To read this content please select one of the options below:

Open plan offices – the response to leadership challenges of virtual project work?

Donatella De Paoli (Department of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour, Norwegian Business School BI, Oslo, Norway)
Arja Ropo (School of Management, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland)

Journal of Corporate Real Estate

ISSN: 1463-001X

Article publication date: 7 April 2015




The purpose of this paper is to explore hybrid work spaces, combining open-plan, team-based offices with virtual work and leadership, in relation to the main leadership and team challenges virtual project environments encounter.


In a review of virtual team literature, virtuality is defined and its main challenges to project leadership are identified. Based on the literature, several semi-structured interviews with project team managers within telecom and IT-consultancy were conducted. Using an exploratory approach, the authors introduce some new leadership concepts and functional benefits of open-plan offices important for virtual project environments.


The findings suggest that project managers encounter several new kinds of challenges while leading virtual projects. Co-location of the project team during certain stages in open-plan, team-based offices may meet some of these challenges. The authors claim that spatial arrangements and their embodied subjective experiences make an impact on the effectiveness of virtual project teams.

Research limitations/implications

This paper develops new conceptual thinking of how office facilities may contribute to productive virtual project teams. Further empirical studies in other settings are needed to generate generalizable findings.

Practical implications

The paper discusses and provides arguments for real estate and facility managers, as well as project and team leaders, for the importance of open-plan offices for virtual project teams.


The paper combines and benefits from different discussions on workspaces, virtual team and leadership. Furthermore, the paper introduces the notion of spatial leadership beyond the mainstream leader-centric approach to point out the importance of physical workspace of virtual teams and how the workspaces can perform leadership functions.



De Paoli, D. and Ropo, A. (2015), "Open plan offices – the response to leadership challenges of virtual project work?", Journal of Corporate Real Estate, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 63-74.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles