The digital workplace facilitated a dramatic shift in the nature of work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations changed not only how, when, and where individuals work, but also the way they work (Winterfeldt and Roestel, 2019). Office work can be conducted anywhere and anytime due to its reliance on information and communications technology (ICT) (Rahim, Rahman, and Iahad, 2018; Curzi, Pistoresi, and Fabbri, 2020). Environmental and economic factors, such as high operating costs, globalization, and changing workforce demographics, had already encouraged the transition to the virtual office before the pandemic emerged (Calvasina, Calvasina, and Calvasina, 2012; Meinert, 2011).
In addition to causing acute economic and life disruption at an unprecedented scale and rate worldwide (Gopinath, 2020), COVID-19 revolutionized the concept of working from home (WFH) (The Economist, 2020). Once COVID-19 reached pandemic proportions, WFH became a necessity in many sectors and organizations. WFH is not a new concept (Nilles et al., 1974), however, it was never adopted to the extent forced by the COVID-19 crisis. Work practices suddenly and completely altered, dramatically changing the nature of work-based interdependencies between people and the technology with which they accomplish work (Lamb and Kling, 2003). About a third of the workforce in the U.S. quickly moved to WFH (Brynjolfsson, Horton, Ozimek, Rock, Sharma, and Ye, 2020), a proportion that reflects the large number of employees affected around the world. Given this widespread and abrupt shift to WFH, and companies’ continued commitment to supporting this workplace alternative, it is crucial to understand the impact of WFH on affected employees in their jobs as well as their personal lives. As the physical location of jobs and family life intersect, companies will be well served to identify and support WFH best practices in future crisis situations (Choudhury, Koo, and Li, 2020). This will be helpful for future business continuity planning (BCP) efforts.
Recent studies (e.g., Pan, Cui, and Qian, 2020) note that the rapid lockdown produced new challenges for workers and their families due to the pressure to adapt to a new online- and home-centered life. Technology availability became both an enabler of and a source of conflict for employees who WFH. Unlike the long-term outcomes studied in prior remote work research (such as employee turnover and career progression), our study depicts the unique challenges and impacts of the unanticipated and involuntary move to WFH during a defined and pervasive global emergency.
In this paper, we present our findings from a two-year (and ongoing) study of working from home. The purpose of this article is to: