Virtual Work – It’s No Longer the Future, It’s Now! Why Purposeful Job Design, not Technology is What Facilitates Virtual Work

Virtual Work – It’s No Longer the Future, It’s Now! Why Purposeful Job Design, not Technology is What Facilitates Virtual Work

Written by Patricia Bianca Valencia, Birches Group Senior Marketing Specialist


No matter where you are, COVID-19 is affecting all of us. We all have had to change the way we live, the way we interact with one another, and for most of us, the way we work in the context of the pandemic. With more and more countries enforcing lockdowns of cities, people are forced to work from home as they are asked to shelter in place. Organizations recognized that despite the pandemic, the proverbial show must go on, and virtual work is all of a sudden the new normal.

For a long time, organizations looked at virtual work as something in the distant future, or only applicable to other organizations, or otherwise not feasible. What COVID-19 pushed us all to realize is that the future of work is about enabling our office staff to work from anywhere. Virtual work is no longer the future, it is the present.

Many organizations struggle with virtual work because they are lacking in a fundamental (but often ignored) area of HR: high-quality, purpose-driven job descriptions. Managers are usually asked to draft job descriptions with limited guidance beyond templates, and they end up writing checklists of tasks that they believe illustrate what a job needs to get done, rather than focusing on the purpose of the job. This checklist approach is indicative of an input-driven mindset that struggles to adapt once disrupted.

Birches Group’s Community™ approach has enabled us to prepare and practice virtual work long before the pandemic began through the use of output-based job descriptions, putting zero emphasis on the physical presence of staff at work and instead focusing on what they deliver at the end of the day.

When organizations shift to an output-based mindset, it doesn’t matter what steps our staff take in their work or where they do it from – what matters is getting the job done. When disruptive events like COVID-19 happen, output-based definitions of work facilitate working from home because it empowers staff to be more creative in their approach to work, while at the same time freeing them from managers looking over their shoulders. We find that when staff are given this independence, it promotes a more collaborative work environment, one in which staff communicate more because they are not just following a set script. They need to explain their process and thinking, and get buy in from across the organization.   Ultimately, this even helps shift discussions on performance from cascading objectives to simply asking, “Did the employee fulfill the purpose of their jobs?”

In the different countries where Birches Group staff are based, we have been able to respond quickly, especially once local authorities have limited movement, locally or internationally. Having a framework in place for virtual work has allowed our staff to continue business activities as normal and maintain relationships with our clients, even as each of us try our best to manage through these uncertain times.

Contact us to learn how we can help your organization retool for the new normal.


Bianca crafts messaging around Community™ concepts and develops promotional campaigns answering why Community™ should be each organization’s preferred solution, focusing on its simplicity and integrated approach. She has held various roles within Birches Group since 2009, starting as a Compensation Analyst and worked her way to Compensation Team Lead, and Training Program Services Manager. In addition to her current role in marketing and communications, she represents Birches Group in international HR conferences with private sector audiences.

posted on April 12, 2020 / Blog, Featured