July 13, 2021 [No. 88-2021]
Graduate School of Business and Finance, Waseda University, Japan
Visiting Research Fellow,
Institute of International Management, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan
Remote Working in Times of “With-Corona”:
The Key to Improving Employee Performance from the Latest Research
#2: Academia’s Challenge: What Do We Know about Remote Work under the COVID-19 Pandemic?
1. Research on Remote Working during COVID-19
What impact does the inevitable remote work, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, have on working people? With the novel coronavirus pandemic, millions of people around the world were forced to experience working from home. Due to this unintended circumstance, many scholarly projects on exploring the impact of remote work are now being conducted around the world. To the best of my knowledge, there have been only a few published empirical reports on the effects of remote work based on data collected after the COVID-19 outbreak in the world, but some interesting reports are beginning to appear.
Among them, I would like to pick up a published work on remote work conducted by a research group from Australia and China, which was recently published in Applied Psychology: International Review, one of the official journals of the International Association of Applied Psychology and one of the leading international journals in the work and organizational psychology field. The article is entitled “Achieving Effective Remote Working During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Work Design Perspective”, co-authored by Bin Wang, Yukun Liu, Jing Quan, & Sharon K. Parker. This was released in 2021 (hereafter, the article is referred to as Wang et al., 2021).
This scholarly research paper (Wang et al., 2021) examines how the various conditions and constraints of remote work affect individuals’ job performance and well-being by combining multiple research methods, including literature review, qualitative (case study) research, and quantitative (questionnaire survey) research. Notably, both the qualitative and quantitative surveys in this academic article were conducted during the COVID-19 outbreak, and the results reflect the experiences of employees who were forced to shift to remote work. The corresponding author of the paper is Sharon K. Parker, Distinguished Professor at Curtain University in Australia, who has published extensively in top-tier journals in the fields of management and organizational behavior. Below I describe what this remote work research has explored.
2. The Cutting-edge Remote Work Research: What Does It Reveal?
Broadly, the research (i.e., Wang et al., 2021) examines the relationships among virtual work conditions (positioned as input factors), remote work challenges (as a throughput variable), and remote worker outcomes (as consequences). Specifically, the causal relationships of Virtual Work Characteristics → Remote Work Challenges → Remote Worker Outcomes are scrutinized both qualitatively and quantitatively. The research also investigates whether (and if so how) the degree of “Self-Discipline” in individuals strengthens (or weakens) the relationship between Virtual Work Characteristics and Remote Work Challenges.
Each of the above constructs is subdivided into more detailed components. Virtual Work Characteristics include (1) social support (from supervisors and colleagues), (2) job autonomy, (3) monitoring, and (4) workload. Remote Work Challenges consist of (1) procrastination (i.e., delaying or putting off tasks until the last minute, or past their deadline), (2) work-to-home interference (WHI: individuals’ life invaded by work domains), (3) home-to-work interference (HWI: individuals’ work invaded by home domains), (4) loneliness, and (5) communication ineffectiveness. Finally, Remote Worker Outcomes subsume (1) job performance, (2) emotional exhaustion, and (3) life satisfaction.
Although there are many interesting findings presented in this article, I consider the following four findings would have strong implications for the business practitioners. These are:
Key finding #1: Among the Virtual Work Characteristics, “social support from supervisors and colleagues” and “job autonomy” both play a role in enhancing remote workers’ job performance and psychological well-being, while “monitoring” and “workload” function to hinder them.
Key finding #2: Among the resources that promote remote workers’ job performance and psychological well-being, “social support from supervisors and colleagues” was found to be the most powerful virtual work characteristic.
Key finding #3: Job autonomy has no meaningful impacts on reducing work-home interference, including WHI and HWI.
Key finding #4: The effect of social support from supervisors and coworkers on the resolution of remote work issues varies depending on the degree of “Self-Discipline” (i.e., self-management skills and abilities) of the remote worker.
In the next issue of my serial article, I will explain more about each of these findings and how we learn from them through the eyes of a practitioner.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.