Supporting Remote and Hybrid Workers in Crafting Work and Family Boundaries


A laptop at a kitchen table showing a Zoom video call on screen. A coffee mug is to the side.

Motivation

Remote work can offer benefits to workers including time flexibility, the elimination of commute time, and expand access to job opportunities by removing geographic and ability-driven constraints. Remote work can also add value for employers in the form of increased productivity and reduced real estate costs. However, removing the physical boundary between work-life and home-life increases the likelihood of work encroaching on family life and family responsibilities interrupting work. The effects of these conflicts negatively impact worker stress, anxiety, satisfaction, exhaustion, and burnout.

Not only does computing technology enable remote work, but it also has the potential to empower remote workers with tools to better manage these challenges posed by remote work. This Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF) Planning Grant project promises to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare by illuminating the challenges that workers encounter as a result of their remote work, and understanding their needs for support and the potential for future technology to facilitate that support. Our work strives to advance the frontiers of science by exploring possible solutions to the threats posed by remote work. Focus will be paid to the challenges by rural workers, who lack equitable access to the employment opportunities afforded urban dwellers, and working women, who are disproportionately responsible for carrying out household and family responsibilities.

This project seeks to understand the challenges remote workers face through three primary objectives:
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  1. Build relationships with relevant partners and stakeholders
  2. Gather data through a diary study and a survey with remote workers and managers of remote workers to understand the challenges that remote workers encounter
  3. Engage remote workers in design activities to explore possibilities for future technology to better manage remote workers' work-life vs. home-life conflicts
The project will advance understanding of how current remote workers manage issues of family-to-work and work-to-family conflict, and the effects of those conflicts including stress, anxiety, dissatisfaction, exhaustion, and burnout. The project will advance the development of a theoretical model of boundary management for remote workers. The project will also contribute to practical outcomes in the form of design insights for the development of future technologies that can support desirable work-life boundaries.

Current Work

Our team is currently recruiting for, moderating, and analyzing data from both the survey and diary study components of the project. We're working with Paul Hill at Utah State University and their Remote Work Certificate program as well as a state government department to recruit remote workers from rural areas and with understudied work backgrounds like managing multiple part-time positions or working while acting as the primary caregiver in the home. 

The data we've collected so far will be used to help categorize the types of challenges remote workers face, their impacts, and how they are typically resolved.