Study shows what the pandemic taught us about remote working

Researchers carried out a survey to understand which factors most affected people when they switched to unplanned remote work.
09 April 2024
Study shows what the pandemic taught us about remote working

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic transformed the personal and professional lives of numerous people around the world, leading many organizations to adopt remote working suddenly and in an unplanned manner. This situation provided an opportunity for research about computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) to explore distributed collaborative work during a global crisis. With this in mind, FGV EAESP researcher Marcelo Perin, in collaboration with other specialists, wrote an article that was published in the journal Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, investigating remote work from the perspective of CSCW.

Remote work during the pandemic had three main characteristics:

  • An immediate response to an unplanned crisis;
  • Replacement of transportation infrastructure with digital infrastructure;
  • Intersection of the private and professional spheres, introducing new types of work interruptions.

The pandemic brought about additional challenges for those working from home, such as financial stress, health-related anxiety and an impaired work-life balance due to school closures. For this reason, Perin and his fellow researchers carried out a survey to understand which factors most affected people when they switched to unplanned remote work.

This framework encompassed five dimensions, looking at:

  • The extent to which people were working as a team;
  • How willing they were to collaborate;
  • How well the team communicated;
  • What physical and technological infrastructure was available;
  • How organizations dealt with these adaptations.

To examine the above, the survey used an online form with 31 questions based on CSCW theory and its five dimensions. The responses were obtained through a “snowball” process (where each respondent indicated other possible participants) and mostly reached technology professionals. Quantitative and qualitative data was collected from more than 350 respondents working in more than 40 municipalities in Brazil between April and May 2020, during the first few weeks of the pandemic.

The survey assessed the level of engagement, motivation, availability and proactivity of coworkers while working remotely in adverse situations. Regarding the organizational management aspect, the researchers identified strategies and incentives adopted by organizations during the pandemic, such as flexible working hours and funding for home office infrastructure, to understand how companies adapted to this new situation.

During the pandemic, remote working was affected by all kinds of interruptions, whether of a work or domestic nature, such as phone calls, work messages, meetings, colleagues asking questions, family members talking, street noise, barking dogs, childcare and household chores. The researchers propose that these interruptions should be considered an integral part of distributed work in times of crisis.

Based on their analysis of the data, the researchers proposed a new dimension to CSCW theory, called “crisis preparedness,” highlighting an organization’s ability to operate during disruptive and unforeseen events such as the COVID-19 pandemic. To respond effectively to crises, four key capabilities are needed: a rapid response with drastic measures; providing adequate infrastructure for employees; adapting to new working and living conditions; and managing multiple disruptions, both individual and organizational.

You can read the full paper here.

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