Employee engagement through virtual collaboration


Prof. Dr. Sabine Einwiller

Prof. Dr. Sabine Einwiller

About the research project

Title: Keeping up the Spirit: Internal communication in an increasingly virtual work environment

Team: Julia Stranzl, Daniel Wolfgruber, Prof. Sabine Einwiller (University of Vienna), Jana Brockhaus (Leipzig University).

Project period: 2021

Virtualization, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, has made internal communications increasingly digital. While virtual collaboration offers numerous advantages, it also introduces significant challenges. Notably, diminished personal contact can make engaging and motivating employees more challenging—a critical concern for employee engagement in virtual collaboration.

Virtual Corporate Communications is fundamentally transforming company collaboration practices. A pressing question is how to foster a trusting relationship with employees in a predominantly virtual work environment.

Prof. Dr. Sabine Einwiller - University of Vienna

“A culture of flexibility will define the future of internal communication.”

Prof. Sabine Einwiller, University of Vienna

This research project addressed the new demands on employee communication, which, until now, have been insufficiently explored, by examining the following questions:

  • What challenges do internal communications experts face in an increasingly virtual working world?
  • How can the goals of internal communication be achieved in a virtual context?
  • What are the potential drawbacks of an increasingly virtual working world, and how can they be mitigated?


  • Ten challenges for internal communication
  • Strategies for fostering cohesion, participation, engagement and commitment
  • Negative effects on perceived stress levels and sense of inclusion
  • How to enhance virtual internal communication


The study, conducted by Sabine Einwiller and her team at the University of Vienna, comprised four consecutive phases:

  1. It started with a review of the academic and practical literature on virtual internal communication and collaboration.
  2. Next, in-depth interviews with 16 internal communication experts from various German, Austrian, and Swiss companies were conducted virtually in March and April 2021.
  3. The third phase involved interviews with 60 employees from Austrian and German companies.
  4. Finally, two online surveys were conducted among people employed by Austrian or German organizations with at least 250 employees in August and September 2021.