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Here our researchers comment timely research related to remote work and digital organizing.

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Changes brought by the Covid-19 pandemic have challenged workers in various ways, but forced remote work also has positive implications

Over the last year, the Covid-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way people work, the shift to remote work being perhaps one of the most apparent and widespread of changes. This rapid shift to remote work has challenged workers in many ways, ranging from learning and adapting new technologies to balancing work- and family-life. As our researchers are examining these topics from multiple perspectives, they are also constantly reviewing emerging research to stay in the know on the latest research findings on remote work. This week, they looked into what are the effects of enforced working from home on collaboration, the ubiquitous nature of communication technology in remote work, and whether some of the pandemic related threads can be turned into creative efforts.

Iina Savolainen
EDITOR, Post-doctoral Researcher of Social Science

iina.savolainen@tuni.fi

The qualitative study by Waizenegger et al (2020) explored how knowledge workers’ collaboration changed when they were enforced to transition to remote work due to Covid 19 lockdown. The study is based on 29 interviews with knowledge workers who worked in office spaces before COVID-19 and were forced to work from home during the lockdown. The study particularly focused on how the loss of shared physical space was substituted with new ways of using online collaboration tools and what challenges and benefits related to collaboration were experienced related to this. The paper shows that the lack of spontaneous coordination and ad hoc conversations in remote work as well as virtual-meetings-fatigue were considered to hamper and slow down collaboration and knowledge sharing as employees avoided any additional contacting of colleagues. On the other hand, as everyday communication between colleagues became scheduled and the threshold for ad hoc contacting increased, communication and coordination between team members improved as they now had to be very clear in their updates and task instructions. Also, new meeting practices were established to monitor employee well-being, and the novel ways of using online tools spurred by the lockdown increased informal interaction between distant colleagues and strengthened a sense of community.

 

"The study highlights that the increase in the use of online tools has both positive and negative implications on knowledge work and that the personal situation affects how the change is experienced. The clarification of communication is an intriguing implication of enforced remote work. It would be interesting to further explore, how this clarity is achieved and how it could be maintained when returning to regular face to face interaction."
Outi Vanharanta
Post-doctoral Researcher at Aalto University, School of Science

outi.vanharanta@aalto.fi

Literature: Lena Waizenegger , Brad McKenna , Wenjie Cai & Taino Bendz (2020). An affordance perspective of team collaboration and enforced working from home during COVID-19, European Journal of Information Systems, 29:4, 429–442, DOI: 10.1080/0960085X.2020.1800417

The use of communication technology blurs the temporal, spatial, and relational boundaries between work and free time. Communication technology enables constant connectivity to colleagues or to friends and family members. With technology, digital work can be done regardless of time and space. The ubiquitous nature of communication technology calls for new boundary management practices. In their study, Ollier-Malaterre, Jacobs, and Rothbard (2019) suggest that communication technology management includes three distinct areas: connectivity management, online self-presentation and privacy management. These communication management skills can be understood as digital cultural capital. Having digital cultural capital builds up individuals’ agency with respect to technology, which may prevent even burnout.

 

"As digital work has become the new norm for many, communication technology management skills are necessary in order to adjust to a more intensively connected world."
Camilla Suortti
Project Researcher and doctoral student

camilla.s.suortti@jyu.fi

Literature: Ollier-Malaterre, A., Jacobs, J. A. & Rothbard, N. P. (2019). Technology, work, and family: Digital cultural capital and boundary management. Annual Review of Sociology, 45(1), 425-447. doi:10.1146/annurev-soc-073018-022433

Can the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic end up fueling creative efforts and if so, how could it happen? These questions piqued the interest of prof. Dick De Clercq and prof. Renato Pereira enough to conduct a survey study on these issues among employees (N = 128) of a Portuguese real estate company.

The duo hypothesized that some employees might respond to perceived external threats by engaging in work-related task-conflict, in other words, reaching out to other organizational members and exchanging ”potentially conflicting work-related viewpoints” (De Clercq & Pereira, p. 107). Such behaviour in turn could lead to increased creativity. Authors also expected to find differences between people with high or low collectivistic orientation. Those more committed to work for the greater good were presumed to find putting themselves on the line by voicing critical views more appealing.

The results of the study provided support for these hypotheses, leading the authors to argue for several implications. First, organizational members’ concerns stemming from crisis situations can act as a trigger of creativity. Second, actors pursuing constructive, critical dialogue to overcome resource-draining situations can lead to co-creation of fitting solutions to the perceived issues. Third, such a dynamic is particularly likely among individuals with strong collectivistic orientations.

"Thus, people in managerial and leadership positions should strive to create a culture that fosters constructive conflict and collectivistic ideals."
Tuomo Eloranta
Doctoral Student at Aalto University, School of Science

tuomo.eloranta@aalto.fi

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Literature: De Clercq, D., & Pereira, R. (2021). Taking the Pandemic by Its Horns: Using Work-Related Task Conflict to Transform Perceived Pandemic Threats Into Creativity. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Vol 57(1), p. 104–12

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