Adopting to the virtual workplace: identifying leadership affordances in virtual schools

Sara Willermark*, Anna Sigridur Islind

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This study aims to explore virtual leadership work within educational settings in the light of social disruption. In 2020, a global pandemic changed the way we work. For school leaders, that involved running a virtual school overnight. Although there is a stream of research that explores leadership in solely virtual communities, there is a gap in the literature regarding practices that transition from analog to virtual practices and the changes in leadership in those types of work practices. Design/methodology/approach: The data gathering method constitutes a questionnaire to explore school leaders’ experiences of virtual work and virtual leadership in light of social disruption. One hundred and five Swedish school leaders answered the questionnaire covering both fixed and open questions. Findings: The results show that school leaders’ general experiences of transition to virtual school have worked relatively well. We show how the work changes and shift the focus in the virtual workplace. Originality/value: The author’s contributions include theorizing about leadership affordances in virtual schools and providing implications for practice. The authors summarize our main contribution in five affordances that characterize virtual leadership, including a focus on core activities, trust-based government, 1:1 communication with staff, structure and clarity and active outreach activities. The results could be interesting for understanding the radical digitalization of leadership in the digital workplace.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Workplace Learning
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Statements and declarations. The work has been financed by the Knowledge Foundation, Sweden. The authors declared no conflict of interest.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Sara Willermark and Anna Sigridur Islind.

Other keywords

  • Affordances
  • Digitalization of work practices
  • Virtual leadership
  • Virtual School


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