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Surprising Science

Oxytocin: The Key to a Good Virtual Office?

Leadership traits that encourage the production of oxytocin in the body will be even more important in virtual offices, where technology will erect barriers to transparent communication. 

What’s the Latest Development?

As physical office spaces fragment and become virtual, management techniques that promote the production of the oxytocin will become essential to running an effective business, says Paul Zak, a professor of economics and director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California. “The leadership traits he has identified to produce this include praise, given unexpectedly and in public; transparency in identifying tasks and setting goals; authenticity; effective delegation of work; empathy to others’ situations; anticipation of challenges; and autonomy.”

What’s the Big Idea?

While business professionals have accused Zak of being on the “squishy side” of management, hard science is increasingly backing claims made about the relationship between productivity and oxytocin. Once only associated with sex, today the neurochemical is known to play an important role in creating feelings of trust, empathy and family-like bonds. In a virtual office context, that means overcoming technological limitations with transparency. “The classic way to get people to do what you want is fear, but people acclimate to that,” said Zak. “If you want to keep people on task all the time, you want oxytocin-producing situations.”

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