Key findings of the study

  • Challenges: Achieving the key goals of internal communication such as commitment, engagement, and participation is harder in a virtual work environment with reduced personal contact. To address and include everyone, employees’ specific needs and concerns need to be identified and new formats for employees working on- and off-site have to be developed.
     
  • Objectives: To foster commitment, engagement, and participation in a virtual work environment, creativity and some new approaches are required: The bond between employees and the company can be strengthened through appreciative messages and virtual events. Interactive communication platforms where employees can share, like and comment can help to stimulate participation while creating a sense of togetherness.
     
  • Risks: A virtual working world creates more flexibility, but increasingly blurs the boundaries between work and leisure. This entails the risk of an “always-on” mindset, which can trigger technostress. New ideas are also needed to minimize the risk of a two-class society in which employees without a computer workstation are less well integrated in communication.
     
  • Future: The survey findings show that most employees prefer hybrid work, thus the future will most likely be characterized by much more virtuality. To support concepts such as working partly from home and partly on-site, it’s important to listen to employees’ concerns and to empower them to become effective communicators themselves and trying out new formats.

 

Methodology

The research project was led by Prof. Dr. Sabine Einwiller and Daniel Wolfgruber, University of Vienna. It is divided into four sub-studies:

  1. Literature review of scientific, management and organizational studies on diversity management and communication. Besides that, the research team analyzed literature from other fields like business ethics or sociology.
     
  2. Semi-structured interviews with 84 employees with and without various diversity characteristics in Germany and Austria. The aim was to investigate employees' experiences with D&I-related measures and communication and which organizational communication influences the inclusion/exclusion of employees.
     
  3. Online survey of 1,000 employees: The aim was to find out to what extent an organization's handling of and communication about D&I issues influence employees' identification with the organization. In addition, the research team investigated, how the behaviors of fellow employees change.  
     
  4. Semi-structured interviews with 20 D&I experts in Austria and Germany to draw a holistic picture of the status quo of D&I management: reasons for establishing D&I management, conception and implementation of communication measures as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Companies that participated in the semi-structured expert interviews – a selection:

Research team

​​​​​​​The research project was conducted by Dr. Sabine Einwiller and Daniel Wolfgruber at the University of Vienna from 2020 to 2021:

  • Dr. Sabine Einwiller is the professor of Public Relation Research at the Department of Communication at the University of Vienna.
     
  • Daniel Wolfgruber, M.A. is a research associate in the Department of Communication at the University of Vienna.