Transdisciplinary Workplace Research Conference 2020
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"Session 20 Virtual Spaces of Work

"Virtual work challenges experienced by knowledge workers in organizations undergoing digitalization"

Nelda Vendramin, Giulia Nardelli, DTU Management Copenhagen/Denmark

Abstract: This study aims to gain insight into the existing knowledge of the challenges affecting the well-being of individuals who engage in virtual work. Powered by available and developing technology, digitalization enables work activity outside office locations as organizations transition from co-located to virtual work. Individuals can thus choose when and where to carry out their work tasks. However, the transition to virtual workplaces causes concern in both managers and employees, because it affects work distribution and organization, organizational structures, and management practices. Therefore, such a transition requires customized strategies for achieving optimized work performance and employee well-being in virtual work. By reviewing the literature on virtual work, we observe that such analysis is fragmented. Therefore, we compile six challenges in virtual work affecting the well-being of employees and managers. 

"Social Structure of Digital place"

Suvi Nenonen, Ursula Hyrkkänen, Henri Jalo, Jaana Vanhatalo, Annika Ranta, Tampere University/Finland

Abstract: It is often thought that co-operation in digital spaces happens by itself. However, the social structure of digital space is important to identify, experience and manage. This paper investigates the user experiences of digital collaboration space especially from the perspective of social structure. Social structure refers to the often-unconscious structures of social interaction and power conveyed through various artefacts, which influence the work performance. Digital spaces therefore always have a social dimension. Like in physical spaces, individuals who work in digital spaces create meaning for the spaces they use.

The research is qualitative by its nature. The data is gathered in participatory workshops among small and medium-sized companies in Finland. The topics of the workshops included the digital collaboration and work crafting in remote and multilocational work. The data was analysed by content analysis. The results can be summarised in three social structures identified from the data.

"Autonomy and Responsibility in an Augmented-Reality-Supported Assembly Task"

Cornelia Gerdenitsch, Meneweger, Halbwachs, Stockreiter, Scheiblhofer, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology Vienna/Austria

Abstract: Similar to physical characteristics of the workplace, the deployment of digital technology affects well-being and productivity at work. Augmented reality (AR) is one of these technologies that has become increasingly popular in the corporate environment, especially in the context of manufacturing (Daling et al., 2020; Dey et al., 2018). Since previous research has focused on comparing AR-based assembly instructions with other types of instructions in terms of effectiveness and efficiency (e.g., Hou et al., 2013), little is known about how AR alters working conditions. In this article, we shed light on the sense of autonomy and responsibility people experience during an AR-supported assembly task. Autonomy as a working condition represents the degree of freedom one has in one's work. A high degree of autonomy is related to the feeling of being responsible for work (Job characteristics model; Hackman & Oldham, 1976, 1980). Within the scope of AR assistance, autonomy may be increased if workers feel supported by the technology in carrying out their tasks autonomously, but may also be reduced if people experience that they are controlled by the technology. In the latter case, we expect a sense of responsibility to be limited.

We conducted a laboratory experiment with 117 participants who were asked to assemble a workpiece using an AR system. We then conducted interviews in which we asked the participants about their experiences and their sense of autonomy and responsibility. Findings demonstrated a limited perception of autonomy during the AR-assisted assembly. Connected to this, the participants took over a passive role and experienced a limited sense of responsibility concerning the output. Surprisingly, however, the participants still internally attributed errors they had made.