dependent on trust (Brahm and Kunze, 2012). Indeed, trust is the glue that holds virtual4teams together (Ford et al., 2017, p.34). Many researchers have focused on teams that alreadywork virtually, thus not about teams that have been forced or decided to do so because of anexternal, unpredictable situation. The studies have for example been conducted to understandhow physical distance affects communication and leadership performance (e.g. Neufeld et al.,2010), but these studies have been conducted in organizations that already working within thesesettings. Previous research has also been concerned with how to communicate within VTs (e.g.,Marlow et al., 2017), how to increase VTs effectiveness (e.g., Dulebohn and Hoch, 2017),what challenges VTs face (e.g., Malhotra et al., 2007; Dulebohn and Hoch, 2017) and VTscharacteristics (e.g., Bell and Kozlowski, 2002). Additionally, the focus has been on how tostart VTs consisting of members previously unknown to each other (Duarte and Snyder, 2006).However, there have to our knowledge not yet been any research of how leader-follower workrelations are affected when previously co-located teams go online due to a crisis. Ourassumptions are that leaders and followers always have some kind of relationship and that thiswill in one way or another change if the normal way of working gets disrupted, as it does whenco-located teams become VTs.Hence, leadership as a relational process between leaders and followers, in which they coproduce leadership has not yet, been focused on within a context where previously co-locatedteams have decided, or been forced, to move online during a crisis. This is something that stillneeds to be addressed. Here we identified a research gap concerning how organizationalmembers, that normally do not engage in virtual work modes, handle the originated situation ofengaging in VTs due to a crisis. This on a temporary basis since they most likely will return totheir regular work modes after the crisis. We find this interesting since this research would addto the body of knowledge with insights regarding how to handle the current situation and whatadditional demands leaders and followers face in times of crisis when transitioning into a virtualenvironment. Thus, we believe this research could be useful when encountering other criticalsituations in the future. Therefore, this research is of theoretical relevance.51.3 Research questionsBased on the problem discussion one main research question and three sub-questions areformulated:How and why do leader and follower work relations change when previously co-located teamsbecome virtual teams in times of crisis?– How are the leader and follower work relations before and after?– What affects the shift in work relations?– How does this interact with the leadership styles used?1.4 Research aimsThere should be a clear connection between the research questions and its aims as they arecomplementary in explaining what the research concerns (Saunders et al., 2019). Therefore,this researchs main question aims to explore how and why the relationship between leadersand followers changes when becoming a VT in times of crisis. To be able to know how andwhy relationships change sub-questions have been formulated and this to gain more insight intoour chosen topic. The first sub-question aims to explore how leader and follower work relationswere before and after the team moved online. To be able to explore a change this is importantto understand. The aim of the second sub-question is to reach a deeper understanding regardingwhat could have caused the shift in work relations between the leader and follower. Then, ourlast sub-question aims to explore if and how leaders adjust their leadership styles when leadinga previously co-located team in a virtual environment.62. LITERATURE REVIEW2.1 LeadershipWhen people on a voluntary basis accept to be led by a person to accomplish something whichthey understand and interpret to be a necessity and desire to reach, leadership occurs. What iskey here, is to consider leader and follower interaction, and to understand both sides, whatleaders do and how followers are responding (Alvesson et al., 2017). When viewing leadershipas involving both leaders and followers one pays attention to the character of leadership asbeing social, relational, and processual. Leadership is many times associated with theunderstanding of leaders doing the right thing or creating change (Alvesson et al., 2017,p.8). However, leadership can additionally be about maintaining morale, influencing meaning,ideas, values and emotions and this to make sure that the days, in general, are functioningwell. Creating change or doing the right thing is not what leadership always is about (Alvessonet al., 2017, p.9).An important distinction in the context of this thesis is between leadership and management.The two concepts are often used in combination. Management could be distinguished fromleadership by connecting it to direction and control as they come with formal rights, whereasleadership could be associated with meaning, feelings, and values. However, to have a title asa manager does not mean that one is purely doing management tasks, a manager can alsopractice leadership (Alvesson et al., 2017). This is also something that Northouse (2013) pointsout as he mentions that many activities that are related to leadership also relate to management.However, he relates planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, controlling, and problem-solvingto management whereas leadership is associated with establishing direction, aligning people,motivating, and inspiring others.This distinction will be particularly important to understand data collected from people withinorganizations with formal rights (managers). However, as management and leadership can becombined, we believe there will be responses that are more associated with management andothers with leadership. Thus, having a clear distinction will allow separating the two andfocusing on what is being essential based on our research questions and aims.72.1.1 Relationship between leaders and followersA traditional way to comprehend the relationship between leaders and followers has been tounderstand leaders as action-oriented, and followers as those who passively partake and abideby the leaders s (Alvesson et al., 2017; Baker, 2007). This was a common understandingthat originated from theories about the Great Man. The Great Men were pre-industrial leaderswho were easily distinguishable from their followers. Hence, it was believed that these leaderspossessed inherited skills and qualities to lead, which were nothing that could be learned (Baker,2007). The traditional view has, thus, been regarded from the vantage point of the leader. Tomanage issues and problems has therefore boiled down to leadership styles. The leader isunderstood as the subject who motivates the follower (the object) to work towards a certaingoal (Alvesson et al., 2017). Other common historical ideas of leadership have focused onsuccessful leadership. These ideas have primarily focused on leaders traits, behaviors, andstyles (Zigurs, 2003).But times are changing, from the Great Man, where followers were to passively follow theleader (Baker, 2007), to a more recent time where followers are understood to be a moreimportant part of leadership (Bligh, 2011). Hence, followership is an area that gets continuouslyincreased attention and where popular slogans published in academic work are; withoutfollowers there can be no leaders and the essence of leadership is followership (Bligh,2011, p.425). This tradition started to gain momentum in the later years of the twentieth century.Here explicit theories of followership appeared and Kelleys (1988) work offered one of thefirst theories with this approach, where followers were taken from the periphery and placed inthe center (Bligh, 2011). In Kelleys (1988) article, the focus was on how to make followersinto effective ones. In the same year another researcher claimed, we need to understandleadership, and for this, it is not enough to understand what leaders do (Hosking, 1988 citedin Bligh, 2011, p.427). The followership has furthermore developed towards the activefollowership and one of the basic tenets defining this theory was that; followers and leadersmust be studied in the context of their relationship (Baker, 2007, p.58). This is also somethingthat Northouse (2013, p.15) reasons as he claims, leaders and followers should be understoodin relation to each other, and this because of them being part of the leadership process. Thisunderstanding goes with the relational perspective as this perspective understands social realityas something that could be found within the relational context. Leadership is a process that issocially constructed (Uhl-Bien, 2006). Hence, a relational understanding is an opportunity tofocus on processes in which both the actor and the world around him or her are created in ways8that either expand or contract the space of possible action (Holmberg cited in Uhl-Bien, 2006,p.661). The collective dynamics (e.g. combination of context and relations) are in focus withinthis perspective rather than the individual. Here both leaders together with others (followers)bear the responsibilities to construct and understand their relationship and how they shouldbehave (Uhl-Bien, 2006).This indicates that the understanding of leadership has moved beyond a focus on leaderspersonalities and/ or traits, towards an understanding of leadership as a process that is built onsocial constructions. Something that entails that leadership is co-produced by leaders andfollowers as one cannot exists without the other (Bligh, 2011), the co-production is relational(Baker, 2007; Uhl-Bien, 2006) and leadership and followership are key to understand theconstruction of leadership (Alvesson, 2019). This standpoint that leader-follower relationshiptogether create leadership makes it reasonable to explore what occurs when becoming VTs, ourassumption is that something changes in these relations.2.1.2 Leadership as co-productionA subordinate is not just a follower because of his/her position but rather is so by accepting andseeing himself/herself as being a follower. Hence, leadership appears when both leader andfollower agree on their relationship and their roles. Consequently, subordinates are not alwaysfollowers as managers are not always leaders, indicating that formal hierarchical positions arenot the only thing that should determine these roles, they are rather being granted (Blom andAlvesson, 2014). To understand leaders as active and followers as passive has therefore beenchallenged and more people have started to understand followers as active co-producers ofleadership (Blom and Alvesson, 2014, p.346).This does not indicate that followers cannot take a passive role. Carsten et al. (2010, p.546)argue that Followership schemas are generalized knowledge structures that develop over timethrough socialization and interaction with stimuli relative to leadership and followership.These schemas could then be influenced by standards and norms that an organization has whichcan indicate what behavior a certain role should take, and here standards could be reinforced.If understanding the leader having better expertise than the followers, then it is possible that thefollower holds a followership scheme that could be described as passive. However, a followertaking a proactive scheme, then one is considering the leader-follower relationship to functioninteractively. Leadership is here understood to be based on mutual influence where leader andfollower interactions are understood to co-produce leadership. Proactive followers have shown9taking responsibility and ownership. There is also an indication of them challenging theirleader, by coming with new ideas and sharing concerns. Whereas the passive follower is doingwhat the leader tells them to do. Therefore, how the individual is understanding the organizationand its structures can influence what followership schemes one constructs (Carsten et al., 2010).Besides the influence that norms and standards can have on social constructions, there are alsoother influences such as the context created by the leader and the climate of the organization.These can play a certain role in what followership scheme one take as these can influence thebehavior one might take within a specific situation. For example, a follower could take a moreproactive role if the organizations climate is based on empowerment and autonomy, and whencollaborations are allowed by the leader. This does not necessarily always have to be the caseas a follower can take a passive role even though the organization climate and leader simplifythe subordinate for taking a proactive role (Carsten et al., 2010).2.1.3 Leadership stylesThe situational approach to leadership is built on the principle that leadership needs to bechanged according to the situation, the focus, therefore, lies on the leadership in situations.Adapting the style to the situation is what makes leaders effective, but not only, a leader iseffective if able to match the style to the level of commitment and competence of thesubordinate. Hence, what needs to be done is for the leader to evaluate and assess subordinatescompetences and commitments to perform tasks. Depending on the subordinate, who is in aconstant flow of change where skills and motivation change, the leader needs to adapt to howdirective or supportive he/she should be (Northouse, 2013). Leaders who rely on more than onestyle, depending on the situation of the business, is suggested to be the ones reaching for thebest results (Goleman, 2000).Behavior patterns for the leader include directive behaviors, associated with tasks, andsupportive behaviors connected to relationships. The former is a way to help people reach goals,setting timelines, making sure that the set goals are possible to achieve, etc. These behaviorpatterns are often one-way communication, it is a way to clarify tasks on how it should bereached and who is responsible for doing it. The latter behavioral pattern, the supportive one,is to make subordinates comfortable and this not only with themselves but also with thesituation and with their colleagues. Instead of it being a one-way communication as the formerbehavioral pattern, both of them are involved. Ways to show supportive behavior is to listen to10others, asking for input, helping others to solve problems. Four different leadership styles canbe identified with different behavioral patterns (Northouse, 2013), which are described next.The first one is the directing approach and it is a leadership style that scores high on directivebehavior and low on supportive behavior. This indicates that focus lies on directing thesubordinate to achieve the goal, giving them instructions on how to do. Very little effort is onthe other behavioral pattern (Northouse, 2013). This could be connected to Golemans (2000)Coercive Style which is appropriate during times of crisis. Hence, it is necessary to be verycautious as is fits best only during rare circumstances, it cannot be used for long-term success(Goleman, 2000). The coercive style hit hard on the flexibility as leaders here often use a topdown decision-making approach. It also has negative effects if wanting people to takeinitiatives, because it will more probably lead people to lose the sense of ownership, hence,they will start to care less about their performance. This style does not bring clarity nor enhancecommitment as it does not motivate people, and as people do not get motivated it is hard forthem to comprehend how they will fit into the bigger picture (Goleman, 2000).The second style is the coaching approach, which implies scoring high on both directive andsupportive behaviors. The focus is both on how to direct subordinates achieving their goals andtheir needs associated with the social and emotional aspects of the relationship (Northouse,2013). The opportunity that is given to the coaching manager is that he/she could give feedback,motivate, and make subordinates develop by challenging them. Given that the relationshipbetween coach and the coachee is not just a critical factor but the critical success factor incoaching (McCarthy and Milner, 2013, p.770). What is often the focus when referring toleadership as coaching is the development, learning, and the empowerment of the subordinate(Alvesson et al., 2017). The coaching style is most effective when people being coached areopen to it and this style can be applied in many different business situations. This style isproviding one with many benefits as it impacts on both performances and the organizationsclimate. What makes the climate better is the constant dialog between leader and follower. Ithas a good effect on flexibility as people know that the leader cares and this brings more roomto move in a freer way, constructive feedback is given. The ongoing dialog also has a goodimpact on the responsibility, clarity, and commitment, they know what they are supposed to doand as people are listened to, they feel committed (Goleman 2000).The third style is the supporting approach and here the leader style focuses on the supportivebehavior and less on the directive one. The supportive focus is a way to make subordinates11accomplish what needs to be done. This way of leading is to listen, giving feedback, and askingfor input (Northouse, 2013). This style can be related to the Affiliative Style as this style isfocusing on the people, people come first. Hence, the most valuable things are the peopleand therefore much effort is on the person and his or her well-being (Goleman, 2000, p.84).The third style could also be correlated with leaders as psychotherapists who are trying toinfluence the employees inner life, trying to make them reflect on their identity andsubjectivity. What the leaders do is that they listen, talk, and acknowledge people and what theyhave to say (Alvesson et al., 2017). To create harmony within the group is what they are strivingfor and as they do, loyalty grows, and as this becomes strong between the members more peopleshare ideas and thoughts, communication flourishes. Flexibility is also something thatemployees gain as they are given the freedom to lead their own way, and flexibility brings trust,which people build when they get to know one another, thus, this leadership style buildsrelationships (Goleman, 2000).The fourth and last style is a delegating approach and this style is low on both supportive anddirective behavior. This style gives over the control to the subordinates once they have come toan agreement on how things should be done (Northouse, 2013). This can be correlated toGolemans (2000) Pacesetting Style. The style functions if the organization containsemployees who are self-motivated, highly competent, and need little direction orcoordination often are these employees found in groups of R&D (Goleman, 2000, p.86). Thisstyle can demand a lot from its employees. The leader can here notice performance that is notreaching what is accepted and this he/she points out, things should according to the leadercontinuously go at a higher speed and simultaneously be improved. Hence, standards are setvery high and expectations for others to perform accordingly are expected. Employees can oftenbecause of this experience, feel that the leader does not trust them and therefore initiative-takingmay be absent. Then, leaders using this style does rarely give feedback and as feedback is absentemployees can feel lost when not having the leader present, they do not have a clear directionwhere to go without someone guiding them. Lastly, commitment is not increasing using thisleadership style as people cannot understand how they themselves with their own efforts are apart of the bigger picture (Goleman, 2000).Leadership is co-produced by leaders and followers through social interactions. However, whenteams move online due to a crisis and become VTs, these interactions are likely to change.Therefore, the next chapter will address the characteristics and challenges of a VT, whichbecomes the new reality for the previously co-located teams.122.2 Virtual teams2.2.1 What is a virtual team?Growing globalization and technological development are forces that have brought us thepossibility to engage in VTs. Organizations can benefit from VTs since they can utilize theemployees best equipped for a particular task without any concerns for where they operate(Cameron and Green, 2020). Additionally, VTs enable organizations to operate in highlyadaptive, flexible, and responsive ways as they are not affected by boundaries of space (Belland Kozlowski, 2002), something that the business environment of today calls for if wanting tostay competitive (Duarte and Snyder, 2006). VTs have been defined as a collection ofindividuals who are geographically and/ or organizationally or otherwise dispersed and whocollaborate via communication and information technologies in to accomplish a specificgoal (Zigurs, 2003, p.340).VTs can be involved in any task and there is no explicit point where it becomes virtual, ratheris it to what extent the team is virtual on the different dimensions (Zigurs, 2003). Co-locatedteams can thereby also display high levels of virtuality as geographic dispersion is not thesingle element that defines a virtual team (Kirkman and Mathieu, 2005).Zigurs (2003) offers a framework to systematically consider the virtuality of VTs in fourrelevant dimensions: geographic; temporal; cultural and organizational (see Fig. 1).Figure 1: Dimensions of Virtual Teams. Source: Zigurs, 2003, p.340.Fromtraditionalto virtualOrganizationalDispersionCulturalDispersionGeographicDispersionTemporalDispersion13Geographic dispersion:What defines this dimension is the lack of physical proximity among team members who aredispersed across geographical locations (e.g. Bell and Kozlowski, 2002; Dulebohn and Hoch,2017; Malhotra et al., 2007; Townsend et al., 1998). Whereas the members of traditional teamswork in close proximity to one another, the members of virtual teams are separated, often bymany miles or even continents (Bell and Kozlowski 2002, p.22). This indicates that as long asany team is not physically proximal, it becomes virtual, since the means of communicationinevitably alter. Albeit co-located teams also employ virtual tools for communication, they aremore of a complement to face-to-face interaction (Bell and Kozlowski, 2002). Geographicaldispersion has its most significant impact on decreased spontaneous interactions (O’Leary andCummings, 2007).Temporal dispersion:Since boundaries of space do not limit VTs, they can naturally also transcend boundaries oftime, something that enables them to work continuously across time zones. However, thesynchronicity of the communication means determines the temporal dispersion whereasynchronous means of communication, for instance, emails brings a higher degree of temporaldispersion than real-time communication, such as videoconferences (Bell and Kozlowski,2002). Temporal dispersion highly influences teams problem-solving abilities in real-timewhich decreases as temporal dispersion increases (O’Leary and Cummings, 2007). Temporaldispersion amplifies spatial separations, makes synchronous interaction less common and moredifficult, and generally exacerbates the challenges of coordination (O’Leary and Cummings,2007, p.438). Asynchronous communication enables VT members to thoroughly think throughboth the received message and how to answer it, message receivers are hereby also allowed toconsult with others or investigate the issue further before responding (Kirkman and Mathieu2005).Cultural dispersion:The possibility of misunderstanding is posited to increase in a more virtual setting, given thepotential cultural differences and values of team members, which may lead to widely differingunderstandings of any given issue (Marlow et al., 2017, p.579). Teams transcending culturalboundaries encounter variations in values, languages, and traditions that might restrict effectivecommunication (Bell and Kozlowski, 2002). Therefore, in not to let cultural dispersion14have a negative impact on trust and team cohesion it is paramount for VT leaders to cope withcultural differences and strive to identify common values in the team (Malhotra et al., 2007).Organizational dispersion:Traditional teams often are bound to their accessible means within the organization. Engagingin VTs, however, enables organizations to transcend its conventional b s in to gainaccess to the best-qualified persons such as outside consultants or organizational membersoperating from different sites. This dimension is connected to the dimension of culturaldispersion as crossing organizational b s might lead to crossing cultural b s as well(Bell and Kozlowski, 2002). As organizational dispersed team members come together,demands of integration of work methods, culture, and goals come along, which mightnegatively impact collaboration as well as communication (Duarte and Snyder, 2006).However, the scope of this thesis allows us to consider the dimensions of geographic dispersionand temporal dispersion as already existing teams move online. Something that clearly affectsphysical proximity and might affect the synchronicity of communication. Cultural andorganizational dispersion are suggested for future studies to explore.Kirkman and Mathieu (2005) suggest Informational value as another dimension whichconcerns whether the information through virtual tools is beneficial for the team or not in regardto effectiveness. Since not all teams are the same, rich information in text might not bestdescribe everything. This way, teams concerned with complex animations or models scorelower on the continuum of virtuality at this dimension since describing them in text cannot fullyacknowledge its content. Therefore, this dimension will also be considered.2.2.2 Becoming a virtual teamThe transitional processes for VTs have to a large extent been ignored by previous research(Gilson et al., 2015). More attention has been given to how to start brand new VTs. Duarte andSnyder (2006) suggest 6 steps for starting a VT successfully, including selecting and contactingteam members, define the teams purpose, etc. In that regard, the creation of a VT is not atransitional process. Similarly, Chinowsky and Rojas (2003) argue that relationships must beestablished in the early stages of a VTs development. This might be a result of the commonunderstanding of VTs, that geographically dispersed individuals are brought together throughcomputer-mediated tools in to solve a common task (e.g. Munkvold and Zigurs, 2007;Saunders and Ahuja, 2006; Townsend et al., 1998).15Breu and Hemingway (2004) have explored what they call the virtualization of a public sectororganization that started to utilize temporary VTs as co-located inspection teams were dissolvedand replaced by a resource pool. They conclude, for instance, that knowledge sharing amongpeers suffers when co-located teams become VTs as new managers and colleagues were tofollow in their case. Furthermore, they state that members of teams becoming virtual have tocreate and maintain larger numbers of relationships, something that is difficult to do from adistance. However, their study involved 400 teams that were resolved.Existing literature is often concerned with how to create VTs from scratch with membersunknown to each other, facing challenges in, for instance, establishing trust and communicateeffectively, etc. (e.g. Zigurs, 2003). However, our selected cases consist of existing teams inwhich adequate communication and trust are assumed to already have been established.Communication will, nevertheless, change somehow since the teams no longer will interactface-to-face as when co-located. Here our research gap becomes evident, demonstrating theimportance of this study. Since the covid-19 crisis came suddenly, many organizations wereunable to conduct the linear development of VTs suggested by the literature.2.2.3 Challenges for virtual teamsTo date, existing research has identified 4 dominant challenges for VTs: communication (e.g.Dulebohn and Hoch, 2017; Munkvold and Zigurs, 2007; Saunders and Ahuja, 2006), creatingand maintaining relationships (e.g. Breu and Hemingway, 2004; Pauleen and Yoong, 2001;Saunders and Ahuja, 2006), establishing trust (e.g. Brahm and Kunze, 2012; Chinowsky andRojas, 2003; Ford et al., 2017) and the lack of social interaction among team members (e.g.Chinowsky and Rojas, 2003; Daim et al., 2012; Dulebohn and Hoch, 2017).Furthermore, speed is expected from VTs and it brings challenges as they are expected to beformed with appropriate members and able to carry out assignments quickly. At the same time,VT members are expected to appreciate the roles, tasks, and work efficiently. This can alreadybe demanding in co-located teams in which team members share the culture and have definedtasks (Zigurs, 2003). Swift-starting virtual teams need to structure their interaction from theonset, including introducing team members background and competence, discussing projectgoals and deliverables, defining roles and responsibilities, and setting milestones (Munkvoldand Zigurs, 2007, p.298). The pressure of swift task outcomes along with missing familiaritybetween VT members can lead to trust issues that harm the sense of belonging which mightresult in that newly formed VTs fail (Tong et al., 2013). However, we expect that leaders will16have lower demands regarding the speed of task achievement during a crisis that brings newwork arrangements.Key challenges that spontaneous virtual teams are facing consist of identifying suitable tasks;finding members with the right competencies; addressing those members anxieties regardingtemporal and geographical dispersion, etc. (Tong et al, 2013). Again, these challenges mostlyapply to VT that consist of individuals previously unknown to each other that are gatheredvirtually through computer-mediated tools as the common understanding of VTs discussedabove suggests. However, we believe that addressing VT members concerns of temporal andgeographical dispersion as well as defining roles and responsibilities can be of use for thisresearch in which team members already know each other. As we do not believe that the degreeof trust will change within previously co-located teams becoming VTs in times of crisis, wenow consider the aforementioned challenges of lack of social interaction, maintainingrelations, and communication.Lack of social interaction:Temporary VTs more often engage in interactions related to the task to be accomplishedwhereas the social interactions are limited (Saunders and Ahuja, 2006). The absence of socialinteractions among VT members, might due to the use of virtual tools, risk decreasing theefficiency and type of interactions that result in success (Daim et al., 2012). Global VTs rarelyengage in social contact or spontaneous communication which might result in a low degree ofknowledge sharing (Morgan et al., 2014). Moreover, spontaneous communication allows socialinteractions that can enhance team members collaboration (Pauleen and Yoong, 2001). Asface-to-face interactions in VTs are rare because of its nature, is it of utmost importance toestablish a virtual communication effective enough for social interactions to prosper. Thisenables VT members to develop a similar understanding of problems since ideas are sharedfreely among team members (Daim et al., 2012). Whether challenges derived from a lack ofsocial interactions transfer into the setting of previously co-located teams becoming VTs is yetto be addressed.Maintaining relationships:The strength of social relationships depends on the reciprocity among individuals, how muchthey interact, and how emotional intense their interactions are (Gibson and Gibbs, 2006). Thedegree to which VT members are able to build and maintain personal relationships determines17whether communication will be effective or not, which in turn is a key aspect of VT success.Furthermore, the maintenance of relationships allows a level of harmony within the group thatlikely ensures work tasks to be done as motivation increases. Therefore, relationships amongVT members are of vital concern (Pauleen and Yoong, 2001). Due to the lack of socialinteractions and dependence on virtual tools, VTs often rely heavily on member-supportfunctions to strengthen relationships within the team (Saunders and Ahuja, 2006). Teamsatisfaction is measured subjectively through members self-report on the degree to which teammembers are content with the process and outcomes (Saunders and Ahuja, 2006, p.673).Communication:An overreliance in communication through virtual tools can result in a misunderstanding thatin turn can decrease both team communication and productivity (Daim et al., 2012).Additionally, misinterpretations and misunderstandings might arise from the use of bulletinboards, emails, and intranet as such communication is asynchronous, impersonal, and nonverbalcues are unidentifiable (Morgan et al., 2014).The more familiar teams are with each other, the better they can cope with complex tasks evenin situations with decreased communication. This indicates that VTs can perform well withreduced communication if there is a shared understanding among VT members, which also mayaid VT members in anticipating how other members will react in different situations. VTsshould be aware that increased communication might decrease its efficiency and thereforedecide in what ways irrelevant communication might be reduced (Marlow et al., 2017).Marlow et al., (2017) suggest two communication quality criteria: Communication timelinessand Closed-loop communication: Since VTs often operate across time-zones, some membersmight receive information off-hours and process it later than others. Furthermore, working in avirtual environment may also restrict the possibilities of real-time communication. These limitsmay influence to what extent VTs are well-functioning and their problem-solving abilitiescompared to co-located teams. Closed-loop communication, on the other hand, aims to avoidmisunderstandings among VT members. This entails that the message transmitter ensures thatthe message was received as well as understood as intended and thereby closes the loop ofcommunication (Marlow et al., 2017).18We believe that our selected cases are likely to come across discussed challenges as theybecome VTs. In to cope with the new reality and its challenges, virtual leadership isneeded which is discussed next.2.3 Leadership in virtual teams2.3.1 How does virtual leadership differ?Virtual leadership requires a unique skill set that first and foremost acknowledges thedifferences between leadership in a traditional, non-virtual environment and leadership inwhich team members are not co-located (Byrd, 2019, p.20). However, research is oftenconcerned with the advantages and disadvantages of VTs or how they differ from traditionalteams, whereas leadership in VTs receives limited attention (e.g. Hoch and Kozlowski 2014;Malhotra et al., 2007). Leadership is essential to retain efficiency and motivation in VTs.However, virtual leadership is not the same as traditional leadership practiced face-to-face(Hoch and Kozlowski 2014). Hence, traditional leadership behaviors and skills are not to bedirectly transferred to a virtual setting and expected to prevail (Zigurs, 2003). Traditionalleadership has its competencies, but virtual team leadership competencies differ; thus, theneeded leadership competencies tend to increase in virtual teams (Maduka et al., 2018, p.699).Some of the virtual leadership competencies suggested by the authors consist of the ability tobuild team orientation; establish trust; provide constant feedback; technological skills, etc.Leading VTs differ from leading traditional teams as there is a need for VT leaders to possessan appreciation of human dynamics without the assistance of face-to-face communication andthe social cues received from there. Additionally, computer-mediated communication as themain tool of collaboration has to be leveraged (Duarte and Snyder, 2006). Without beingphysically present it can be hard for a virtual leader to know when team members are slowingdown, when they are in need of social interactions or when directions or resources are needed.This is due to the fact that virtual leaders do not have the possibility to observe their teammembers as when being at the same place physically (Malhotra et al., 2007). Virtual leadershave in comparison with traditional leaders some restrictions which can hinder functions ofleadership, such as the possibility for developing the team members. Thus, what is difficult forvirtual leaders is to do their typical coaching, mentoring, and handling development functions(Bell and Kozlowski, 2002). This, together with the challenges VT faces discussed in section2.2.3 supports that virtual leaders must attend to several matters that traditional co-locatedteams do not come across.19In conceptual studies is it argued that virtual leadership is not different from traditionalleadership per se and that the essence is the same, namely achieving results through an influenceprocess. However, what differs here is how leaders pursue results. Furthermore, it is argued thatvirtual and traditional leadership differ in that the former must address paradoxes of virtualitysuch as remoteness vs. closeness and control vs. empowerment in their virtual setting(Purvanova and Kenda, 2018). We agree that virtual leaders face additional challengescompared with traditional leaders; however, we also recognize that they differ. Virtualleadership constitutes a different way of leading and even if achieving results through influenceprocesses is the end, as this has to be done in other ways compared with traditional leadershipdue to a lack of social interaction and other means of communication, etc. The nature of virtualinteraction, characterized by lack of physical cues and body language, fewer informalopportunities to collaborate with peers, and increased risk of isolation, warrants an in-depthunderstanding of effective strategies for virtual leadership (Byrd, 2019, p.20). Therefore, weargue that traditional and virtual leadership differ, not in what is strived for or what is important,but how it is, and how it can be exercised.2.3.2 What is needed in virtual leadership?VT leaders have to empower and motivate team members just as co-located leaders must, thedifference is that for virtual leaders, this is conducted in a setting with limited communicationpossibilities (Mehtab et al., 2017), the communication available is vague (Zigurs, 2003),influencing team members through virtual tools is challenging (Purvanova and Bono, 2009) asthe nature of VTs makes it more difficult to motivate team members (Kuscu and Arslan, 2016).VT members must be motivated and share the same goals in to accept and carry out tasks,and that can be challenging to encourage in a virtual environment (Mehtab et al., 2017).Virtual team leaders will need to create infrastructures that facilitate information sharing,work planning and assignment allocation, feedback and review, information processing,decision making, and dispute adjudication (Bell and Kozlowski, 2002, p.44). Furthermore,virtual leaders need to mentor their members, enforce team norms as well as recognizingachievements (Malhotra et al., 2007).The nature of virtual environments also requires virtual leaders to be adaptive because thedifficulties they come across might not yet have been addressed earlier. In contrast, in technicalenvironments, there are known rules, and reality is structured as well as predictable. Here,surprises are few, and teams operate in an environment with well-established methods.However, many virtual leaders do not operate in technical environments but find themselves in20adaptive environments in which there might be less clear and rational rules, an environmentthat may cause uncertainty and distress for its participants as there not always are answers toproblems. Handling adaptive situations calls for virtual leaders to enable VT members ratherthan plan and control (Duarte and Snyder, 2006).For virtual leaders is it also required to appreciate that the complexity of the VTs tasks affectsthe leadership. VTs with less complex tasks are able to endure a higher degree of geographicaland temporal dispersion and dynamic member roles, whereas VTs engaging in highly complextasks flourishes under conditions of real-time operations, clear boundaries and static memberroles, therefore, leadership must be adapted accordingly (Bell and Kozlowski, 2002).Since virtual leadership often entails autonomy for team members instead of control, theconcept of leaders and followers participating in a process is suitable. Here, this meansproviding the prerequisites for the development and growth of both leaders and followers. Thisway, VT members can influence the performance of the team, and leadership becomes a jointendeavor (Zigurs, 2003) or co-produced as Alvesson et al. (2017) describes it.Whether these requirements apply to previously co-located teams becoming VTs in times ofcrisis has to our knowledge not yet received any attention by research. However, we believethat it is likely that some of them, such as motivational efforts apply under such circumstancesas well in which they might be of even higher importance. Similarly, adaptation to the currentreality is called for, whether newly virtual leaders are ready or not. We also believe thatmentoring team members and enforcing norms are likely to be needed for teams thrown into avirtual environment.2.3.3 Leadership styles in virtual teamsResearch has identified transformational leadership as effective in VTs (Purvanova and Bono,2009; Ruggieri, 2009; Maduka et al., 2018). This might be because this leadership stylemotivates people to do more than expected as they impact on peoples feelings and how theyare thinking (Alvesson et al., 2017). It has been shown that transformational leaders, if doing itwell, have a positive effect on a team as they are able to come up with more original solutionsand put more effort into the work, than if the team was guided by a low transformationalleadership (Mukherjee et al., 2012). It is also claimed that this leadership style has a good effecton the teams performance under circumstances that are ambiguous (Maduka et al., 2018). Thisleadership style has four characteristics (Alvesson et al., 2017): idealized influence, here the21leader is seen as a role model and is in this way influencing the follower morally in a good way.Second, inspirational motivation, meaning that the leader is able to increase enthusiasm andmake followers see things in a positive way, which also includes increased team spirit. Third,intellectual stimulation, this the transformational leaders do as they make followers thinkcritically which stimulates innovation. Fourth and last is the individualized consideration, andthis is a way for the leader to guide the follower through coaching based on their own needsand desires (Alvesson et al., 2017). Consequently, this leadership style can be understood asvery demanding, and if only looking at the effects that a leadership style has on their followersit can become problematic. Problematic in a way that it can overpromise positive effects that inreality can be hard to acquire. Transformational leadership is sometimes seen as the secret ofeffective leadership at least, this is what some supporters are hoping for (Alvesson et al., 2017,p.59).However, if considering the transformational leadership and what this style carries, there hasbeen identified leader behavior associated with this style that has a good effect on a virtualteams trust and compassion, namely frequent communication and coaching. If the leader isshowing that he/she cares about the individuals, it can affect the groups emotions and attitudes(Kelley and Kelloway, 2012). Hence, coaching could be a way for virtual members to performwell. Also, when there is no possibility to be at the same place, as virtual leadership implies,then virtual coaching is the way to make people reach their goals, but here the leader must becompetent in using technology effectively, and the same goes for the team members (Kerfoot,2010).2.4 SummaryPrevious research has not investigated the transition of co-located teams and what theyencounter when becoming a VT due to a crisis. We found this interesting to investigate as thistopic is very timely. Our focus has been on the work relation between leader and follower asour assumptions are that relationship between leader and follower changes in some way whenencountering another reality where face-to-face interactions are not possible, as it was beforewhen being physically present. In our literature review, we have therefore discussed leadership,virtual teams, and leadership in virtual teams as these are important to understand if wanting toexplore changes in leader and follower work relations.Leadership can be understood in different ways, but our view is that it is relational. We,therefore, found the concept of co-production useful where we have discussed proactive22followers who together with the leader construct leadership. Then the situational approach toleadership will be valuable as this will make it possible to indicate how leadership will possiblychange when leading a VT. The different leadership styles are representing different behaviorpatterns in different situations and are dependent on the follower and the situation. However,even though these styles are based on a more traditional environment, we believe that this willgive us a good foundation when it comes to leadership styles in a new virtual environment.Then, VT comes with new challenges that bring new demands on communication, relations,and social interactions as these do not occur face-to-face. This challenges the more traditionalway of working and interacting with others. The understanding of challenges that a VTencounter will be useful as it will enable us to explore how leader and follower work relationsmight shift when co-located teams become VT.Virtual leadership, here some argue that it will not be possible to transfer your own behaviorinto a virtual environment and make it function well. Furthermore, virtual leaders will have tounderstand human dynamics without face-to-face interactions and be able to motivate followerswith constrains of communication possibilities. They also have to adapt and enable autonomyrather than controlling, which is management. This understanding will be useful as it will helpus indicating how work relations might change as it brings new ways of being when entering avirtual environment. Additionally, we have brought up transformational leadership as thisleadership style often is said to work well in a virtual environment. However, we will only focuson some specific behaviors that this style brings. These are then, frequent communication andcoaching. We chose these because of our perception of how leadership is co-constructed in asocial process.233. METHODOLOGY3.1 Interpretivist philosophy and qualitative methodInterpretivism is often combined with qualitative research and argues that there cannot be anyuniversal laws for the social worlds of human beings as its complexity denies generalizations(Saunders et al., 2019). Within this philosophy, physical phenomena and humans are separated(Saunders et al., 2019; Bryman and Bell, 2017). It is important to understand this as theassumptions are that humans create meaning which the former does not, thus, these cannot bestudied in the same way. Hence, the purpose of research taking on this philosophy is then tocreate new, richer understandings and interpretations of social worlds and context(Saunders et al., 2019, p.149). Therefore, interpretivism emphasizes language, culture, andhistory to be significant as these shape the understandings of the social world which shapesindividuals experiences and interpretations (Saunders et al., 2019). We have taken aninterpretivist stance with this research as we were concerned with understanding theparticipants experiences of a social phenomenon that cannot be generalized but explored andinterpreted.Then, qualitative method is characterized by focusing upon the relationship betweenparticipants and their words and images as this creates meaning. This implies both cognitiveand physical access to people, and those who take part in the research are called participants(Saunders et al., 2019). The strengths of using qualitative method are that an individualsexperiences can be understood in-depth as information of what that person experiences and howit is interpreted can be unfolded. The use of qualitative method is furthermore a good way todiscover processes that are hard to comprehend by only looking at its surface in, for example,teams and individuals (Bluhm et al., 2010). Our main intention with this research was to explorethe changes in work relations between leader and follower that occurred when moving teamsonline, which altered the working practices for both leaders and followers. It was important toconsider both perspectives within their new context for being able to understand how and whytheir relationship changed due to the new work mode. Therefore, a mono method qualitativestudy was selected in to gain an in-depth understanding of how moving previously colocated teams online due to a crisis affected the leader-follower work relations. A mono methodqualitative study is when there is only one technique used when collecting data, e.g., conductingsemi-structured interviews (Saunders et al., 2019).24Furthermore, interpretive qualitative research contains four characteristics (Bluhm et al., 2010).First, the research occurs in its natural setting. Second, when collecting data, it derives fromexperiences that an individual has, participants are given a voice within qualitative research.Third, when gathering data and making analysis the process is reflexive which means that, asthe situation progresses, data and analysis changes on the way. Consequently, data guidescollection, and this makes initial plans flexible. Finally, methodsfor data collection and analysisare not standardized as it is within quantitative research. Here, there are many ways of collectingdata and a variety of techniques to analyze. Therefore, awareness of which one to use isimportant to carefully consider (Bluhm et al., 2010). These characteristics will be possible tofind throughout this chapter as we, for example, have chosen case study strategy, conductedsemi-structured interviews, analyzed our data with help of thematic analysis, and conductedthis research using an abductive approach. The main purpose of this research was to explorehow and why moving previously co-located teams online affected work relations. Therefore,conducting semi-structured interviews with both leaders and followers allowed us to gain a richunderstanding of the new context, but also how it was connected to leadership styles.3.2 An exploratory study with an abductive approachExploratory studies are about gaining insight into the chosen topic and here one can learn whatis going on by asking open questions. The research questions are often starting with what andhow and so do questions when collecting data through interviews. These questions are thenenabling one to clarify a problem, issue, or phenomenon which might not be clear to its nature(Saunders et al., 2019). Hence, as our perspective on leadership is that leaders and followerstogether create leadership, we wanted to analyze this by exploring how and why the transitionfrom being a co-located team to become a virtual team affected their working relations. Theserelationships must continue to work even though the new situation is ambiguous. Thus, it madesense to explore, and we did this by asking participants open-ended questions.Then, three different approaches can be used to theory development, namely: abduction,deduction, and induction, where abduction recently has gained more attention in disciplinessuch as business administration (Bryman and Bell, 2017). An abductive approach moves backand forth between data and theory, whereas deduction has a more linear course, moving fromtheory to data. The third option, induction is working from data to theory. Abduction is flexiblein comparison to the other two approaches and it has been argued that pure induction ordeduction is very hard to accomplish (Saunders et al., 2019). Therefore, abduction could in25some cases be understood to avoid limitations that the other two approaches might bring(Bryman and Bell, 2017). Abduction often starts from a new insight or surprising fact whichhas been observed and from there one is looking at theory and this to understand how thesurprising fact might have occurred, this new insight can appear anytime during the project(Saunders et al., 2019). We conducted a literature review and prepared an interview guide. Thisenabled us to benefit from the interviews as we became more familiar with the subject, allowinguseful follow up questions to be asked. Additionally, new insights occurred during and after theinterviews, which enabled us to adjust the theories used. In this way, we worked abductively,thus we were not limited to either deduction or induction.3.3 Case study strategyWe have conducted a cross-sectional multiple case study which is centering its findings on aparticular period of time. Hence, studies can be either longitudinal or cross-sectional, the formerneeds more time and it can enable one to study development, whereas the latter is focusing ona snapshot of time (Saunders et al., 2019). Case studies are favored when research questionsstart with either how and why questions. Furthermore, it is preferable if what is beingresearched is difficult to manipulate, and when the events are contemporary, meaning, dealingwith both the recent past and the present. It is also desirable to conduct this kind of study if theresearcher has limited control (Yin, 2018). Other authors claim that there should be no attemptsto control the context and that this is a key difference from other methods used (Gibbert andRuigrok, 2010). For example, setting up an experiment one can manipulate easily as havingsome kind of control (Yin, 2018). A case study is an in-depth inquiry into a topic orphenomenon within its real-life setting and therefore it is possible to generate rich data whenundertaking a case study (Saunders et al., 2019, p.196).Our main research question starts with how, and so do two of the sub-questions. Furthermore,our research is to explore the change in work relations between leaders and followers by movingonline and how this interacts with leadership styles used. The focus has been on a specificperiod of time as our focus has been on a contemporary issue that came with the crisis of covid19. However, it could be argued that it both deals with the recent past as well as the present aswe needed to know what affected the shift in the working relations. Therefore, we considereda case study strategy to be appropriate to undertake for this research as we want to explore ourcases within a real-life setting.26Furthermore, a case study can either be single or multiple (Saunders et al., 2019). Multiple-casestudies are often favored over a single case study as the latter will make one put all your eggsin one basket (Yin, 2018, p.98), meaning that the tolerance for mistakes is lower as there willbe no more cases to look into. Additionally, selecting more than one case will enable one tocome up with analytical conclusions that are more valuable than only selecting one case. Areason to choose more cases is that it can offer one to contrast situations (Yin, 2018). Thus,having more than one case permits one to compare but also to find the uniqueness within eachcase (Bryman and Bell, 2017). We decided to conduct a multiple-case study as it allowed us toexplore contrasting views, finding similarities, and what was being unique, on what washappening with working relations when co-located departments became VTs. A case can eitherbe a location (e.g. shopping mall), an organization (e.g. commercial business), an event (e.g.music festival), etc. However, what is important is that the chosen case can be clearlydistinguished from its environment. If that is not possible, then it cannot be defined as a case(Denscombe, 2014). Hence, boundaries are key to define as it will enable one to understand thecontext or setting about the topic if doing so (Saunders et al., 2019). Our cases are teams withinorganizational departments and the boundaries for this research were that our cases had goneonline because of the outburst of covid-19. Meaning that their normal way of meeting andinteracting with one another had changed.3.4 Selecting casesThe selection of samples can be done in a variety of ways, but two common techniques areprobability sampling and non-probability sampling. The former one is often used whenconducting survey research and here one should be able to generalize the target population.Then, the latter sampling technique is often used together with qualitative research where it isneeded to have a more in-depth understanding. This allows one to collect rich and informativedata from fewer cases. However, the sampling technique should be chosen based on the researchquestions and the objectives (Saunders et al., 2019). We selected the non-probability samplingtechnique as our research was focusing on the work relations between leaders and followers.We wanted to explore how and why such relations changed when moving co-located teamsonline due to a crisis. Therefore, we needed in-depth and rich information that probabilitysampling was unable to provide us with.Purposive sampling goes with the selected sampling technique above (non-probabilitysampling) as it involves one to choose decisively (Denscombe, 2014), meaning that some units27are more probable to be selected for the study than others (Bryman and Bell, 2017). Hence, hereone is carefully selecting cases that could enable one to answer the research questions and meetthe objectives of the research (Saunders et al., 2019). This sampling technique is often usedwhen conducting case studies since these can enable one to get the information needed(Saunders et al., 2019). Being aware of the boundaries, we got our first contact with people thatwe knew had changed their way of working, that had transitioned online due to covid-19, inthree different organizations. We asked them if the research would be of interest and if theycould contact others within their departments for potential participation in the study. Hence,all the chosen cases were selected with purpose and this to be able to answer our researchquestions. Additionally, our cases could be described to be chosen with self-selectionsampling. That is when either advertising or asking individuals if they have any desire to takepart in the research. This technique goes under the label volunteer sampling which is part ofnon-probability sampling (Saunders et al., 2019).Thus, our sampling size is from 3 business cases with 10 participants in total. When conductingcase studies there are often one or more cases that are being explored and here data are collectedfrom either all participants or a sample of participants. What is important when deciding howmany samples should be done is based on: what you need to find out, what will be useful, whatwill have credibility and what can be done within your available resources (Saunders et al.,2019, p.315). Due to our limited timeframe and the situation that many companies face aroundthe world because of the pandemic, we choose from an early beginning to only select Swedishcompanies as we knew more about the situation here than in other countries. This did not,however, affect what we needed to find out nor were they less useful. Hence, the cases gave usa good insight into leader-follower work relations and how it was affected when previously colocated teams entered a virtual setting. In Table 1 details about our participants and how theinterviews were conducted can be found. Additional case information is presented in chapter 4.28Table 1: Interview information.3.5 Data collectionWhen collected primary data by conducting semi-structured interviews. These kinds ofinterviews are often carried out face-to-face and the interviewer guides the interviewee with alist of predetermined themes and related key questions (Saunders et al., 2019). In the thesisappendix (A and B) these themes and key questions can be found. Thus, when following aninterpretivist approach there is not a fixed on how to follow the themes or when to askthe predetermined questions, these are instead being asked in relation to what responses theinterviewee gives (Saunders et al., 2019; Bryman and Bell, 2017). As we followed aninterpretivist approach, the semi-structured interviews became very flexible as we carefullylistened to their answers and asked follow-up questions depending on what was being said.We did not conduct any interviews face-to-face, but instead, we used other available options,suitable for times of social distancing. According to Saunders et al. (2019) are telephone andinternet-mediated interview alternatives. Yet, these alternatives do not come withoutdisadvantages as, for instance, telephone interviews are associated with limited personal contactand reliance on what is being said (Saunders et al., 2019). In other words, trust issues can occur,and it is not possible to take nonverbal cues or body language into consideration. Telephoneinterviews have nevertheless some advantages such as access, cost, and speed (Saunders et al.,2019). If failing to establish trust the researchs reliability might suffer (Saunders et al., 2019).Internet-mediated tools are then called electronic interviews where synchronous ones arecarried out in real-time (Saunders et al., 2019). Electronic interviews featuring vision andsound may be conducted using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) (Saunders et al., 2019,p.478). Conducting the interviews with software such as Skype is, therefore, a viable optionAlias Position Department Date of interview Interview medium Duration (min)Case A Alpha TeamAnna Group data manager Data processing 2020-04-21 Zoom 65Alice Data specialist Data processing 2020-04-23 Zoom 39Alex Group data owner Data processing 2020-04-21 Zoom 43Allan Data developer Data processing 2020-04-22 Zoom 31Case B Bravo TeamBianca Logistic manager Logistics 2020-04-24 Teams 79Bella Costumer support/logistics Logistics 2020-04-24 Teams 40Billy Costumer support/logistics Logistics 2020-04-24 Teams 43Case C Charlie TeamCarl Product development manager R&D 2020-04-27 Zoom 38Carina Design engineer R&D 2020-04-27 Zoom 39Chris Design engineer R&D 2020-04-27 Zoom 3229that has the same advantages as telephone interviews as discussed above (Saunders et al., 2019).Furthermore, this option can also be comparable to normal face-to-face interviews as this canbe conducted in a very similar way, the only difference is that it is done at a distance(Denscombe, 2014). Additionally, applying to both internet-mediated and telephone tools, itwill be possible for both the interviewer and interviewee to stay in their safe environmentsduring the interview (Saunders et al., 2019; Bryman and Bell, 2017).We collected primary data from teams that normally did not engage in virtual teams or distantleadership but were temporarily involved with it due to the covid-19 crisis. At first, we intendedto interview the participants in person, but due to the very situation that caused the increase ofworking out of office, we used internet-mediated tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teamsto conduct our interviews. Using these tools, we understood being advantageous as thesecommunication channels now are being frequently used between superiors and subordinates.The advantage is that it made us understand their reality in a better way as we also faced somedifficulties using these tools in the beginning. One interviewee chose not to have the webcamera on, and this made it more like a phone call which some of our participants alsomentioned when we collected data. We asked the participants for permission to record theinterviews in to transcribe them and we only conducted interviews if we were allowed torecord. Additionally, we took notes during the interviews because of the advantages Saunderset al. (2019) explain are associated with it, for example, it constitutes a backup, can assist instaying concentrated and enable follow-up questions. This was a way of interviewing that thenwas appropriate during a pandemic that made people work remotely. However, Saunders et al.(2019) explain that there are several ethical issues concerning these interviews such as personaldata issues. Hence, we considered GDPR and other data protection legislation when we wereconducting this research.3.6 Data analysisThematic analysis is commonly used when analyzing qualitative data and its objective is to findthemes within a set of data. Thematic analysis entails coding qualitative data in to discoverthemes or patterns that can be analyzed. This approach offers an ly and logical analysis ofqualitative data that enables researchers to gain in-depth knowledge of what is being studied(Saunders et al., 2019). To identify different themes and how it is done has no definite rules,but there have been some recommendations established on how to search for themes, which can30be done for example in these three following ways: to search for repetitions, finding similaritiesand distinctions or the use of metaphors (Bryman and Bell, 2017).There are several analytical approaches that can be used but we have used the key processesfrom thematic analysis. We have selected the thematic analytical approach in which 5 differentkey processes are to be followed suggested by Rapley (2016). The first step is to get familiarwith data that has been collected and this includes writing down comments and ideas. Thesecond step is where the initial codes are identified and here the whole dataset is coded in asystematic way. The third step is where one starts to search for possible themes. This is doneby finding codes that are being similar which then are assembled into possible themes. Thefourth step is to double-check the possible themes, here it is important to see if the dataset isaligning with the themes. The fifth and last step is the stage where themes are to be refined(Rapley, 2016).After having transcribed the interviews, our first step in getting familiar with the data was toread and re-read the transcripts several times in to construct the narratives in chapter 4.In doing that, we both got familiar with the data and had the possibility to note ideas that couldbe interesting to look into further on. Then, we started coding the set of data, this process alsomade us more familiar with data as it was scanned for initial codes which were noted inMicrosoft Excel for a comprehensive overview. Coding the set of data made us identifypatterns and themes, therefore, codes related to each other were reassembled into themes. Thiswas followed by the construction and refining of the themes in a way that appreciated the setof data.3.7 Quality criteriaQuality criteria related to quantitative research (reliability and validity) is problematic to applyto qualitative research as it is basically impossible to replicate social settings in a way that, forexample, experiments can be replicated (Denscombe, 2014). However, there are alternativecriteria for these that can be applied for qualitative research (Saunders et al., 2019).Transferability is one, and this is the parallel criterion to what quantitative studies labelgeneralizability or external validity (Saunders et al., 2019). Generalizability is not applicablefor a qualitative study because of its small numbers which cannot be representative of the largerpopulation which this criterion suggests (Denscombe, 2014). However, by providing futureresearchers with a full description of, for instance, design, context, findings, and interpretationsit is possible for them to judge if the research is possible to be transferred to another setting31further on (Saunders et al., 2019). Full description or thick description can also be to describecases in detail (Creswell and Poth, 2018). Within our research, we have given our readerdescriptions of how things were conducted in our methodology chapter and also provided thereader with clarifications on where we stand and how we make different decisions, for examplewithin our literature review. Additionally, a thick description has been made within chapter 4by including the most essential from our interviews and this with a narrative style. Having donethis, we can also fulfill the criterion dependability, which is done by giving a full description ofthe process including for example; choice of participants, analysis, and formulation of researchquestions, and so forth (Bryman and Bell, 2017).Credibility is another criterion that in quantitative research is called internal validity (Saunderset al., 2019). This criterion is about demonstrating data to be accurate and suitable, but this isdubious within qualitative research as it cannot be fully approved that what is demonstrated iscorrect to the fullest. Therefore, credibility is used instead of validity (Denscombe, 2014). Thereare different ways of dealing with this criterion and one way is to talk to people about ideas andfindings, to reflect and test what has been found (Saunders et al., 2019). As we were twoconducting this research, we shared thoughts and ideas and this to reflect on what was beingfound, if we agreed upon it or if we could look on it in another way. Sometimes we also askedfor other peoples interpretations. Another way to deal with this credibility criterion is to checkdata and analysis with participants (Saunders et al., 2019). Due to the time constraint and thatwe conducted an amount of 10 interviews that included both team leaders and members with 3teams, it was not possible to double-check this on time. However, we believe that we can arguethat it is credible as all interviews were carried out through either software such as Zoom orMicrosoft Teams in to pick up nonverbal cues through the camera. 9 out of 10interviewees agreed to have the camera turned on, all of them agreed upon being recorded. Therecordings provided us the possibility to transcribe the interviews very thoroughly whichenhances the thesis credibility as the gathered data is what the interviewees stated during theinterviews.All interviewees were informed of the purpose of the thesis, how it was to be conducted, whatthemes were going to be discussed, and that they could cancel the interview at any point.Additionally, as anonymity was promised and all interviewees received an alias for this study,it is reasonable to assume that they shared their experiences of the situation in a sincere andfrank way. Taken together, we believe that this study is demonstrating credibility.323.8 Research limitationsThe time limit of this project made us decide to conduct a multiple case study as it suited thetime frame. Case studies do not aim to statistically generalize a population (Gibbert andRuigrok, 2010). Our intention with this multiple case study was, however, not to generalize butto explore in-depth how previously co-located teams handle becoming VTs in times of crisis.We intend to develop an understanding of how the team leaders and members that areparticipating in the study are handling the current situation. They are not to be seen asrepresentative for all Swedish teams becoming virtual due to covid-19. The insights gainedfrom the data are to be interpreted by the authors. Such in-depth knowledge is according toSaunders et al. (2019) of more interest from an interpretivism point of view. We can therebyargue that the trade-off with low generalizability is an acceptable limitation since thecontribution of this research is of another kind.The interviews were conducted in Swedish which gave us a nuanced understanding as it is ourmother tongue. However, translating the transcripts into English has, for instance, affected thedirect quotations. None of the content was changed, just translated to the best of our ability.Some phrases or sayings do not directly translate into English, in those cases, we usedsynonyms to capture the content of was being said.3.9 Ethical considerationsThere might be some ethical concerns regarding this topic due to the severe consequences ofcovid-19. For instance, if we were to interview people in industries that suffer heavily from theeffects, such as the hospitality industry, it would be questionable due to the proximity in timeto ask how they handle the situation of working remotely when they simultaneously had to letgo of employees due to lost demand. The sensitivity of the topic and timing of the research weretwo aspects that according to the Goldilocks test could have made the research questions toohot (Saunders et al., 2019). Although, by avoiding approaching these industries for interviews,we were able to bypass the sensitivities and timing issues of the topic, thus, we were able toconduct the research, as it became less hot. Since we were aiming to explore how leaderfollower work relations were affected by moving previously co-located teams online, we cannotsee that the topic should be sensitive. However, if we would have been informed that there weresevere consequences for an organization that we were approaching, the topic might be too hotand we would not have attempted to carry out the research under such circumstances due to thewell-being of the participants.334. FINDINGSThis chapter presents the empirical data from the conducted interviews. All the intervieweesare part of a previously co-located team that, to some extent, has become a VT due to the covid19 crisis. The data is presented as individual narratives in to capture their perception ofthe current situation. The narratives are analyzed in the next chapter. This chapter commenceswith a short description of the organizations the cases belong to.Alpha operates in the information technology industry and is running its business in 18European countries. Alpha offers its customers business, credit, and market information. Alphahas been impacted by the covid-19 crisis to the degree that they have offered their employeesto reduce working hours with 20 percent and in return keep 90 percent of the wages.Bravo is a worldwide enterprise that primarily operates in the manufacturing industry in whichthey provide their customers with automotive and industrial applications. The covid-19 crisishas forced Bravo to decrease production and introduce a short-term layoff in which employeesare working 60 percent and keeps 94 percent of the wages.Charlie operates in the energy industry and designs as well as produces technical buildings,switchboards, and other voltage products, etc. The energy industry has not been impacted bythe pandemic as others have. Charlie has now more s than ever, in the middle of the crisis.Accordingly, working hours have not been reduced.Henceforth, we will refer to the departments as Alpha Team, Bravo Team, and Charlie Teamrespectively as those are the cases we study. The company to which the departments and teamsbelong, we refer to as Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie.4.1 Case AAlpha Team is a Swedish data processing department of an international company located inStockholm that provides its customers with business, credit, and market information. The teamconsists of 11 team members including the team leader. Alpha Team is working virtually untilfurther notice.34ANNAAs group data manager, Anna has the overall strategic responsibility for all data that goesthrough the companys different sites. Her role is twofold as she also is responsible for aSwedish team consisting of 10 data specialists who are running the core of the companysSwedish operations. Anna has been in the present set-up for one year but has been responsiblefor parts of the current team since 2014.How Anna experiences VTsAnna describes that the current situation has brought a lot of anxiety concerning the future ofthe workplace as there are no answers. She says that she only can be transparent and supportworried team members. She explains that it is a tremendous challenge when facing thisunprecedented situation for which there are no policies.Annas team has daily check-ins with virtual fika where everything from beekeeping to thelack of betting possibilities due to the virus outbreak is discussed. This to check how everyoneis doing as Anna does not know about everyones domestic conditions. Alpha has providedAnna with training in this since there might be that there are troubles at home.Anna explains that virtual work modes are good enough for a period of time but that the lackof social interaction is a concern, which from a lot of energy is gained. She thinks that all aretrying to keep their faith during these times but that many miss the workplace and the socialinput received from there.LeadershipLeadership for Anna means being a role model, being yourself, and being responsible. She saysthat she sees leadership as parenthood, mentoring, and coaching. Her mission is to be a leaderembracing soft values 80 percent of the time and a manager making tougher decisions 20percent of the time, decisions that not always are pleasant for the ones involved but bring thecompanys strategy forward. She says: If I refer to an animal, a b collie, which herds itspack over the plains and mountains. When Anna is herding her team with an age range from20 to 67, she feels like the b collie and tries to create a common understanding of how tomove forward, that is her leadership mantra. She dislikes micromanagement and believes thata leader must be able to trust their employees. Anna also states that it is not the seconds spent35on a project that counts, but the result of your efforts, and however the employees manage thatis up to them. Reported working hours are not reviewed, and that is leadership for Anna.She points out the roles she has to take on: I use to say that you have to be a psychologist,grandmother, and schoolteacher, there is a lot in that pot. This entails that Anna adapt herleadership to the situation at hand and different personalities are given different kinds ofleadership. She explains that the biggest reward is to see the ones she works with develop.Anna mentions that the Alpha Team is practicing something called self-managed teams inwhich the team members together decide their day-to-day work for the upcoming two weeks inwhich they have prioritized queues. Annas role here is to provide guidance so what they areworking with and have in their lists are in line with the companys strategic goals and to helpprioritize. She elaborates: They control their workdays and my mission is to outsource myself,they should not even need me to do their job. They should dare to make their own decisions.Often it is about they are wanting my affirmation. Anna explains that the current set-up gaveher several roles and that the team needs to work like this, otherwise she would never have thetime.Anna explains that for 1.5 years the new work mode of self-managed teams has been sneakedin and that this suits some better than others, but almost all employees are senior enough tohandle this. She says that the employees that have much experience and possess otherknowledge should not be pressured and that you have to choose your battles wisely. If peopleare recalcitrant and think that things are difficult, then they can continue to work as they do butnew work modes, or whatever it might be, will eventually be sneaked in. Anna says: Thereare only three things: accept the situation, influence the situation, or withdraw. It is not a prisonwe are working in.Anna says that when she notices that negative energy is impacting team members, sheencourages them to take a reflection day and do what they need to do while they still canreport worked hours as usual. She points out: I have to trust them, it is not the duration of thework, but what gets delivered. A retired co-worker once told me: every game is not theplayoffs. Something that made her think that what matters is the total contribution.36Leadership in VTsThe number of individual meetings has increased according to Anna and she tries to betransparent and inform the team about updates. She believes that it is difficult to providefeedback in a virtual setting with its lack of nonverbal cues and that the feedback becomes muchmore powerful if given in person. Additionally, Anna says that having sensitive discussionsdoes not suit this kind of setting, that it becomes too impersonal.Anna explains that every second week surveys are sent to all the employees which containquestions regarding the status of the team, leadership, if the employee would recommend thecompany as an employer, etc. She has noticed that the results therefrom are declining and thatthe team does not perceive her as a present leader. She believes that the virtual work modeprevents her from the informal conversations as they currently only have planned meetings, andthat lot is lost from that since the team members get some recognition from such unplannedmeetings.Anna says that the written word can cause misunderstandings and when she notices thatconflicts might be arising in virtual channels, she enters the chat and asks what is going on orif the involved can explain how they think. She does not think that the involved parties realizethat she gets involved in to stop the conflict. Anna experiences that she has to be morecoaching and supply present support that she never has to do at the office. Team members askher for help with things she knows that they can carry out themselves, she is not sure if it is thelack of social interaction causing this or if she just has not reflected on doing it earlier. Annabelieves one has to be calm, flexible, pragmatic, and listen a lot to succeed in virtual leadership.Technical issues cause some concerns and then a leader must explain that nothing is thenexpected from the team member, that it is not their fault. The trust level must be extremely highto work like that, Anna says.Challenges & possibilitiesAnna explains that one advantage of engaging in VT is that every team member now is forcedto learn how to use the virtual tools that previous only some did because now no one will do itfor them, the technical competence is thereby increased. She says that commuters save plentyof time when working virtually and that dog owners see some positive aspects by working fromhome.37Downsides are the lack of social interactions and their benefits along with the fact that shecannot control the work environment at team members homes. This causes Anna to wonderhow people are sitting and feeling. It is her responsibility to ensure that people will not haveback problems in six months or enters a depression due to anxiety of the employment, and thatis a major challenge at the moment she says.ALICEAlice is a data specialist who is accountable for the financial information that Alpha brings intothe Swedish market. She has been at the company for 4 years and in the team for 2.5 years.How Alice experiences VTsAlice says that she enjoys working in VTs and for the last 6 months Alpha Team has worked alot with Microsoft Teams which becomes very helpful under these circumstances, that it wasalready implemented. She believes it was lucky that they were so well prepared. However, Alicemisses talking to her colleagues even if she thinks the communication works well through thevirtual tools. The social parts of work are decreasing, such as stopping by at someones desk,Alice says. She describes that spontaneous knowledge transfer suffers and that the decisionmaking is much slower in this work mode. Additionally, her work tasks take double the timecompared to when working at the office. She explains that the current situation is what it is andas long as you do not make excuses, things are allowed to take longer and that the leaders knowwho to keep an eye on. Alice says that communication in VTs has to be clear and confirmed in to avoid misunderstandings. Additionally, she believes that turning the camera on duringmeetings or conversations are very helpful to verify what has been said also has beenunderstood. The lack of nonverbal cues makes communication more difficult, says Alice.Leadership in VTsAlice is very independent at work but if she needs support her leader provides it, she believesit works well. She appreciates the Corona task-force that provides her with informationregarding the current situation.Engaging in VTs makes Alice take on more responsibilities as she more often has to look foranswers herself than discussing issues with Anna. She says that it might feel as she burdens orinterrupts others when calling, compared to stop by at their workstation which gets much moreinformal. Alice explains that the spontaneity is gone, now she must reach out more actively if38needed. However, she feels that she can contact Anna if needed and that she always is availablefor urgent matters.Alice apricates the daily video calls in which the entire Alpha Team is participating if havingthe time. These calls were previously only held 3 times a week, however, the team wanted them5 days a week which Anna listen to, something that feels very good for Alice. She says it isimportant for those living on their own, not to get too isolated.The support received in a virtual setting is very individual and Anna is aware of Alpha Teamslimitations, challenges, and what they are good at, Alice says. I do not need more support thanthe social interaction I receive, that is enough for me. If it does not work, I know I can contactmy manager.The situations uncertainty has been addressed by Alphas official channels where Alicereceives a lot of useful updates. She believes that communication is fine and that Anna also iscommunicating this information. The team has daily meetings that they call stand-ups and ona monthly basis they conduct individual meetings, the frequency is the same now, Alice says.She explains that other communication is getting less frequent but that she, however, feels thatshe can get in touch with the team leader if needed and that is the most important part accordingto Alice.Alice describes the current leadership as facilitating as the stand-ups are provided whether theteam leader can participate or not, she says that the leadership now concerns communicationand structuring. The team leader sometimes commences the stand-ups by asking howeveryone is and what made them happy or proud today, something that Alice describes asmotivational. The trust Anna puts in Alice is also motivational, she is allowed to mind her ownbusiness even now when working virtually. That is something Alice appreciates, that mutualtrust is present.Alice says that the largest challenge for leaders of VTs is how to ensure that the team membersare doing well, and that is not particularly easy when not being at the office. She explains thatit is easier to put on a smile for 30 minutes if having an online meeting than to hide your feelingsan entire day.39Challenges & possibilitiesThe work environment has the biggest impact; I am sitting in a damn bed. We have workedlike this for 4 weeks. Alice explains that her colleagues have a better situation since shecurrently is moving. Members of Alpha Team are allowed to gather work equipment such asscreens from the office which Alice thinks are very generous, however, she does not possess adrivers license or access to a car, that is preventing her from collecting what she needs.Nevertheless, working from home is a constant reminder of the work tasks, and Alice feels thatit becomes like living in a workplace. She says: I went home to a colleague one day, he had itlike that, he even had shoeboxes under his laptop to get it in the correct height. That is nothingyou move around, then you have it like that. Alice explains that she has to establish a homeoffice if this continues and that she would be devastated if they have to continue to work likethis for the rest of the year.Working from home, Alice feels lonely and faces challenges in staying focused during longperiods of time. Being at the office makes her more focused where she also experiences muchfewer distractions. She says that the situation is interesting, that she gets to know her limits.However, she would not want to work from home for this long again.Positive aspects of engaging in VTs are that some are showing a huge improvement in technicalcompetence, something that according to Alice would benefit the Alpha Teams overallefficiency. She usually tries to assist older colleagues with technical difficulties, but she saysthat there is a patience threshold as well. She explains that if everyone learns how to use thevirtual tools, they will no longer have to sit and wait for technical support.ALEXAs group data owner, Alex works independently and sets his own goals, some of his tasksinvolve working with Nordic B2B data and have responsibility for delivering to one of Alphasbiggest partners. He has been at Alpha for about six years and with Alpha Team for about ayear. He has previous experiences working virtually as he is working with other Nordiccountries where they are meeting through Microsoft Teams.How Alex experiences VTsAfter the second week working from home, Alex thought it was very tough due to a workingenvironment not adapted for work over a long period of time, he sat with his own laptop. So,40he decided to ask if he could borrow screens, computer mouse and keyboard which then wasfine, this he appreciated. He claims that this can prevent him from getting back and neckproblems further on but also enable him to work more efficiently. Regardless of the first week,Alex thinks it was a very smooth and flexible to change his working environment to a virtualone. Being part of a VT has not changed a lot as he is still working as usual. The difference isthat he does not go to the office anymore, he sits at home the whole days, he declares.When working in a VT Alex believes that it is very important that you are responsible andunderstand work duties must be finished regardless of whether the superior is beside you or not.He mentions that if someone does not take responsibility regarding working tasks, people willsoon notice as they have much communication with a lot of different stakeholders. Hence,feedback will come pretty fast if not answering these on time.Alex and Alpha Team now have daily-check-ins in the afternoon where they meet to see ifeveryone is doing fine and to check if everyone is motivated to do their tasks, these meetingsthey normally do not engage in. His concerns are thus that some might think that this is doneonly to control that people are working, but for him, this has not been any problem, he thinksthat it is working well. When it comes to communication in a VT, Alex does not think it isharder now to understand people if they send out a message, he knows his team well and hasworked with them for a long time, therefore, he also knows when there is irony going on. Hesays that this could be hard if not knowing the people, and not seeing their body language, oftenpeople appear harder when writing a message.Alex thinks it is important to take responsibility and to understand that it is the same foreveryone. He says: if everyone would start to cheat it would go even more to hell, he thinksit is important to keep the motivation high even though it is hard, this he explains being themost difficult part when working from home.Leadership in VTsThe democratic leadership style is what Alex prefers. For him it is important that everyone hasa say within a team, everyone should feel free to speak and take place. He mentions that peopleare different, and some have more drive and takes more space than others, as there can be peoplein need of more guidance. He says that there exist informal leaders within a group, those whotake initiative, have opinions, and comes with constructive ideas. Then there are also peoplebeing more in the background, just wanting to do their tasks and those being more cautious.41Leadership in his team is practiced through listening and giving out information. It is done bytrying to make everyone understand what needs to be done. Alex has a feeling that Anna alwaysis double-checking that everyone has understood their task, and especially now under theseparticular circumstances. However, he does not feel that there is any extra effort from the leadertrying to motivate. He feels that more information is about the importance to keep deliveringand working as usual. Thus, Alex imagines that it is hard to motivate in other ways than justtrying to communicate as much as possible and be transparent towards everyone. His superiortells them what is happening and what the plan is and so on.Challenges & possibilitiesInstead of standing up in the office and shouting is there anyone having time to answer a quickquestion? you now send out a message in the group on Microsoft Teams, Alex says. Forhim, it does not matter if there is chit-chat in the office or not, but he thinks that some mightappreciate working from home now as they cannot be disturbed as much, as some might find itdifficult to concentrate when people are talking.Alex prefers to work at the office as he can be more effective, he feels that he has more steadyroutines throughout the day. At home he is more flexible which he thinks can be good from onepoint of view. He thinks that many people might feel that they are saving a lot of time not havingto commute to the office and as a result are becoming more available when being able to stayat home. On the other hand, there are negative aspects as well as coming with this. Alexmentions that Alpha Team, in general, has working hours between 8 AM and 5 PM, but herehe sees a potential problem if more people start working on different hours due to theavailability of using flexible working hours. His concern is that; if more people might startdoing other things during the daytime or that they take a longer break while others work asusual that it can become harder to get in touch with people. As it is now there has not yet beenharder to set up a meeting or reach out to people he says.To work from home is not easy, Alex says he misses the social aspect, to chitchat with hiscolleagues, and meet people by the coffee machine, have lunch together, he misses all of it.Hence, it feels a bit sad for Alex to not be able to meet everyone in person, but they do, however,meet in a virtual setting. When working virtually he points out that he tries to think about howhe points his webcam and how he uses his body language as this is important when speaking.Some people, he says, do not turn on their webcams and as an effect, it becomes more like a42regular phone call. He thinks it is much easier to comprehend when the meeting is face-to-face.Hence, at the office it is much easier as they also have different tools available such aswhiteboard and this helps when having to draw something, he claims.ALLANAllan work as a data developer and his tasks are two folded. His primary task is the role of aproduct manager where he works with something called one data platform which is theinternal data system of the company. Here he is one of three that set the rules on how it shoulddevelop. This job takes up half of his time and always goes before the other task that he has,which is automatization of processes within data. Here his job is to make things more effective.Because of the two-folded way of working he has two different superiors, one working fromDenmark and one at the office, Anna. Allan is relatively new in comparison to others within histeam, he started at Alpha the previous year.How Allan experiences VTsAllan did not have the best start when changing to work virtually from home, his workingenvironment was not that good as he sat with his laptop. Thus, he resolved it quickly byacquiring a well-functioning desktop and a bigger monitor. He says that things work well now.Allan then explains that his job is from the beginning very virtual and that he works every daywith the computer and has meetings about data, the only difference is that he now does not haveany meetings face-to-face. Hence, the working tasks have not changed for Allan, they are prettymuch the same as before changing to working virtually. What he has noticed is that theconnection to people has changed a bit. Allan mentions that things have been done to keep thesocial contact and this through virtual fika, but this is only with people he already knows well.People he does not know as well he does not currently meet, and this is according to Allan quitesad. He explains it is fine but feels that it is not the same thing. Most of the people in the dailycatch-ups try to keep the spirit up and motivate one another.Leadership in VTsAllan knows that he could easily get help if he would face any problems and that makes thingsmuch easier. Allan thinks a good leader is some being present, one who leads by example andsomeone who supports both him and his team so that they can work as well as possible. Heexplains that Anna has a hands-off-approach, she does not tell him what to do and he is given43a free role. However, Allan knows that if he encounters any problem, she will always be thereto support and that is perfect, he says.Sometimes he thinks that it would have been good if someone pushed him a bit more, but thatis because of his previous working experiences abroad where they had stricter deadlines and alot of pressure from the top of the hierarchy. He says that it is important to find a balance, itcannot be too strict nor too slow. But his experience at Alpha is good and he enjoys working inAlpha Team, but sometimes things could have been pushed a bit harder.When the team became virtual, Allan did not feel that the leadership changed noticeablycompared with his normal work environment. The team leader makes her usual monthly catchups. However, what might be lost are all unplanned meetings they sometimes have, now thereis only a lot of planned time in the schedule. It might be a small change regarding Allanssuperior at the office, but his other superior regarding his role as a project manager does notchange at all as they normally meet virtually.Challenges & possibilitiesThe good thing about working from home is that Allan is not getting disturbed by others. Beforepeople could come and ask him if he wanted a coffee or asking other questions. But when heworks with coding or similar tasks, he feels that he needs to be very concentrated. Sometimeshe tries to put on headphones to give a signal that he is up to something, but that does not workevery time. Even though Allan is disturbed for a few minutes, he sometimes needs to find hisway back to where he was and that is very time-consuming, he says.The most challenging part when working virtually for Allan is that he misses his colleagues, itis not that fun for him. The spontaneous situations to meet people have disappeared in a way,he cannot meet people by the coffee machine to talk about, for instance, projects. On the otherhand, he feels that he has gained better contact with others. He has gained a better connectionwith people working abroad and he thinks this is beneficial as they now are on the same level,as everyone is now working virtually. He also mentions that he has gained a better connectionwith some of Alpha Teams members as they have catch-ups every day where everyone joinsin to talk. He laughs a bit when realizing that he has not talked to some of the members in hisofficial team that much, he explains that he does not work with them that often and for thatreason, it has not happened until now.444.2 Case BBravo Team is a logistics and customer support department of a global manufacturing companylocated in southern Sweden. The team consists of 6 employees and the team leader. They aretrying to decrease the spread of the virus by dividing the team into smaller units which areworking virtually on different days, Bravo Team shift 3 days of working from home followedby 3 days at the office.BIANCABianca works as logistics manager and her responsibilities are to work with two different groupsof people. One group is working with customers and their s, the other group is handlingstock and they have a direct manager who reports to Bianca. She has worked at Bravo for about10 years. What Bianca needs and wants are independent people who can work autonomouslyand this she explains by stating that it is the most effective way of working, but also to makeher employees feel active and pleased. What kind of leadership styles she uses is depending onthe group, how the people are, and how circumstances are changing. She says that as a leadershe needs to adapt to people and the group as these are not stable. She has no prior experienceworking with VTs, but what she mentions is that she has had a kind of training that enable herto do so, she keeps in touch with people from around the world constantly, but these she saysare small groups of people, thus not stable groups that have to work together to reach a specifictype of information.How Bianca experiences VTsShe annually has a discussion with her employees about their development and this is conductedface-to-face. However, because of the sudden covid-19 outbreak, she had not time to finish allof them. This made her carry out her first-ever virtual evaluation meeting, but before doing so,she informed that she needed to make the discussion with the web camera turned on. She hadrealized in previous meetings with her team that much was lost as people did not turn on theircameras. Instead, it felt more like a phone call as she could not see any nonverbal cues such asbody language, which she understands helps a lot to get a feeling of personal touch. Biancaadmits that it felt a bit weird the first time as she normally sees them in their typical workingenvironment at the office.To keep the social contact, she has introduced daily meetings where they can talk about the jobbut also about other things outside work. However, as they work at the office for some days a45week,she got a reminder that they had not had any fika together for over a month. She explainsthis by mentioning that they have had much to do and this under a short period of time, theyhave had to be very efficient during this time. Thus, when realizing they had forgotten the fikawhich is a relational and important thing to do, Bianca told everyone that the need to have fikatogether even though they have to stand a bit apart.Her experience when communicating with the team online or what she has heard andunderstood is, that it is somewhat unclear. An example is when people start communicatingthrough mail, she says. Sometimes it takes more time if someone makes a silly mistake, likeputting minus instead of plus, Bianca explains. Here the conversation goes on for a longer timethan it would have if talked through phone or face-to-face directly, Bianca mentions. Hence,she has informed her group to use other tools than email in to prevent thesemisunderstandings.Leadership in VTAs a leader working virtually, Bianca has tried to make things as normal as possible by usingalternative tools. Bravo Team has now worked with the new routines for more than a monthand she explains that routines make people feel comfortable and that when people are beingcomfortable, energy can go down. She feels that she has to start thinking about how to handlethe situation to prevent things from getting too comfortable.Nothing is stable and one must be flexible, Bianca comments. She feels that much of her energy,energy as in time but also as in effort, is on a very high level and this has made it more difficultto lead her group which makes her group less focused on soft values. However, she feels thatshe now has started to accept the chaos, thus, she has started to regain some control. This controlwill enable her to find out how to practice leadership a bit more. However, at the end of theweek, Bianca sends out emails to her group where she wishes them to have a nice weekend andin which she informs them about positive things and other fun things that they might appreciate.The situation is very uncertain, and she strives to be as open and transparent as possible aboutthis. She tries to bring up the topic about the situation and explain what she knows and whatshe does not know. Bianca thinks it is very important for people to talk about these things,hence, preventing it from becoming a burden.46Challenges & possibilitiesBianca explains that the biggest challenge is how to work with soft values when engaging inVTs and that is something she still needs to improve. Another challenge for her is how tostructure work. Some people might feel that it is a good combination mixing between work andnon-related work tasks, as others might be more effective when having more structure and thissituation she is not used to.Bianca is very optimistic, and she understands this change from working at the office to nowengaging in a VT to be something that she could take as an advantage. She mentions that shenow has been able to see another side of her team members which she normally could not seeand for her, this allows her to get to know the person a bit more. Another opportunity Biancamentions is that instead of asking colleagues about resolutions of a problem this can allowpeople to think for themselves. Something that hopefully can enable some team members tocome up with their own solutions for problems. For Bianca, this is not the most effective wayof working but could make people stronger and more independent. On the other hand, she alsosees a challenge when it comes to Bravo Team as a group, that might float away from eachother if people start to develop in separate ways which others cannot follow, for Bianca thissituation could not be good if it continues for a longer time, her concerns lie in thatmisunderstandings might appear within the group but also that the groups development stops.BELLABella has been at Bravo and in Bravo Team for 5 years and she has two major responsibilities,sales s which imply, for instance, communication with customers and making sure that the s are produced. She is also responsible for logistics which means that she is having contactwith the shippers and are dealing with procurements. Bella enjoys freedom at work and doesnot appreciate being micromanaged. She explains that she is given developing tasks with whichshe can work freely. Bella believes she is quite independent, but when she needs to reach outto the team leader, she knows that she can, both if something needs to be escalated but also asa sounding board. This is important for Bella and she explains that Bianca has communicatedthis aspect, that she has that kind of leadership.How Bella experiences VTsWhen working from home, the lack of social interaction reduces Bellas motivation andcommitment. She says that it feels like the work is on hold, that you do your day-to-day tasks,47but the upcoming and more lengthy projects suffer due to the reduced commitment. Bellaexplains that she normally gets plenty of energy from Bianca and now when having teammeetings via Microsoft Teams, which are informal and contains much laughter. The teamdoes not engage in scheduled individual meetings and did not prior to covid-19 either, if teammembers need help or want encouragement, they reach out themselves, something Bellaexperiences that she can do when needed.Bella mentions that a positive aspect of engaging in VTs is that the number of meetings isreduced, earlier she felt that it was to many of them and that she was not sure why she wasattending some of them or if she could add something to them. Other meetings were lessefficient. Now the meetings are only being held when needed and they are quicker and moreefficient. However, even if the meetings are fewer and the meetings efficiency is increasing,she misses the social aspects and gets lonely at home.Bella recently had her birthday and was celebrated with songs through Microsoft Teamswhich she says was a very funny experience. At the office, her colleagues have put up picturesof themselves on their chairs, making the sole workers feeling less lonely. She says that in theseways they are trying to keep the faith. Bella states that many ideas are created at the coffeemachine and that a lot of issues are solved in this informal way. This is something that currentlyis absent.The working environment at home is acceptable according to Bella, she does not have theergonomic tools she uses at the office and is placing her laptop on kids puzzle boxes when shewants to work standing.Leadership in VTsBella states that the Bravo Teams independence is affected by going online, when the teamwas co-located it felt easier for her to talk with Bianca regarding minor issues. Now sheexperiences that some of those issues feel too small for calling or sending e-mails about, thus,she tries to solve more of them herself at the moment. Bella also sees some positive aspectswith this way of working because some of the team members will learn to take moreresponsibility. However, she also experiences that the feeling of belonging suffers whenworking like this. Bella says that the uncertainty in the situation has not been addressed withinthe group and that she just has started to think about those issues herself.48Bravos CEO communicates official information and encourages worried employees to contacttheir closest superior. Bella feels that she can do this if needed, however, she also stresses thatthose issues might be something she wants to talk informally about at the coffee machine orbefore a meeting starts and that they are not something she fancies talking about through virtualtools.If the current work mode continues, Bella says that she has to establish more deadlines andreport to herself. Normally she sets her own deadlines, however, she would appreciate if Biancawas more involved in these parts at the moment.Challenges & possibilitiesBella says that on special occasions, team members are allowed to work from home. Somethingthat she experienced positively, that she could focus the tasks without interruptions. Now,however, she misses the social aspect of working at the office. The days she spends at the officeshe only meets three other persons; the social interactions are very limited and there is no oneto talk to at the coffee machine anymore. She says that the energy gained from such informalinteractions have disappeared completely due to the new work arrangements.Bella believes that the Bravo Team might be more virtual in the future and that it is a good thingthat all team members now are learning, she has noticed an increased technical competence inthe team. She explains that this can lead to less traveling in the future if more meetings can beheld virtually.Motivation and commitment are the biggest challenges for Bella in a virtual setting, she statesthat she misses the regular pace at work. Now things are slow and quiet which forces her todrag herself over motivational obstacles. The technical aspects are fine, all systems andsoftware work perfectly at home. Bella thinks one has to be a loner and able to motivate oneselfto succeed in working virtually. She states that she now misses the persons interrupting her atwork.BILLYBilly works at customer support and logistics; he has a lot of contact with customers and isplanning the shipments. He was employed by Bravo two and a half years ago and has beenworking in Bravo Team ever since. Billy believes that he is fairly independent normally, he hascustomers he is responsible for, and that has not changed due to the current circumstances.49How Billy experiences VTsBilly has no prior experience with VTs and he believes it works better than he ever could haveimagined. He does not experience any major changes when engaging in VTs, he still does thesame tasks and most of them can be executed from home in the same way as at the office. Billyexplains that the difference lies in getting assistance with his tasks, that has changed whenworking from home as he cannot get directions in the way he is used to.Billy says he is happy with the leadership at the moment and was placed in the same team asBianca when Bravo Team was divided in to decrease the spread of the virus. The days heis at the office he asks Bianca for help and assistance as usual but the days he spends at homeare more troublesome as he cannot get help in the same way as he is used to. Billy explains thathe, of course, can call or email her but he knows that she has plenty of tasks and accepts thedelayed answers, however, he always gets answers the same day which he explains are perfectlyfine. He continues and says that the situation works fine, and the difference is not that big thatit affects him significantly.Billy says that he might have more responsibilities now when working virtually. As some ofhis customers cannot provide information whether they are open or closed he must haveconstant contact with them for not sending shipments to closed plants.One day when Billy got to the workplace to work alone in the shared office, he saw pictures ofhis colleagues faces on their chairs. He took a picture of himself which he printed and put onhis chair as well, so his colleagues can feel his presence and surveillance, he says and laughs.Leadership in VTsBilly states that the leadership is excellent within the team, with or without the covid-19situation and with or without working virtually. Billy cannot imagine a better superior thanBianca, who he says is the reason for the teams success. Billy believes that the leadershipsignificantly impacts him when he encounters complex problems, then he always asks Biancafor directions, who provides him with constructive feedback regarding what Billy should doand how he should do it. Billy says: I follow the instructions and think it works perfectly fine.Billy does not experience that he gets more support or that the leadership has changed when theteam went online, he says that support is the same as before and that it is very good. The support50he receives is not impacted by working virtually and Billy states that Bianca is always doing abrilliant job for the team.Billy explains that there have been several meetings concerning how the situation is to behandled, how workloads are to be distributed, and how the team should act. He had someworries at first but since everything has turned out nicely, he believes that it has been managedvery well.Challenges & possibilitiesBilly stresses that his motivation suffers the days he works from home. He misses his team andhis regular working environment. He gets distracted when working from home and sometimesexperiences that he does not know if he can take an extra coffee break or should sit and waitfor an email. Billy gets interrupted by others in his home and says that discipline is the hardestpart of working from home. When working from home, Billy has a hard time separating workfrom rest. His home is where he rests and when he now has to work from home, he gets an oddfeeling.Billy says that his work tasks take longer to finish from home due to the fact that he works ona laptop and that the system he works with sometimes encounters problems as it is not connectedto the server. Billy gets very frustrated and stressed when he cannot do his tasks due to technicalissues. Working virtually and having meetings through, for instance, Microsoft Teams is notthat different from having the meetings face-to-face according to Billy as everyone can expresswhat they wish to express. He does not experience many disadvantages except that he misseshis team. He believes that he now has the chance to get to know others that he normally doesnot work as close to, which he sees as an advantage.The communication is as good in a virtual setting as in a co-located one in Billys opinion andhe does not see any virtual challenges. He explains that communication always is doublechecked and therefore are many potential problems prevented. The technical aspects of the workmode are the problem for Billy.4.3 Case CCharlie Team is located in southern Sweden and consists of 12 team members that are designingand constructing different parts of buildings and stations equipped with electronic parts,products that are placed next to, for instance, railroads or windmills. The team members work51independently and are accountable for the delivery of their tasks. Charlie Team has recentlyimplemented daily rotations; thus, half of the workforce is present at the company site whereasthe other half works from home until the situation that covid-19 brought is resolved.CARLCarl is product development manager at Charlies construction department and has for 10 yearsbeen in his position. He says that he is a leader within a knowledge-intensive organization whichresults in that he has to match his leadership accordingly. Charlie Team operates freely withresponsibilities where everyone is accountable for what they deliver. Therefore, Carl is notmicromanaging anyone in the team who all are expected to be competent enough to know whatthey are supposed to do. He says that humility and coaching are key in this kind of team, tosupport team members in need without telling them how to solve their problem. Carl explainsthat some need more support than others and that he cannot get too involved as that would implythat he would become accountable for the delivery, something not to strive for according toCarl as the team members possess specialized knowledge for design and construction that hedoes not. Carl explains that if you assist team members too much, they will never learn andalways ask for help before they try to solve problems themselves. This is something thatprevents personal developments, Carl says, and adds that it would be impossible for him tohandle his managerial tasks if he had to show team members where to drill holes in productcomponents.How Carl experiences VTsSince Charlie Team engages in design and construction, everyone cannot work from home,hence, some have to be on the site to handle upcoming difficulties. The buildings are custommade; it is not like assembling 20.000 toasters. Therefore, Charlie Team decided to introducedaily rotations to keep production going. He says that it works very well, however, what he hasnoticed is that many get restless and bored when working from home. Carl states that he getstwice as tired the days he works from home. Even though Carl says that he is old anduninterested in IT systems, he still experiences that things have turned out better than he evercould have thought.Carl explains that the lack of social interaction makes the team members video call each otherin attempts to get the input they normally obtain at the workplace and sing birthday songsthrough software such as Zoom. Carl says that the lack of social interaction is what affects the52team the most and that one team member has almost become insane working from home duringa long period before the daily rotations were implemented. He believes that such a setup ispreferable over working from home for too long.Furthermore, Carl explains that Charlie is accountable for the working environment whenemployees are working from home who can collect chairs and screens from the office.However, he recognizes the difficulties in controlling that employees working environment isacceptable. Carl states that one must be pragmatic in these matters and that the employees aresenior enough to let him know if they miss something that can improve their work environment.Leadership in VTsCarl has not experienced any major differences working virtually, however, he knows that hehas to meet the team members regularly. Since the team went virtual, the communication hasincreased, and he says that he might have become more social even though he is at theworkplace less often than before. When working from home, Carl calls his team members andensures that they are fine and not having breakdowns at home. Conversely, Carl knows that theteam members come to him if they want something when working at the office. Carl says thathe has talked with some team members about the importance of work-life balance and urgedthem to remember clocking out when the workday is over.Charlie Teams independence has not been affected much and normally Carl does not have tointerfere with their tasks, however, the team might have become even more independent sincegoing online, Carl says. He explains that informal conversations at the office probably arepreferred over calling about small issues. He elaborates: It worked well before and it workswell now, however, how things are working in the long-run has to be reviewed when thingsreturn to normal.He explains that it is important to handle the crisis seriously and refer to the public health agencyto respond to any questions from the team members. He says that Charlie has shown that theyare serious when dealing with the matter. Additionally, all team members did not have laptopsbefore the crisis started, something that was provided to everyone rather quickly.Challenges & possibilitiesCarl explains that the Charlie Teams weekly meetings, as well as other meetings, are nowbeing held in Team Viewer, something that works well and that he believes will drive the53development forward. Carl thinks that the management team may keep having meetingsthrough the aforementioned software and not return to traditional face-to-face meetings. Thisis something that will improve efficiency as people will not have to travel to the managementmeetings.The number of meetings would then be reduced, he says, something that would improve theefficiency since it is often too many of them. Carl adds that the meetings themselves alsobecome more efficient as silence is very noticeable in a virtual meeting. Regular meetings takemuch longer as social conversations delay the closing of those meetings, something that he hasnot seen occurring in a virtual setting.Carl sees advantages as everyone improves their technical skills now when they are forced touse programs that are new for some and says that his attitude towards IT has changedremarkably. Now he can appreciate the advantages and believes that it is very useful. Carl alsobelieves that it is likely that the team will work more virtually in the future.When communicating through e-mail, there is a high frequency of mistakes as peoplesometimes cannot express themselves clearly. Communicating through video software is not aslikely to result in misunderstandings as you get the cues needed to realize if you have beenunderstood or not, according to Carl.Carl says that other teams probably face more challenges than Charlie Team as its members areindependent and skilled in computers. However, something that has to be considered whenworking from home is to keep the work-life balance as it can be experienced as not leavingwork when working from home.CARINACarina is a design engineer working with product development and product design. She hasbeen within the team since she started working for Charlie one and a half years ago. Carinawould prefer to rotate every other week instead of the daily rotations, but she also recognizesthat if something goes wrong, the factory workers must be able to contact the one who designedwhat they are assembling. In that regard, daily rotations are preferable. So far, Carina believesthat the setup is satisfactory. Leadership for Carina is about organizing and leading a team in away that keeps motivation and efficiency high, being present, and building relations. ForCarina, leaders should not control but provide support if needed. Moral dilemmas and times of54crisis are examples of when she thinks leadership makes a difference, where leaders step inassists in decision-making.How Carina experiences VTsCarina says that her work-life has not changed a lot, however, she prefers working at the officerather than from home since, at the office, there is always something to do. Working from home,she brings with her the tasks she regularly conducts but once those are completed, she cannotgo out to the workshop and find new ones as she would have done normally.She explains that she is independent at work but everyone at in Charlie Team uses to discussideas since everyone is not specialized in everything, something that has been affected by theongoing situation, that they now have to call each other more often I believe that help wouldcome faster since it is easier if someone can show you on the computer than trying tocommunicate over the phone.Carina has also noticed that the team members working at the site the days she is at home, donot call her for technical advice even if needed since they prefer to discuss the issue face-toface. Therefore, they wait with their problems until she is back at the office, unless criticalmatters occur, which results in that she can have an overwhelming number of problems to solveafter one day.Carina experiences more disadvantages than advantages when working virtually, working fromhome makes her put in more effort in her normal working tasks as social interaction do notdisturb the efficiency. There are no joking or discussions of current events when workingvirtually, Carina says.She explains that she does not need the social interaction workplaces might offer, however, shemisses the possibility to spontaneously discuss ideas with others instead of calling them andhoping for them to be available. She explains that working from home limits her as she cannotenter the workshop and search for improvements.Motivation in a virtual setting is the same whether working at the office or home, according toCarina, who now is looking forward to the next tasks since she has less to do. She says: Itsalmost as you get happy when someone calls and tells you that they need help.55Leadership in VTsAccording to Carina has the leadership not changed when engaging in virtual work modes,however, more responsibility is shown considering issues connected with the pandemic such ashygiene and physical proximity the days she works at the office. Carina explains that teammembers are led in similar ways, however, compromises are made if necessary such as one ofher colleagues who had difficulties working from home due to technical limitations, wasallowed to keep working at the office despite the new rotation arrangements.The communication is the same as before the team became virtual, she explains that it is mainlythrough email and telephone. She experiences no problems and explains that the use of thesecommunications means have increased when she works at the office in attempts to reduce thespread of the virus, as they minimize the proximal interactions.The uncertainty in the situation is not addressed within the team, however, the currentarrangements are working well, and communication is clear within the team. Carina experiencessupport from Carl who is aware that tasks take longer to complete.Challenges & possibilitiesCarina explains that when she works from home, she is connected to a server located far awaythat reduces the pace of her completing her tasks. Furthermore, she says that if someone needsassistance at the site, she is contacted through video-mediated tools and has to struggle to seewhat is going on in the workshop through a blurry screen. This can concern components thatdo not fit or there might be measurement errors. She describes the situation: Since I design thecomponent, I want to measure it, because we measure differently. Carina states that these kindsof issues are hard to handle virtually, however, most of the work she does on her computer isgoing well, just a bit slower.Carina explains that the working environment is fine when working from home as teammembers are allowed to collect screens and chairs for home use during this period. She statesthat for handling these kinds of situations in the future, companies must be able to arrangeergonomic working environments and to oversee employees independence in to performhighly when having to work virtually.Carina says that when working virtually, there might be an overreliance in software that mightcause harm such as encryption issues with, for instance, the videoconferencing tool Zoom.56Something that made Charlie forbid the use of the software for screen sharing of working tasks.IT security is something that has to be considered when working like this, she concludes.CHRISChris is a design engineer responsible for all the low voltage products that Charlie Teamproduces, both existing ones and the development of new ones. Chris has been in working atCharlie since 2007, in Charlie Team since 2008 and his current position has he held for 1.5years. Leadership for Chris is the ability to motivate employees and provide developmentalopportunities. He says that his degree of independence is very high and that suits him well.Chris explains: I know what to do when I work, it is like a referee in hockey, a good refereeisnt noticed even though he is there. At Charlie Team they have department meetings,however, Chris plans his work and the leadership is not that apparent but provided if needed,he says. Recognition and praise are also given which enhances motivation.How Chris experiences VTsChris says that he has no prior experience with VTs and believes that it works very well. Hehas noticed that there is more to do at the workplace than at home and that priorities are differentdepending on from where he operates.The social distancing has impacted the feeling of belonging as the relations cannot be the sameanymore, Chris explains, the days he is at work he no longer has lunch breaks or fikas withcolleagues, instead, he eats in his office to which he has brought a microwave. Chris misses thesocial interaction he uses to experience at the workplace and he sometimes gets bored with thecurrent arrangement. Chris explains that Charlie Team tries to keep in touch as they havevirtual fikas through videoconferencing software. However, the everyday spontaneity is lost,he says. Conversely, he saves a significant amount of time not having to drive to the workplace.Working from home can, however, be more efficient and more gets done as you do not havethe noise and running around, according to Chris, who at the same time recognize that this roleincludes being available. He explains the problem in this balance: I get more done workingfrom home, however, the production loses the support I am supposed to provide. Additionally,the reduced number of emails is increasing efficiency as the team now more frequentlycommunicates through videoconferencing tools, Chris says.57Leadership in VTsOn the question of how leadership is practiced in a virtual setting, Chris replies: To be honest,there is no difference, it hasnt become better or worse. He experiences no problems andknows that he can contact the team leader whenever he needs to. The leadership aspect is notas important as the social one, Chris says. His social interactions are now slim to none and hespends most of his time at the computer, something that makes him feel a bit down. Theb lines between spare time and working hours get blurred, which he notices when he doeshousehold chores during working hours as well as work tasks after clocking out. Chris says thathe enjoys his job and therefore it has not yet become an issue, however, there might be a limithe has not reached yet.Work-life is free at Charlie Team and no one is controlling what they are doing, however, whenthe team went online it became even more evident that you are accountable for your tasks, Chrissays. He is the most motivated and efficient when he almost has too much to do. His motivationis reduced when he has too little to do. He explains that the team was informed by Carl regardinghow the pandemic was to be handled by Charlie before it was communicated to all departments,something he appreciates.Challenges & possibilitiesThe working environment is fine according to Chris, who only has noticed that the screens aresomewhat better at the office as well as the ventilation. Chris says that technical issues such asinternet speed are a major challenge when working from home, in some cases can the speed besignificantly slower. However, he recognizes that the technical competencies increase and newsolutions arise, which will be beneficial for the future.For virtual meetings with several participants, the lack of eye contact is a problem despite thatthe cameras are rolling according to Chris who experiences that people are talking over or areinterrupting each other. Chris also sees advantages regarding meetings as he does not have tolisten to all it and instead can work on his tasks or make a phone call when some, for him,irrelevant points are discussed. He says: The attitude towards meetings is probably betteronline compared within a conference room. Additionally, scheduled virtual meetings bothstart and ends on time, according to Chris.58Personally, I believe that even when the corona crisis ends, we will work in totally differentways. I see the advantages of working from home on some occasions, this saves time and theenvironment.Chris states that team members who have difficulties working independently can get a goodexperience from this working arrangement as they are forced to be more independent and takemore responsibility. He believes that team members come across minor issues, they are morelikely to solve them themselves than asking for help at an early point.595. DISCUSSION5.1 The importance of spontaneous informal interactionsCommunication changes within the teamThe means of communication unavoidably changed as the previously co-located teams weregeographically dispersed and became VTs. Both spontaneously and planned face-to-faceinteractions vanished and was replaced by computer-mediated communication through, forexample, emails and video calls. However, this was nothing new for the participants whoalready were utilizing these virtual tools in their everyday work. For instance, in Case A theyhad already implemented the use of Microsoft Teams for the last six months. The extent of itsuse was, however, new to most of the participants. Previously it had been used as a complementto the everyday interactions at the office as suggested by Bell and Kozlowski (2002), and nowit became their only means of communication.In Case A, daily check-ins was applied in to ensure the well-being of the team membersthrough video calls. This could also be seen in Case C in which Carl reached out to his membersand became more social than normally. In Case B, Bianca tried to keep things as normal aspossible and have social chats through video calls. A virtual environment without wellestablished methods calls for a high degree of adaptivity (Duarte and Snyder, 2006; Bell andKozlowski, 2002). This suggests an adaptivity that can be found in the situational approach ofleadership as discussed by Northouse (2013) since leadership is adjusted after the situation athand. Additionally, Goleman (2000) argued that being able to adopt different leadership stylesresults in success. We interpret this leader adaptivity as a way to maintain work relations withfollowers as well as their well-being, something that seems to be of high importance under thesecircumstances as seen in the statements by Alex, Bella, and Billy who felt less motivatedworking from home. Consequently, adaptive leadership efforts seem to be useful. However,the design engineers in Case C explained that they are motivated by having tasks to do and didnot seem to be as impacted by leadership as the other cases. This might be a result of their dailyrotations or the highly independent nature of their work. Therefore, the benefit of adaptingleadership styles according to the situation at hand seems to relate to the independence offollowers. However, if followers are independent and not reaching out to their leaders as it isnot necessary, then there is no leader-follower relation according to Blom and Alvesson (2014).Leadership is something that occurs in a relational process where followers are key (Alvesson,602019). Thus, if followers are reaching out to their leaders where they need support or otherkinds of advice, then there is an interaction that enables leadership to transform into somethingthat fits the situation at hand. Nevertheless, the change of environment into a virtual one hasalthough made it more difficult to spontaneously interact with both leaders and team memberswhich correspond to what Malhotra et al. (2007) claims about virtual leaders and theirdifficulties working in a virtual environment.Not addressing sensitive mattersWhen the means of communication is altered, leaders and followers encounter relationalimplications. The data shows a general agreement that previously co-located teams becomingVTs face challenges as the benefits gained from spontaneously informal interactions are lost.This affects leader-follower work relations in several ways. For instance, Anna stated thatsensitive matters are not to be discussed through virtual tools since it becomes too impersonaland Alice mentioned that it is easier to put on a smile during virtual meetings than to hidefeelings for a full day at the office. In Case B, Bella explained that she prefers to address thesekinds of issues face-to-face informally while Bianca said that it is difficult to lead during thesecircumstances and that Bravo Team has become more task orientated as a consequence ofmoving online. Something that relates to Gibson and Gibbs (2006) who stated that, for instance,the emotional intensity of interactions among individuals affects the strength of relationships.Which according to Pauleen and Yoong, (2001) is a vital concern for VTs communication tobe successful. This indicates that the emotional intensity of communication in VTs mightdecrease since it is perceived not to be suitable to address sensitive matters through virtual tools.Consequently, communication might become more task orientated in a virtual setting as wassuggested by Saunders and Ahuja (2006) which affects the emotional intensity of relationships,something that seems to potentially have negative impacts for both Case A and B.Decreased knowledge sharingThe change in communication and interactions also has implications for knowledge sharing forseveral of the participants. Spontaneous social interactions were explained to enable knowledgesharing (Morgan et al., 2014) and collaboration within teams (Pauleen and Yoong, 2001). Theloss of spontaneous informal interactions affected the knowledge sharing among team membersin the studied cases. Alice, Allan, and Carina mentioned that knowledge sharing suffers whenengaging in virtual work modes since spontaneously and informal conversations enable thiswhen working co-located. Allan said that projects are discussed at the coffee machine and Bella61explained that ideas are created, and problems are solved there in an informal way. Now, severalof the participants state that they are becoming more independent and have to find answersthemselves. This corresponds with the statements by Breu and Hemingway (2004), that VTsare facing decreased knowledge sharing. Becoming a VT, and the reduced knowledge sharingthat may follow might pose obstacles in leader-follower work relations in the long run asfollowers lose the benefits gained from such interactions. Some participants also stated that theybecame less prone to reaching out to their leader about minor issues. This can indicate thatminor issues are not addressed, and spontaneous knowledge sharing is prevented when enteringa virtual setting.However, the loss of spontaneity is not inherently negative as could be seen in the statementsby Allan, Carina, and Chris who experienced that they could focus better on their tasks at homedue to fewer interruptions as they normally come across at the workplace. These participantswere, nevertheless, identified as the most independent ones.Turn on the cameraAlice explained that communication in VTs must be clear and confirmed to limit the numberof misunderstandings. She mentioned that by having the web camera turned on during virtualmeetings, communication could be confirmed since she was able to gain more nonverbal cuesthan during a phone call or virtual meeting in which participants chose not to have the cameraturned on. Alex stated that he points his web camera in a direction that enables others to pickup his body language during virtual meetings. Bianca argued that nuances were lost if not usingthe web camera during this kind of meeting. This corresponds with Morgan et al. (2014) whostated that asynchronous impersonal communication and a lack of nonverbal cues may generatemisinterpretations and misunderstandings. We interpret that there are several reasons why it isimportant to have the camera turned on during virtual meetings. The nonverbal cues gainedfrom such communication enable participants to confirm that what was said also wasunderstood and it is also likely that participants are able to observe more nuances that can makethese meetings more relaxed. Billy stated that communication always is double-checked whichprevents misunderstandings and Alex mentioned that Anna now is double-checking thateveryone understands their tasks. This refers to closed-loop communication explained byMarlow et al. (2017) and seems to be important when entering virtual work modes to preventmisunderstandings.62Moreover, the use of asynchronous means of communication such as email cause problemssince it entails more misunderstandings than communication through video tools as could beseen in the statements of Bianca and Carl. However, Alex mentioned that he knows his teamwell and can read between the lines and realize when irony is occurring in emails as well asface-to-face. That goes in line with the claims by Marlow et al. (2017), that the better teammembers know each other, the better can they handle changes in communication. Since theteams studied already existed prior to the virtual transition, it is likely that they cancommunicate well as long as communication is synchronous. However, even though someoneis using closed-loop communication or know the other party well, it does not necessarily meanthat everyone understands what was said. Hence, as it can be easy to hide your feelings undera conversation through virtual tools, it might also be easy to do the same when it comes toconfirming that the task is understood. However, as the teams studied already are independent,this might not apply to them. Email conversations, however, include the same risk formisunderstandings regardless of work mode.5.2 Followers responsibilitiesProactive followersWhen co-located teams went online, data shows that some have taken the initiative to remindthe leaders about the importance of the social aspect within the teams. At first, Case A only hadthe daily video calls three times a week, but by providing Anna with the input they now havethem on a daily basis as these were important for Alpha Team when everything got lonelier. Atthese meetings, people motivate one another and try to keep the spirit up. Bianca also receivedinput concerning the importance of fika, something she had forgotten about but she soon cameto understand the importance of sharing those moments within Bravo Team. This can be relatedto proactive followers, those who bring new ideas and are sharing concerns (Carsten et al.2010). A leader that shows openness can affect attitudes and emotions within a group (Kelleyand Kelloway, 2012). Leaders have much to consider, especially during times of crisis. Then,if followers are being proactive, they can impact how things turn out, as when they start sharingtheir concerns and ideas with the leader. Proactive followers might challenge their leaders bytelling them indirectly why something is important under these circumstances, by suggestingwhat is important for them. Therefore, when these thoughts are shared, there are follower-leaderinteractions that could have an impact on leadership and how it is constructed. This goes with63that leaders and followers together construct leadership (Alvesson et al., 2019), there need tobe interactions going on to make the leader understand what is important in different situations.The importance of follower well-beingOur data demonstrated that the uncertain situation has impacted the leaders behavior towardsa more supportive one. All of them exhibited an openness towards worried people, they paidattention to these matters and asked for this kind of input to be shared. For example, Annaexplained that she had thought about how people felt when they were at home as she knew thatthe new situation potentially could bring anxiety as there are no policies. She has then tried tobe as transparent as possible and has realized that she has become more supportive andcoaching. In Case B, Bianca mentioned that she had addressed the uncertain situation becausethe burden should not be dealt with alone. Then in Case C, Carl has experienced that peoplecould feel a lot of pressure and therefore he started reaching out to ensure that everyone is doingfine, and to prevent potential breakdowns. These findings relate to the situational approach ofleadership and especially to the supportive style that Northouse (2013) explains are leaderswho, for example, are listening and asking for input. Furthermore, the affiliative style byGoleman (2000) is also present as the focus is on the well-being of people. The crisis broughtupon us is unprecedented and brings uncertainty, for both leaders and followers. However, allof the participating leaders (Anna, Bianca, and Carl) have shown that they care about followerwell-being and have adapted to the situation. They have been listening to concerns from peoplewho have needed it but have also taken the responsibility to address the matter because theyhave paid attention to followers feelings and emotions. According to Duarte and Snyder (2006)can an environment cause uncertainty and be emotional for those within it, thus virtual leadersshould adapt to the situation, and this is something they all have displayed. Additionally, thisdemonstrates how leaders and followers co-produce leadership in interactions with each otherand that leadership is vital in these uncertain times.However, followers need to be proactive in for leaders to understand how to adapt, andespecially when working at a distance. Hence, virtual leaders can find it challenging to knowwhen social interactions are needed as they are not physically present (Malhotra et al., 2007),indicating that, if someone is not present it can be a risk that leaders only estimate what isneeded if not getting any real input. This is something that goes with Byrds (2019) claims, thatit will be harder to read cues and body language as it will be to get in-depth understandingswhen only interacting virtually. If solely having passive followers, followers that do what64leaders tell them to do (Carsten et al., 2010), then it can become a risk that one can go back tothe view of leadership where leaders lead (subject) and followers follow (object), as describedby Alvesson et al., (2017). Again, this should not be understood as leadership, as it is moreassociated with management. However, followers should try to take a proactive role and this tobe able to influence their own well-being, which some of them did. Hence, the interactionsbetween leader and follower are very important to maintain even though the reality has changed,where they together face many difficulties and challenges on the way. Furthermore, why thisaffiliative/supportive style may have appeared among the leaders could be of their ownuncertain situation, they could only be as transparent as possible, indicating that they do notknow what will happen if looking further ahead. If they feel this themselves, they can imaginehow others feel and therefore pay attention to feelings and others’ well-being.5.3 AutonomyIncreased independenceSuddenly becoming a VT in times of crisis also affects leader-follower work relations in thatregard that followers become more independent. Data displayed a common understanding thatthe teams independence was increasing, even in already highly independent R&D teams suchas Case C in which Chris explained that their independence became very evident when engagingin virtual work modes as the tasks had to be finished. This entailed diverging views as bothBianca and Bella in Case B along with Carl and Chris in Case C expressed that the increasedindependence had positive impacts since the team members became stronger and more capableas they have to find answers for themselves. The nature of VTs was described to entail a limitedamount of social interactions (Saunders and Ahuja, 2006; Daim et al., 2012). Something thatwe interpret as a demand for increased follower independence in leader-follower work relations.However, all cases demonstrated some independence prior to becoming a VT. On the otherhand, Alice and Bella felt that they burden others if reaching out regarding minor issues,something that prevented them from doing it, and instead they now are looking for the answersthemselves, reducing the interactions with the respective leader. Thus, this further demonstratesthat the new environment has some constraints when it comes to the possibility to sociallyinteract with others, which increases followers independence. Hence, the geographicaldispersion makes people more aware of their own questions and thoughts and this correspondswith Marlow et al., (2017) who claim that real-time communication can be limited within a65virtual team. Then, if the communication is limited it can affect the relationship, as followersneed to take more responsibility, thus becoming more independent.However, Anna stated that she receives more questions than ever, concerning matters she neverhad to deal with earlier, matters that she knows that the team members can solve themselvesand that it might be explained by the loss of social interaction. This indicates that within thesame team (Case A) there are different understandings of whether people are becoming moreindependent or not, both realities are real since it is their subjective understandings of thesituation. Thus, this can be linked to that people are in a constant flow of change and a leadershould try to adapt the directive and supportive behavior depending on the needs of the followeras skill and motivation changes (Northouse, 2013). The role that Anna seems to take here is thecoaching style, which implies that directive and supportive behavior scores high (Northouse,2013). The reason for this to be associated with the coaching style is because she both is guidingpeople, as well as understands that questions asked might be because of other reasons, that theyare in need of support too. Consequently, whether people are becoming more independentbecause of the virtual environment or start to ask for more guidance, it will have an impact onthe leader-follower work relations, thus on the leadership style.Alex mentioned that delay in communication might become a problem when engaging in virtualwork modes, something that Billy already had experienced since when working virtually, as hemore often had to wait for instructions. This relates to Zigurs (2003) dimension of temporaldispersion. Temporal dispersion was suggested to decrease VTs problem-solving abilities(O’Leary and Cummings, 2007). Here we identify a link to management, leaders must createinfrastructures (Bell and Kozlowski, 2002). The teams were not dispersed across time zones asVTs can be, however, delays in answers can still pose obstacles if not addressed. Malhotra etal. (2007) suggested that norms must be enforced in a virtual setting, we believe that it isimportant to establish communication norms regarding acceptable delays in communicationwhen working virtually. However, team members independence may increase if having to findthe answers themselves as suggested by data. We believe that it is a balance to it and that theone does not exclude the other.Decreased motivationData displayed a common understanding among the participants that they miss their workplaceand colleagues. The loss of social input gained from the workplace reduced commitment andmotivation for several followers. Furthermore, Allan and Bella stated that they would enjoy66more spurring from the leader as they have to self-motivate themselves at the moment. Annaexplained that the extraordinary situation brought her huge challenges as there are no policies.Bianca experienced that Bravo Team had become more task orientated during the transition andthat there had not been much time for her to practice leadership yet. This goes in line withKuscu and Arslans (2016) statement that it is difficult to motivate members of VTs due to thenature of virtual environments. Malhotra et al. (2007) claimed that the lack of physical presencelimits virtual leaders chances of understanding what team members need. Billy said thatleadership is practiced very well both in co-located and virtual work modes. Nevertheless, hefaced motivational problems. Allan was happy with his free role and appreciated the leadership,still, he had to motivate himself. This indicates that leadership is not practiced in the same waysas when the teams are co-located, and motivational efforts are needed. This might be a result ofthe ongoing crisis, that leaders are facing an exceptional situation for which there are nomanuals. Alice explained that the current leadership concerns facilitation and structuring whichcorresponds with some of Northouses (2013) characteristics for management. As a result, itseems likely that management is practiced more extensively in the early phase of the transitionof becoming a VT. Bell and Kozlowski (2002) argued that virtual leaders have to createinfrastructures that enable assignment allocation, information sharing, planning, etc., whichalso relates to management. Therefore, leadership might have to wait until such managerialpractices have been properly established and the transition can enter another, more relational,phase. This clearly affects the team members motivation in Case A and B, however, for aperiod of time.In Case C, however, motivation depended on having a sufficient workload which was decreasedwhen working from home as some tasks had to be dealt with face-to-face due to the high degreeof informational value as discussed by Kirkman and Mathieu (2005). Here, team members wereable to self-motivate themselves and without the need for leadership interventions. This is inline with the pace-setting leadership style described by Goleman (2000), a style that also often,as a coincidence, is found in R&D units. This indicates that motivational efforts throughleadership interventions are of higher importance in teams with a lower degree of selfmotivation.Leadership or management?Our data show that the transition during a crisis when becoming a VT has led to moreengagement in management than in leadership. Leadership is socially constructed in a process67(Uhl-Bien, 2006), and is associated with feelings, motivations, and values (Alvesson et al.,2017). In Case A there are now only planned meetings that have impacted the possibility tohave informal conversations and Anna declared that the virtual setting is not suitable forsensitive discussions. To plan and organize is to practice management (Alvesson et al., 2017).In this way, it has become harder for reaching out and work with feelings even though this issomething she tries to bring up during these scheduled meetings. Hence, our data suggest thatmanagement is more obvious than leadership, as leadership seems hard to practice in the earlyphase of previously co-located teams transitioning into VTs. This can also be noticed in CaseB, where Bianca mentions that the transition has made her forget to be a leader. The chaos hasbeen tough, and she needed to take control before even thinking about leading the group, whichshe was able to do before the transition. Control and structure are management (Northouse,2013), and here it becomes evident that management has taken a bigger part, at least at thebeginning of this transition, working as a VT. Hence, the focus has been to understand thesituation and taking back control.Then, in Case C, the transition into a virtual work mode with daily rotations has been smooth.Carls explained that his duties are more of a managerial kind where he talks about efficiencyand that his team may have advantages working in this virtual environment as they areindependent and very competent in computers. However, there is an indication that Carl nowpays more attention to team members feelings as he knows that being alone can lower the wellbeing of a person. The delegating approach has both low support and directive behavior(Northouse, 2013), and it suits subordinates that are being self-motivated, shows a high degreeof competence, with limited needs of directions, and who often works in R&D departments(Goleman, 2000). Management is what he does as his team is highly competent and in littleneed of guidance, however, it seems that he has started to practice leadership as there have beenmore interactions between them, where the need for support to maintain well-being has beenimportant. Taken all together, data indicates that the crisis made leaders focus on managementat first, as control and structure needs to be settle before focusing on feelings, well-being, etc.,this corresponds with Bell and Kozlowski (2002) who states that virtual team leaders mustcreate infrastructures that facilitate the business as a whole.5.4 Challenges and opportunities in a virtual environmentPrevious research identified several challenges for VTs which was discussed in section 2.3.3.However, those were specific to either teams already operating in virtual settings or individuals68unknown to each other that was gathered in VTs. For instance, the lack of social interactionamong team members is a challenge for VTs (Chinowsky and Rojas, 2003; Daim et al., 2012;Dulebohn and Hoch, 2017). According to data does this apply to previously co-located teamsmoving online in times of crisis as well, which was discussed in section 5.1. Having conductedthis study, we can add additional challenges as well as opportunities that apply to previouslyco-located teams becoming VTs in times of crisis, taking the transitional aspect intoconsideration. However, those are specific to the cases studied and their circumstances. Theyare not intended to generalize for all previously co-located teams moving online in times ofcrisis.Work-life balanceBilly stated that he got an odd feeling working from home since home is rest and office is workfor him, which now was hard to separate. Chris mentioned that his workdays get mixed up withlong work hours to follow as household chores were done during working hours and work wasconducted after clocking out. He said that he enjoys his job and, therefore, it has not become aproblem, yet. Carl has urged his team members to bear work-life balance in mind. Since theleaders cannot observe how employees are doing or handling their workloads in the same wayas they can when working co-located, due to the nature of virtual work modes as stated byMalhotra et al. (2007), is it of utmost importance that leaders address this matter. As seen in thestatement of Alice, putting on a smile and hide feelings is more likely to occur in a virtualsetting, which might result in a decrease in well-being among team members. Additionally, datasuggests that the b lines regarding work-life balance get indistinct when previously colocated teams go online. This indicates that policies have to be developed for being able tohandle similar situations in the future as well as possible, also for maintaining work relationssince it is not unlikely that they might suffer in the long run if the matter is not addressed.Working environmentThe second challenge identified concerns the working environment in previously co-locatedteams becoming VTs in times of crisis. In Case A, Anna mentioned that she now cannot controlit which made her wonder how team members were doing. Members of Alpha Team agreedwith the importance of the working environment and that it was severely affected by starting towork from home. Alex and Allan stated that after establishing a home office, the quality of thework environment improved heavily. In Case C, Carl explained that the responsibility for theemployees work environment does not change when they start working from home, but69controlling it is, however, problematic. According to Carina, leaders must address this issue in to keep efficiency high. Across the cases, team members were allowed to collect screensand chairs which improved their conditions when working from home. These statementsindicate that the working environment is likely to decrease when stop working at the office,which might impact the well-being and performance among employees. Therefore, this issuemust be addressed and prepared for in to prevent negative effects if additional crises arise,forcing teams to abandon their offices, or if considering engaging in virtual work modesgenerally, but then it is likely that teams have more time available to follow a lineardevelopment than during a crisis.Increased technological competenciesHowever, there were also opportunities identified. Participants experienced an increase intechnological competence as a consequence of moving online as team members were forced tolearn how to handle the systems used. Several of them stated that such an increase intechnological competencies was to increase efficiency. Chris claimed that it was good for thefuture whereas Billy and Carina experienced a decrease in efficiency since they encounteredtechnical problems. When being thrown into a virtual environment, one must be able to adaptin to succeed as explained by Duarte and Snyder (2006). This can result in several benefitssuch as increased efficiency and a stable foundation for the future. Additionally, it could be anargument for slower and more bureaucratic organizations speeding up, for instance,digitalization. However, team members must be provided with satisfactory conditions in to prevent frustration to grow as tasks take longer to complete.Changed work modes in the futureAs previously co-located teams start to engage in virtual work modes, advantages wereidentified that according to data can have implications for future work arrangements. Forinstance, Bella, Carl, and Chris experienced that the decreased number of meetings had positiveeffects on efficiency and were only held when needed. Besides being fewer of them, the virtualmeetings also started and ended on time. The same participants mentioned that the advantagesidentified from virtual meetings might result in an increased use of them in the future, whichthen would save both efficiency and the environment. However, the social aspect cannot bedisregarded as data suggests and discussed above. At times, engaging in virtual meetings seemsto increase efficiency, but the loss of social inputs from these meetings will probably outweighits advantages in the long run, if solely relying on them. It could be suitable for some meetings70to be replaced by meetings in a virtual environment as data displays that it is functioning well,Carl, for instance, mentioned that for management team meetings, many have to travel far. Thiskind of meeting is an example of which ones could be reduced.Surprisingly, the lack of physical proximity can also possibly enable leaders and followers todeepen their relationship. This could be seen in the statement of Bianca who expressed that shegets to know the team members better after starting to engage in virtual work modes. Carl statedthat communication became more frequent and social when being part of a VT. Such statementswere, however, not identified among subordinates.5.5 Answering the research questionsThe thematic analysis assisted us in identifying how work relations between leaders andfollowers changed when previously co-located teams become VTs in times of crisis. Below weanswer our research questions.– How and why do leader and follower work relations change when previously co-locatedteams become virtual teams in times of crisis?The transition into a virtual setting entails a change in means of communication that decreasesthe number of spontaneous social interactions, which made the work arrangements lessrelational in Case A and B. The work became more task-orientated and communication wasdouble-checked. Additionally, addressing sensitive matters was perceived as inappropriatethrough virtual tools. Consequently, followers became less inclined reaching out to their leaderregarding matters of a sensitive kind as well as minor issues. However, some saw it as anopportunity for less independent team members to develop and learn how to find answersthemselves. The loss of social input that usually was received from the workplace impactedmost of the followers motivation in Case A and B. In the highly independent Case C,motivation was not gained from interactions between leader and follower but to have asufficient amount of work tasks. However, the work relations changed in that regard that theteam leader became more social when the team went online. Taken together, the transition intoVTs during the pandemic of covid-19 implied an initial move from leadership towardsmanagement. However, some followers seemed to take a more proactive position than usual inefforts to impact their new reality, indicating that the co-production of leadership occurs in avirtual setting as well. The teams independence prior to becoming a VT also affects to whatdegree the work relations between leaders and followers are changed.71– How are the leader and follower work relations before and after?Prior to becoming VTs, the work relations between leader and followers were based on morespontaneous interactions, and through these interactions, leadership was socially constructed.The relations did not include having to actively plan when to interact. When they met, theycould also interact with one another differently, read body language, and pick up othernonverbal cues. Furthermore, the followers were less independent before the transition.Consequently, before moving into a virtual setting leaders and followers had a closer connectionin Case A and B. However, in Case C the work relations have not changed significantly. Thereason for this might be because of them being a R&D department in which people are workinghighly independently and where follower and leader relations are hard to define as people hereoften are self-motivated through their own tasks.– What affects the shift in work relations?Geographical dispersion brings a loss of social interactions when previously co-located teamsbecome VTs in times of crisis. This affects the shifts in work relations between leaders andfollowers discussed above. Therefore, geographical dispersion can be argued to be the reasonfor the shift in work relations since it brought several consequences that impacted the workrelations.– How does this interact with the leadership styles used?The changed situation of becoming a VT has brought more loneliness, uncertainty,requirements of self-discipline, and a loss of social interactions. This situation is thereforeunstable for many, not only emotionally but also how to manage work under suchcircumstances. Leaders have at first focused upon managerial tasks and this to make everythingfunction, which the transition into a virtual environment required. Then it became apparent thatthe new situation brought the use of a leadership style that leans towards the affiliative/supportive style. Here the leaders have tried to make it possible for followers to reflect uponthings during meetings which they have made become more informal and not just about work,well-being comes many times from social interactions at work. Leaders have paid attention topeople and this to be able to support them if needed. Thus, to make sure that people feel goodhas been the way leader has adapted their behavior.726. CONCLUSION6.1 Key findingsPreviously co-located teams becoming VTs in times of crisis face changes in leader-followerwork relations. The transition into a VT initially entails an increased use of managementwhereas leadership is put on hold until managerial practices are in place. What follows is anincreased task-orientation and a loss of the benefits that spontaneous social interactions bringwhich affect the possibility to socially construct leadership between leader and follower.However, this for a period of time since leaders eventually are likely to adopt a more supportivebehavior. This study underlines the importance of leadership as a relational process betweenleaders and followers, which still apply when entering a virtual setting. However, leadershipactivities such as inspiring and motivating become more difficult to conduct in this kind ofsetting and seems to be of higher importance than when working co-located to reduce theanxiety from the uncertain situation. Virtual leaders face several challenges when entering avirtual environment due to the loss of social interactions, and it is also through leader andfollower interactions that they together can co-produce leadership. Virtual leaders must behighly adaptive to the situation at hand and be able to identify followers emotions and needsthrough computer-mediated tools. Since leaders cannot possibly observe followers as whenworking in co-located work modes, the followers role in the co-production of leadershipbecomes evident. Therefore, followers have to take a more proactive position and inform theleaders of what is needed for them to be able to endure and impact the changes. If not, they willbe led in a manner that by leaders is estimated to be satisfactory, and this will more likely resultin management than in leadership, where control and structure exceed supportive behaviors.The degree of prior team member independence determines to what extent this transitionimpacts followers motivation and well-being. Less independent followers may find thisdifficult to deal with under these circumstances. Hence, leader and follower work relations havechanged as their teams have transitioned into a virtual environment.6.2 Theoretical implicationsHow leader and follower work relations change when previously co-located teams become VTsin times of crisis had not yet been addressed by previous research. However, this researchprovides an understanding of what to bear in mind when facing such a transition which adds to73the knowledge about the transitional process to become a VT, something that according toGilson et al. (2015) had been ignored by research.Maintaining relations in previously co-located teams becoming VTs is just as important as intraditional VTs, in which team members are unknown to each other. It cannot be taken forgranted that the already existing relations endure the transition without virtual leadershipefforts. However, as co-produced leadership suggests, followers play an important role asleaders cannot fully appreciate what followers need without them being proactive enough andenlighten the leaders.This study can confirm that the challenges VTs are facing presented by previous research suchas communication (e.g. Dulebohn and Hoch, 2017; Munkvold and Zigurs, 2007; Saunders andAhuja, 2006), creating and maintaining relationships (e.g. Breu and Hemingway, 2004; Pauleenand Yoong, 2001; Saunders and Ahuja, 2006), establishing trust (e.g. Brahm and Kunze, 2012;Chinowsky and Rojas, 2003); Ford et al., 2017) and the lack of social interaction among teammembers (e.g. Chinowsky and Rojas, 2003; Daim et al., 2012; Dulebohn and Hoch, 2017), tosome extent applies to previously co-located teams becoming VTs in times of crisis as well.Creating relationships and establishing trust was, however, not addressed as the teams werealready existing. Data did not suggest that it should have been addressed in this context. Thechallenge of swift task outcomes (e.g. Tong et al., 2013; Munkvold and Zigurs, 2007; Zigurs,2003) is not expected by teams in the transition of becoming a VT during a crisis. However,data suggests additional challenges for virtual leaders to attend to when previously co-locatedteams become VTs in times of crisis, these are the challenges of maintaining work-life balanceand working environment. These challenges might relate to virtual managers but must,nevertheless, also be addressed by virtual leaders.6.3 Practical implicationsAs spontaneous social interactions disappear when going online, relational effects are to followwhich might turn out to decrease, for instance, employee motivation and commitment. Thisstudy highlights the importance of the workplace and the relational benefits gained from there,which cannot be obtained in a virtual environment. Previously co-located teams becoming VTsmight be good enough for a period of time, but not a sustainable solution in the long run.However, during crises, engaging in virtual work modes might be the difference of staying inbusiness or not and should, therefore, be prepared for. Some issues must, nevertheless, beconsidered for it to function well. The indistinct b lines of work-life balance in swiftly74emerged VTs must be addressed in to preserve the balance. Additionally, as there are nowork environment guidelines for VTs, this has to be addressed for maintaining the well-beingof employees and thereby their efficiency and motivation.Since it is impossible to tell when the covid-19 pandemic is over and the fact that additionalcrises can arise just as suddenly, it is essential that practices are developed to ensure thatemployee well-being is satisfactory. Moreover, leaders in Case B and C found it difficult tolead in a virtual environment, this can indicate that organizations should educate their leadersin virtual leadership since it might not be the last time they engage in virtual work modes.Additionally, independence is needed since when becoming VTs, the previously co-locatedteams became even more independent. Therefore, it is likely to be suitable for teams possessinga moderate to high degree of prior independence.There is a need for leadership in previously co-located teams becoming VTs due to a crisis asleadership can provide team members with a reduced level of anxiety, increased motivation,and bring a sense of belonging. Therefore, leadership must be considered throughout thetransition.6.4 Limitations and suggestions for future researchThis study was conducted during the covid-19 pandemic with teams finding themselves in theearly stages of a hasty transition into a virtual setting. Therefore, it would be interesting forfuture research to explore how attitudes towards engaging in virtual work modes are changingover time, in teams that normally employ co-located work modes.Only Alpha Team was a VT on a daily basis. Bravo and Charlie Team had various forms ofrotations. However, the days not spent at the office, they were VTs. This might have affectedtheir perceptions of engaging in virtual work modes.This study needs to be replicated in other contexts with other team characteristics, for instance,with less independent teams. Furthermore, future research could explore how Zigurs (2003)dimensions of cultural and organizational dispersion are affected by a transition into a virtualsetting during a crisis.As our findings suggested, efficiency was at times increasing when the studied teams workedas VTs. Hence, when the crisis is over, and teams can return to business as usual, it would be75interesting to explore if work practices remain similar or if advantages were identified thatchanges these, such as the benefits from the reduced number of meetings.6.5 Work process and authors contributionsThe process of writing this thesis has been challenging with ups and downs and at timesstressful, but it has also been very rewarding as we have learned a lot during these months.This thesis is the result of our combined efforts. We have both been involved with and discussedall its parts. Even if we have written separate sections within the thesis, we cannot disconnectour efforts from the whole. We both believe that the workload has been distributed equally.76REFERENCESAlvesson, M. (2019). Leadership: Convergence and Divergence in Leadership Relations.Journal of Management Inquiry, 28(3), pp.319334.Alvesson, M., Blom, M. & Sveningsson, S. (2017). 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INTERVIEW GUIDE SUBORDINATEInitial questions: Are you ok with that the interview is being recorded? Number of years at the company and in the team? What is your position and main work tasks? Do you have any previous experience with virtual teams?Main questions: What is leadership for you? How has you and your team been affected by the current covid-19 outbreak? How are leadership practiced under these circumstances? How is the uncertainty handled? What types of challenges have you come across and which do you foresee? What preparations made you able to handle the situation the way you did?
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