January 10, 2024

2:00 p.m. ET

This event is for invited researchers only.

Scholar presenter:

Julia Coff, New York University

Seed generators:

Amy Wrzesniewski, University of Pennsylvania

Lindsey Cameron, University of Pennsylvania


Awakening to New Possibilities: Employee Responses to the COVID-Induced Transition to Remote Work

Talk description:

For many knowledge workers, the “environmental jolt” of COVID-19 catalyzed a profound and collective discontinuity in the experience of work. This transition to remote work stands in juxtaposition to the more localized or individualized patterns of uptake that characterized remote work adoption in the past. This difference is meaningful because a collective transition can usher in a widespread comparison of past and present, inspire shared scrutiny of prior ways of working, and create a sense of new possibilities for the organization of work. In this two-part interview study, I examine the effects of the collective transition from working in the office to working remotely on employees’ experience of work. In the first study, I ask, how did the collective transition to remote work influence perceptions of the co-located office? Analysis indicates that many of these workers experienced “awakenings.” That is–afforded the opportunity to compare working in the office to working remotely–they paid newly found or intensified attention to elements of their prior work arrangements that they had previously normalized; questioned taken-for-granted aspects of their organizations; and discovered new possibilities for crafting their work and their work-lives. In the second study, I am re-interviewing a sub-sample of my interviewees approximately two years later and asking, what are the consequences of workers’ awakenings—have they refashioned their work-lives, or have they found their changed orientation at odds with organizational realities? Ultimately, the shared nature of these awakenings may help us understand how large-scale workforce changes can engender both individual and collective reassessments about what working life was, is, and could be.

Research is the heart of Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS), and we want to make sure that we support each other in developing high quality research. To that end, we created the Adderley Positive Research Incubator for sharing and encouraging POS-related research ideas that are at various stages of development.

Learn more about the Adderley Positive Research Incubators here and direct questions about individual sessions to cpo-events@umich.edu.