The COVID-19 pandemic forced much of the U.S. workforce home, with up to half of American workers now working remotely, according to the Brookings Institution Center on Children and Families — more than double the fraction that did just two years ago.
Eddy Ng, the James & Elizabeth Freeman Professor of Management at Bucknell University, is one of them. But as an expert on the changing nature of the workforce, Ng sees an opportunity to study the growing telework trend.
He is now joining colleagues from around the world to study the impact that the sudden wave will have on the future of telework. They plan to analyze the adaptation of employees to new ways of working and digital tools, and to help identify potential areas of innovation for remote working.
"We want to analyze the practice of telework and what it means to the changing needs of the workplace as it relates to this crisis," Ng says. "Everyone had to scramble to make [teleworking] work initially, but through this emerging work form, will organizations have to reinvent themselves? What we want to do is study how people can adapt quickly to work from home and how innovation can help us adapt to meet our needs."
Ng invites workers who have transitioned to working remotely to participate in his study through this survey link. The researchers plan to study the evolution of employee adaptation to telework over time through the different phases of the pandemic.
"We are assessing the use of telework over different stages of the crisis," Ng says. "We plan to examine whether employee comfort in the use of new supporting technologies may have changed over time, whether they become more effective, and whether a more positive view of the telework experience may emerge."
Because COVID-19 is a global pandemic, the international research team plans to include employees from the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and Singapore. After collecting data for approximately a month or more, Ng says the group plans to create a website where they will publicize their results on a rolling basis to provide a resource to guide telework efficiency.
The research is supported by a grant from the International Observatory on the Societal Impacts of Artificial Intelligence and Digital Technology.