What interesting research has been published recently?

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

Remote working and studying require resilience

Remote working and -studying continue as the COVID-19 pandemic persists and creates uncertainty around the world. Recent research has examined different factors of successful remote work and the impact of the rapid shift to remote work on worker, supervisor, and organizational levels. Current research has recognized that, when it comes to remote working and -studying, resilience is the key. According to a British study, university students are more resilient than staff.

Iina Savolainen
EDITOR, Post-doctoral Researcher of Social Science at University of Tampere

Exercise may help build resilience during uncertain times

A study by Van Der Feltz-Cornelis and colleagues (2020) explored the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and the following measures, such as remote working and studying, on university staff and students. The participants were staff and student members of a British university who were invited to partake in the study via the online survey. A total of 1055 university staff and 925 student members participated in the survey. Of the staff members, 98 % were working remotely and 78 % of the students were studying remotely. The study measured the participants’ level of perceived stress, mental and physical health, presenteeism, and absenteeism.

According to the results, 66.2 % of staff experienced high stress due to COVID-19, while 33.8 % were labeled as resilient. In contrast, 71.7 % of students were labeled as resilient and 28.3 % as high stress. The researchers discovered that, among university staff, social isolation and having children predicted vulnerability (high stress). Among students, social isolation, having children, as well as female gender predicted higher stress. The exercise was a predictor of higher resilience among both staff and students.

"These results support previous research, which has identified that women and those who have children experience higher stress while working remotely. Balancing work and personal life can be strenuous and requires planning and prioritizing. The results highlight that remote workers, particularly those in vulnerable groups, need more support and resources when working from home. It is an interesting finding that university students seem to be more resilient than staff. This could be a reflection of students' life-situation or their ability to adapt new technology. Physical exercise was associated with higher resilience among staff and students. Consequently, regular exercise should be endorsed for remote workers and students."
Iina Savolainen
Post-doctoral Researcher at University of Tampere

Literature: Der Feltz-Cornelis, V., Maria, C., Varley, D., Allgar, V. L., & De Beurs, E. (2020). Workplace Stress, Presenteeism, Absenteeism, and Resilience Amongst University Staff and Students in the COVID-19 Lockdown. Frontiers in Psychiatry11, 1284.

COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to develop and leverage resilience thinking. Mihoko Sakurai and Hameed Chugtai discuss in their article  ”Resilience against crises: COVID-19 and lessons from natural disasters” how societies could be made more resilient in times of crisis. This conceptual paper draws lessons and examples from the 2011 earthquake that happened in Japan and its effects.

According to Sakurai and Chugtai, resilience is traditionally seen as the ability of the system to remain stable and rebound to a normal state after a shock. However, they perceive this as a limited viewpoint: instead of rebound, resilience should be seen as adapt to unusual situations and transform itself.

The scholars argue that IT plays an important role in the efforts of increasing resilience in society, and this should be taken into account in information systems (IS) research. Based on the idea, Sakurai and Chugtai list six future recommendations. Resilience thinking needs to be developed further, both at the general level and in relation to information system sciences.

More research on the adaptability of information systems and frugal IS is needed. Organizations need to develop preparedness in their digital processes for extraordinary situations. More research on data and information management in times of crisis is needed. Fostering resilience at the societal level requires continuous development efforts and active information sharing between local communities. Ethical questions and principles related to managing crisis situations need to be explored.
"Sakurai and Chugtai underline how the COVID-19 pandemic illuminates the complexity of resilience-related challenges in our society. For this reason, it is crucial to put increased emphasis on multidisciplinary approaches where information system sciences should play an active part as well."
Tuomo Eloranta
Researcher, at Aalto University

Literature: Sakurai, M., & Chughtai, H. (2020). Resilience against crises: COVID-19 and lessons from natural disasters. European Journal of Information Systems, 29(5), 585–594.

How to do team work remotely? A study of social workers’ remote work and resilience during COVID-19.

Social work is customer-oriented work that is typically built upon a team of social workers, the customer, and their relationship.  A study by Cook and colleagues (2020) investigated how remote work and social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted social workers’ experiences on teamwork.

The qualitative study was based on 31 in-depth interviews. The interviewees were two service managers, ten team managers, ten senior social workers, and nine social workers. The interviews asked about the social workers’ and managers’ perspectives and experiences on the sudden shift to increased remote working and how they have adapted to the new remote working situation.

The interviews revealed the increasing importance of teams. Face-to-face contact

was perceived to be crucial in sustaining secure base relationships with team members and in remote work, this contact was lost. Some workers reported feeling disconnected from their team, which caused them to feel disoriented in the beginning of the lockdown. However, as remote working endured, new systems were created for staying in touch, the virtual team and virtual teamwork being the main manifestation of these new systems. The team members used Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, and email to keep in touch. As a result of keeping in touch with colleagues virtually, most social workers described feeling well supported and a sense of belonging to their team at work. On the other hand, those social workers who were newer to the work community recognized in-groups and out-groups within the community and felt marginalized in virtual interactions.

The authors highlight that social work teams can provide a secure base for social workers in remote work. They suggest that having a positive mental presentation of one’s team and the informal support available within teams can promote resilience and a sense of competence among workers.

"Remote team-working is possible, even in those fields that typically have necessitated face-to-face interaction. Virtual teamwork can be fruitful at best. Although, it should be noted that this research shows that shifting teamwork to a virtual space is easier for those teams that are already well established in the physical world. It is crucial that new employees are acknowledged and given room to get to know everyone and establish communication, and thus become a meaningful part of the group."
Iina Savolainen
Postdoctoral Researcher at University of Tampere

Literature: Cook, L. L., Zschomler, D., Biggart, L., & Carder, S. (2020). The team as a secure base revisited: remote working and resilience among child and family social workers during COVID-19. Journal of Children’s Services. Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 259–266. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCS-07-2020-0031