Professor Scott Schieman and PhD Candidate Phil Badawy on difficulties in Remote Work

August 27, 2021 by Sherri Klassen

Professor Scott Schieman and PhD Candidate Phil Badawy recently wrote an op ed in the Toronto Star. Based on their research interviewing Canadian workers, the op ed highlights some of the challenges of remote work. Professor Schieman has ongoing SSHRC-funded research exploring work-life balance and employment satisfaction in Canada. Phil Badawy is currently writing his dissertation, "A “Holy Grail” of Work and Family Life? Complicating Schedule Control as a Resource." The following is an excerpt of the op ed. The full article is available on the Toronto Star.

Remote work makes communication with co-workers harder. Can it be fixed?

By Scott Schieman and Philip Badawy

Sat., Aug. 21, 2021

There’s a lot of chatter about hybrid models. This means some workers will have some choice over where they work — at the office or remotely. Many upsides (e.g., less commuting) enhance the appeal, but challenges lurk.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve surveyed thousands of Canadians with the help of the Angus Reid Forum, and we recently did followup interviews with those working from home.

One theme stood out: Allowing control over where employees work blends into control over when employees work. This impacts others’ work, especially in interdependent teams. One’s autonomy is another’s ball-and-chain. Ultimately, this wrinkle might be why some hybrid models won’t endure.

“That’s where you get stuck in that perpetual work mode,” said a 28-year-old policy analyst. “Everyone’s working slightly different schedules because of flexible work arrangements, so you’ll have more 7 p.m. emails, and it becomes easy to set aside time throughout the day to adjust to everyone else’s schedules. My manager is online around 5:30 a.m. — then he’s in total dad mode from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. So, I sometimes have meetings with him at 5:30 a.m. Then, he goes off to his kids and I jump into work. And then I have another manager … whose favourite meeting time is 5:30 p.m. OK, I started the day with a 5:30 a.m. meeting and now I’m at a 5:30 p.m. meeting.”