Coordinating Remote Work During COVID-19
In response to the dangerous spread of COVID-19,organizations, including institutions of higher learning, are requiring social distancing in lieu of in-person gatherings for an extended period. To facilitate social distancing, the CDC recommends remote work. Previous research has shown that it is not enough to insert technology into a situation. People and organizations need technologies designed to fit or be adapted to actual work practices. Resilient organizations must dynamically adapt. This research project will develop evidence about how organizations and diverse people are transformed by transitioning to remote work. It will develop vital guidance for large organizations—which employ and/or serve tens of thousands of stakeholders—about how to prepare for, enact, adjust to, and coordinate remote work. The guidance will be used to quickly inform and educate diverse organizations, stakeholder groups, and citizens about best practices for working together to meet the practical, social, and emotional needs of work communities during a transition to remote working in response to an unfolding crisis. The research team will promote broad public engagement with this guidance through university, social media, and news communications channels.
This project is centered on a 1-year qualitative research study at the University of Washington in Seattle. Seattle was the first US COVID-19 epicenter. The University of Washington (UW) was the first university to switch to remote learning and work. Data collection will include interviews, observations, targeted archival research, and surveys. The study will involve individuals, groups, networks, and departments, in order to get multi-level and multi-scale perspectives on a full range of activities that effectively support resilient organizations and work communities. Qualitative data analysis, including iterative coding and memoing, will be used to discover and then elaborate on recurring themes. Underlying the investigation is an understanding that conceptions of organizational resilience are implicitly about cooperative work. The analysis will apply CSCW conceptual tools—such as the types of articulation work and how they can amplify organizational resilience—in a novel way. This is expected to yield empirical contributions about the coordination of remote work at different scales, under intense time pressure. It is also expected to create theoretical knowledge on how complex organizations coordinate and support remote work in relation to the social and practical realities of an evolving crisis.
Prof. Charlotte Lee, PI