Remote work, also often referred to as virtual work, telecommuting, or work-from-home, has expanded rapidly during COVID-19, assisted by advancing technology. As we witness this monumental change, our understanding of ethical culture, leadership, and policy shifts as well. While much remains unknown, we now have considerable research on working remotely from both a slow and voluntary shift (pre-COVID), as well as newer research on rapid adaptation to, and greater volume of, remote work out of perceived necessity.
Despite the feeling that remote work is “taking over,” only approximately 38% of workers reported that their job can be mostly remote (Pew Research, 2020). In a recent study, Greenstein (2021) found that only 25% of all workers conducted their job remotely to some extent in pre-COVID 2019, and generally less than half of the time. Then at the peak of COVID-19-driven remote work, 40% of the U.S. labor force worked remotely and most of them on a full-time basis. This means that the number of people involved in remote work increased by approximately 60% and the amount of work being done remotely more than doubled. For those with a job capable of being remote, those doing so went from 20% to 71% (Pew Research, 2020), and now 54% want to continue working remotely going forward. The new normal will include hybrid workplaces where remote workers may be the majority at some companies rather than an exception (Miller, 2021). So while many must work on-site, effective remote work will be a new consideration for a significant proportion of businesses and the workforce, along with its ethical implications.
This research page puts a spotlight on these ethical considerations in successful transitions to, and maintenance of, remote work. This includes individual considerations (e.g. socio-economic status, demographics), ethical culture (e.g. trust, leadership), and external ethical outcomes (e.g. sustainability, societal impact). Trust, inclusion, fairness, psychological safety, and empowerment are outcomes of great interest. Performance is discussed where intertwined with ethics, such as the provision of resources to support employee success.
A recent meta-analysis found many advantages, and no significant disadvantages, of remote work versus office work, supporting further investment in ongoing remote work (Gajendran et al., 2021). Remote workers had “higher perceived autonomy, supervisor-rated performance, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and engagement, while also having lower turnover intentions.” Further, the researchers found roughly equal ratings of workplace relationships and work-family conflict, contrary to common concerns about these issues. While not definitive, such research suggests that when implemented successfully, remote work is not a barrier to maintaining important organizational outcomes.
Ideas to Apply
- Organizations should experiment (guided by sound practices or experts) with remote-work policy, because working remotely is new to so many organizations, and organizational cultures vary greatly, so one company’s remote-work approach may not generalize across companies in different industries or different sizes, etc.
- Find the optimal balance point between work-from-office and work-from-home for each organization, role, and employee combination, taking into account feasibility and efficiency tradeoffs. Optimize with targets such as trust, equality, and effective collaboration, in addition to individual performance metrics.
- Identify what aspects of remote work are best addressed via organizational remedies and those that are better addressed through employee empowerment. Perhaps technology stipends reduce techno-stress more than providing specific equipment, while manager-focused training in remote facilitation improves team performance more than individual-focused empowerment efforts.
- Given that remote work is accessible to a more educated and affluent segment of the workforce, investment in remote work will have unequal benefits along these same lines. Avoid hyperfocus on remote work and bring more jobs into being remote capable (even if only partially).
- Assess the challenges of remote work in terms of accessibility, performance, company culture, and work-life balance. Ask, listen, and learn from employee experiences before deciding what is important and how to assess it.
- Recognition of individual differences, and creating adaptable approaches to accommodate them, will enhance inclusion (and talent pools) in remote work. Assess the people and talent you may struggle to accommodate, then create more welcoming settings and culture with their needs in mind.
Areas of Research
Equality of Opportunity & Impact
Remote work may be a luxury of sorts, given that the feasibility varies dramatically by stratifications of education (HS 17%, Some College: 29%, Bachelor’s: 58%, Postgrad: 68%) and income (Low: 44%, Middle: 63%, High: 76%), and there are also disparities by race and gender (Pew Research, 2020).
The subset of people able to work from home tend to be more educated, have higher incomes, and work in more technical fields, meaning that our efforts to perfect working this way will benefit mostly those who are already the most fortunate, and that the benefits (and hazards) will also reinforce current inequalities. Because transitions to remote work were more likely to succeed for businesses with high readiness for a digital transformation (Bai et al., 2021) and for individuals with higher pay (Greenstein, 2021), this also indicates worse outcomes for those with fewer resources and options. Going forward, excess focus on optimizing remote work to the exclusion of those unable to take advantage will reinforce inequities, so caution is recommended to ensure that pursuit of these improvements does not exacerbate existing disadvantages. And, levels of interest in and fitness for remote work vary, with some viewing it as ideal and others participating out of necessity or with greater difficulty.
Alternatively, an expansion of access to remote work can offer these benefits to a wider array of people. For example, increases in remote work may mean increased opportunities for neurodiverse workers (Walkowiak, 2021). The normalization of wearing headphones in meetings is emblematic of the benefits of digitalization for neurodiverse employees and candidates. Technologies that mitigate difficulties neurodiverse people face often fit seamlessly and unobtrusively with virtual work. In addition, common neurodiverse performative traits (e.g. detail-oriented, logical thinking, different thinking) have obvious benefits for productivity and innovation in a remote and self-managed business environment. Many common personal challenges are mitigated by the inherent characteristics of remote work. These include social interactions having a decreased role in perceived performance, flexible schedules, and the variety of acceptable synchronous and asynchronous communication formats (e.g. phone, video, email, chat, PM software, groupware), and more control over one’s physical workspace (e.g. noise, lighting, location). However, these may not be available to everyone, particularly if they have disadvantages common to younger and lower-income individuals, such as sharing space or lacking resources for a home office.
Neurodiverse people also face unique and varied challenges. As a result they “create accessible physical and digital workspaces, negotiate accessible communication practices, and reconcile tensions between productivity and wellbeing” (Das et al., 2021). Accommodation of these needs can lead to difficult opposing demands. Those who rely on subtle nonverbal cues may not get them in a video conferencing environment, especially when cameras are off. Conversely, cameras being on causes stress and distraction for others due to being “on stage” (Bailenson, 2021; Fauville et al., 2021; Shockley et al., 2021). With good technology and policies, each person can control their own visibility and view, or raise a digital hand to request acknowledgment, providing adaptable experiences as needed.
To find the appropriate balance of policies, members of groups should arrive at group norms together. This may result in mutually agreeable compromise, such as requesting cameras-on when speaking while normalizing cameras-off for observers. Group norms may be helpful regarding issues such as: cameras (on/off, framing), muting, attentiveness, structure of contributions/speaking, interruptions, disagreements, breaks, eating/drinking, attire, and decision making processes.
A focus on the neurodiverse can serve as a template for improving remote work for everyone (and other minority groups in particular). Talent shortages have been a frequent impetus for the inclusion of neurodiverse workers, driving employers to analyze and improve the suitability of their organization to these individuals through neurodiversity management, leading to the sort of highly personal adaptation that was likely the correct approach all along. The same approach can be applied to more inclusively accommodating everyone, by acknowledging the singularity of the individual. This can be carried out by conducting interviews and research within organizations to uncover problems and potential solutions. Discovering the specific experiences and needs of those interviewed, while running business experiments with the help of research professionals, can provide numbers-driven evidence of what works best to successfully integrate diverse needs.
Self-efficacy with respect to remote work is another important part of providing equal access, and an example of acknowledging individual differences. Self-efficacy is related to performance, satisfaction, and coping with remote work (Raghuram et al., 2003). However self-efficacy also stems from several antecedents that vary across demographics (race, gender, etc.) such as experience and training in remote work, computer anxiety/competence, and knowledge of IT (Adamovic et al., 2021; Staples, Hulland & Higgins, 1999). Some more hesitant to work remotely may also be supported/encouraged by a strong remote-work culture, combined with their self-efficacy. Assessment of remote work self-efficacy can be particularly effective with holistic approaches that encompass emotional, self-care, and social elements of remote work, such as the eWork Self-Efficacy Scale (Tramontano et al., 2021). In development of the assessment, the authors noted a difference by age, just one example of how greater inclusion can result from efforts to improve remote-work success.
Training for successful remote leadership
Managers may not be well prepared to lead remotely (whether they realize it or not), and express limited confidence in their employees to remain motivated and productive in remote work environments (Parker, Knight & Keller, 2020).
Virtual team success with creativity/development tasks may depend heavily on leader effectiveness, so much so that the benefits of team training and global dispersion are significantly limited without effective leadership (Han et al., 2020). Providing an environment of open communication, where employees can freely share ideas and thoughts without judgement (Han et al., 2017), is one example of something that not only unlocks productivity but is arguably an ethical baseline or minimum standard where employees are expected to contribute novel or unformed ideas.
How exactly can organizations train effectively for remote management? Keller and colleagues (2020) made several recommendations for organizations to help managers transition to remote management:
1. Start at the highest level possible. It’s difficult to make changes that aren’t concordant with your boss, who should be demonstrating the best behaviors to mimic down or across an organization.
2. Provide practical and moral support for remote working within the organization. Allocating meaningful time, resources, and messaging signals support and commitment to employees working remotely.
3. Educate managers about the potential benefits of remote working—when it is designed well. To do this managers must know what works, and facilitate the opportunity for employees to realize their potential.
4. Train managers in how to devolve job autonomy, and to check in rather than check up on. Grant autonomy without abandonment, by continuing to provide regular contact and support, empowering rather than controlling.
5. Train managers in how to “manage by results.” By focusing on outputs rather than inputs, and granting flexibility in schedules and workflows, employees find their own rhythm and motivation.
The recommendation to check in rather than check up on virtual team members reflects a more empowering approach. Many leaders may have found transformational leadership strategies effective in person, but this approach has limitations when communication is more distant (Morrison-Smith & Ruiz, 2020). Transformational leaders provide inspiration and lead by example, but this is challenging with remote work and is somewhat incompatible with greater autonomy and reduced communication. Empowering leadership is likely to be a highly effective approach in remote environments, as long as the empowered individuals do not lack situational judgment. Testing and training for situational judgment, as well as overt sharing of decision-making processes related to these judgments, may ensure that risks of empowerment are mitigated. Frequent communication is also important to make sure that autonomous work judged by results does not lead to feelings of isolation (Sahai et al., 2020). Managers of remote workers can balance autonomy with frequent, supportive, and relationship-building communication that empowers without abandonment.
Managing by results does not mean leaving virtual team members to fend for themselves. Including explicit management behaviors (managing roles, processes, expectations) can be a very useful adjunct to high-autonomy empowering management (Morrison-Smith & Ruiz, 2020; Olson & Olson, 2014). Often dismissed, particularly in teams of scientists and similar professions (where scientific rigor and principles are assumed to provide guidance), explicit management of remote workers means assisting with specific barriers to success that employees and teams experience, implementing clear group norms, and other pragmatic assistance needed to work well. This helps not only employees to work through their challenges, but is beneficial to managers who can feel that they know how their team is doing despite not having “line of sight.”
Improving employee self-efficacy regarding remote work is also very important (Staples et al., 1999). Managers can affect this by focusing on antecedents of self-efficacy such as providing training, modeling best practices, and reducing computer anxiety. The opportunity to work successfully at a distance translates to actual results more efficiently when employees and teams believe in their own abilities and feel that they know what to do to succeed.
Work groups that are remote may be referred to with terms such as Virtual Teams, Remote Teams, Geographically-Dispersed Teams, Distributed Teams, or Computer-Supported Cooperative Work Teams. Their distance can be understood as one (or more) of three types: spatial (in different geographic locations), temporal (time zones or work shifts), or perceived distance (due to communicating via technology; Morrison-Smith & Ruiz, 2020).
Collaboration within virtual and diverse (nationally, demographically, functionally) teams can be particularly difficult. Managers of internationally diverse virtual teams overwhelmingly (96%) believe they are adequately prepared to manage such teams, while only 58% of their team members rate their ability as highly (Hacker et al., 2019). Because of this, specific training of managers or specialized leaders are likely to improve outcomes, rather than leaving remote diverse teams at a disadvantage.
It is also important to recognize that positive attitudes toward diversity, while beneficial, cannot supplant competence in this realm. Favoring diversity, or a commitment to be inclusive, are not the same as having the skills necessary to lead internationally diverse teams effectively. For leaders who have the right attitude, they may appear to be the right person for the job, but this assumption can be harmful if it prevents management training of diverse virtual teams or selecting/promoting less prepared individuals.
Particularly critical for managing diverse virtual teams are communication and conflict management skills (Turesky et al., 2020). Managers of these teams report that it is important to establish trust very quickly after teams are formed, and that conflict is typically heightened while resolutions are more difficult to reach. They also report that diverse opinions and strong disagreement are welcome components of collaboration, but that agreement to go along with the team’s ultimate decisions is extremely important. Turesky’s research also led to other recommendations for managers of diverse virtual teams that include the provision of overt recognition and reward for contributions, as well as welcoming new members to the team in a way that expresses team collectivism rather than an increase in work capacity. This type of research elucidates what key skills and training might look like for virtual team leaders, while also serving as an example of qualitative research that uncovers important variables.
Collaboration within diverse virtual teams is particularly challenging because of the importance of communication (including nonverbal) and trust (Jimenez et al., 2017). A laboratory study found that greater virtuality of teams (mainly at high levels) was related to lower levels of coordination, cooperation, and information exchange, but also that trust was a strong mediator of these effects (Peñarroja et al., 2013). Information exchange may be the most difficult of these to attain. While coordination and cooperation are highly linked to trust, information exchange is determined by a combination of direct effects from trust and indirect effects through coordination and collaboration (Choi & Cho, 2019).
Diversity and virtualness can also combine to make collaboration and shared mental models (Schmidtke & Cummings, 2016) understanding of team goals, tasks, tools, environment, relationships) more difficult. Finding common ground and working together for longer periods of time can help mitigate these problems, and in the end improve conditions for diverse workers and teams. This means that long-term stability of team membership may support more successful inclusion efforts by minimizing any inefficiencies associated with diversity, and that frequent movement between, and re-organization of, teams may be detrimental.
Many teams will be a mixture of collocated and dispersed, which can result in the creation of in-groups along these lines (Bos et al. 2004), with local team members having a more positive perception of each other than the virtual team members (Webster & Wong, 2008). Opportunities for social interaction and advancement could be affected by this fragmentation, and lines drawn by location may also inadvertently group employees by job role or individual characteristics. In the same way, withdrawal and disengagement can easily go unnoticed, whether due to resting on one’s reputation or experiencing work struggles that are out-of-sight and out-of-mind to management.
One simple though non-obvious suggestion is an “If Anyone is Remote, We’re All Remote” (Limoncello, 2020) approach that eliminates the difference in participation between collocated and remote participants. However this comes with its own problems, as it may be difficult to implement without unwelcome changes or demands for on-site employees. Additional “fault lines” or subteam fracturing may develop within globally diverse teams, along language and cultural lines, hindering information exchange between groups and again creating divisions that can adversely affect some individuals or groups (Jimenez et al., 2017).
Trust & Loyalty
Trust is an important part of ethical culture, and employees who trust their organization and team are more likely to experience lower stress. Because trust is a necessary precondition for success and comfort at work, enhancing trust is an important component of ethical remote-work management.
Many organizations are hesitant about a shift to fully remote work, due to concerns about a lack of control over work environments, inability to build/maintain company culture, or productivity losses. There are early indications that these concerns are somewhat valid, as lack of connectedness to the organization may explain an increase in employees blowing the whistle on their company for fraudulent activity (Levine, 2021). Honest and ethical organizations may even see this change in loyalty and cohesion as troubling. Less cohesion doesn’t necessarily create whistleblowers, but it’s likely that high levels of cohesion prevent certain individuals with a strong affinity for whistleblowing from flagging misbehavior (Alleyne et al., 2019). It may be the case that, in remote work settings, cohesion only weakens enough to inhibit participation in and tolerance of unethical behaviors, but not enough to endanger ordinary loyalty to organizations. And perhaps most critically, these problems can be prevented by ensuring that physical isolation isn’t isolating psychologically (Wang et al., 2020).
Wang and Albert suggested common remedies, such as increasing opportunities for interaction between remote and collocated employees (formally and informally, across hierarchies) and implementing richer and more effective collaboration systems. The authors also make recommendations such as attempting to convert continuance commitment (intention to remain) into normative (sense of obligation) and affective (feeling positive emotions toward the job) commitment, and reducing the effects of assumptions and visibility regarding remote employees inside the organization. These improvements would reduce the impact of being remote, and consequently the risks of malicious whistleblowing.
While disgruntled or less-satisfied employees are a source of whistleblowing, it is more likely to come from a committed and high-performing employee concerned with avoiding scandal, reputational damage, or legal trouble (Nicholls et al., 2021; Zeng et al., 2020). So, in the end, companies would do best if they work toward satisfied employees, while self-monitoring and promoting internal reporting and upward dissent.
In other words, showing trust improves outcomes when paired with the proper environment for transitioning to self-directed and results-oriented work. It may be beneficial to relinquish even more control in favor of flexibility, generating more trust. Workers able to work from anywhere may provide more effort and output (Choudhury, 2021). When free to choose location, employees essentially personalize their chosen workplace to their work style, income level, and preferences, while also experiencing gratitude for the choices granted to them. They may even choose to move away from regions with stressors such as high rent, social tensions, or an incompatible culture, alleviating inequalities.
Generally, trust in virtual teams can be just as high as in local teams, but often requires more time to get there (Breuer et al., 2020). Team member availability may be uniquely predictive of trust in virtual teams, as might be expected from the lack of physical presence (a source of consistent/predictable availability) in virtual contexts. Virtual trust (and fairness) can be difficult without the ability to observe others completing their work, which may lead to reliance on assumptions and biases (Morrison-Smith & Ruiz, 2020).
For example, when individuals demonstrate stereotype-inconsistent behavior, separating themselves from assumptions, this may be harder to see virtually (Dumitru, 2021; Santucci, 2021). Initial impressions (including stereotyping) may set the initial beliefs about others, and require significant social or technical cues to change (Wang & Zhang, 2019). Diligence, leadership skills, and adaptability are examples of qualities that may be easier to witness in person. Increasing the digital presence of workers (e.g. individual profiles with a photo, skills, and experiences, quality virtual spaces) may be helpful, as is communication that is documented and visible through email practices (copying more recipients) or groupware that displays feedback and activity for others to see (Breuer et al., 2016).
Efforts can also be made to encourage “swift trust,” a type of trust that forms very quickly but can also be fragile, in newly formed virtual teams (Belling, 2021; Ferrazzi, 2012). This type of trust is more difficult to achieve remotely, probably because informal introductions, chatting, and body language are less prominent. Simple strategies like encouraging informal (non-work) interactions can allow trust to develop naturally and quickly, while also laying the groundwork for enduring interpersonal relationships among team members (Ford et al., 2017). Swift trust happens when there is an exchange of information, consistent behavior, and the assumption of both shared purpose and positive intentions.
Ensuring that there is adequate sharing and discussion of goals, for example, can help to make swift trust more likely. It may also be beneficial to address any apparent conflicts of interest, or clarify ambiguity about roles and accomplishments. Taking time to share favorite projects or best practices are recommended when possible. Swift trust may lead to enduring trust, but is not a replacement for systemic workplace structures and culture regarding remote work. Trust may be higher when there are more positive ratings of members (integrity, ability, goal congruence), well-designed and properly functioning systems, a culture of autonomy, and complex team tasks (Choi & Cho, 2019).
Stress & Techno-Stress
An ethical organization should make efforts to reduce both stress and technostress (from pervasive use of information and communication technologies in modern society; La Torre et al., 2019). Both forms of stress are strongly linked to an employee’s job, home life, and mental health.
Stress can result from increased workloads or work that extends beyond the work day because the digitally-connected remote employee is never truly away from work. Higher workloads, especially paired with monitoring, can cause workers to feel that the benefits of remote work (no commute or strict working hours) are claimed by the employer at the expense of the employee (Wang et al., 2021). Feeling like one “lives at work” rather than working from home is common, as there is no physical separation between work and home, such that the psychological separation between the two also fades. Without the end of the workday as a marker of when work should be completed, some may not even realize they are working excessively.
Even more so, people working from home may work harder or longer due to increases in intrinsic motivation (Rupietta & Beckmann, 2018). This intrinsic motivation is a great driver of the sort of autonomous working that is the idealized outcome of remote work. But it may also be a risk when employees, unobserved and highly driven, self-impose overworking expectations. In the short term this causes stress and work-life imbalance, and in the long term may lead to decreased outputs due to burnout and turnover intentions, even when the employer and leadership did not push the employee to work too much.
Because remote work offers both risks of excessive workload or hours and the potential for integrating more health-related and self-care behavior into the workday, an organization may be able to improve well-being by providing health-oriented leadership (Efimov et al., 2021). These are the “behaviors that aim to promote physical and mental health” (Klebe et al., 2021) through communication, modeling, working conditions, and the nature of work tasks. This includes self-leadership where appropriate such as managing time, physical activity, and boundaries. During the Covid-19 crisis Klebe et al. observed (in roles of varying virtuality) that health-oriented leadership was related to improved performance, despite concerns that it could have the opposite effect due to less goal orientation.
With employees more independent and physically separate, investing in development of their intrinsic skills may be the most effective path to greater stress tolerance. Increasing employee’s abilities related to mindfulness is an example of this that has clear benefits, especially for remote workers. Mindfulness can aid in focusing and being on task more completely, assist in successfully disengaging when appropriate, and mitigate techno-stressors like screen fatigue (Toniolo-Barrios & Pitt, 2021). Interacting remotely via screens is mentally fatiguing for the reason that we exert cognitive effort to manage the unnatural social interactions and monitor our self-image (Ramachandran, 2021), while mindfulness can make this process less effortful or aid in recovery from it.
Some leader behaviors can also exacerbate technostress from remote working. For example, high-authoritarian leadership can exacerbate workaholism and create greater stress levels than either alone, while low-authoritarian leadership can help mitigate it (Spagnoli et al., 2020). This ties into the importance of recognizing individual differences, which has been a central theme of this research page. Identifying who is prone to overwork is a precursor to knowing how best to manage them: whether strict demands or expectations are appropriate or will have detrimental effects.
Leaders can also help avoid stress by adapting strategy based on individual characteristics of employees. For example, those with lower emotional stability will experience more stress when given high autonomy (Perry et al., 2018). This means that the typical advice to grant more autonomy is not always appropriate for every person. Low emotional stability typically means higher need for relatedness (social connections and interaction) as well as clarity and reassurance. Quality communication, management, and interactions with peers can ensure that those with lower emotional stability do not translate self-determination into uncertainty about expectations or have relatedness needs going unmet.
Technostress may have differential impacts based on personalities, another example of unequal impacts like those previously mentioned. For example, proactive personalities appear to help employees maintain productivity in the presence of technostress (Tiwari, 2020). Since personalities are mostly fixed, this may mean that leaving them to cope on their own, even with good practices like results-oriented management, will affect some individuals more than others. Proactive personality may also be a suitable selection criterion for certain job roles, given that it does not appear to vary much between demographic subgroups (Spitzmuller et al., 2015). Or yet another option would be to provide proactive company solutions such as job crafting to all employees, without relying on proactive personalities to initiate such behavior (Li et al., 2020). This single example demonstrates a complex interaction of personality and organizational factors, but most importantly serves as a reminder that the same complexity exists in many facets of remote-work environments.
Another large source of techno-stress is the pursuit of extrinsic motivation and control by way of measuring productivity in various ways. However, this extrinsic way of motivation is often less ethical than cultivating intrinsic motivation, as the same amount of effort can be more comfortable when working toward intrinsic goals. In general, the use of surveillance and monitoring, except where truly necessary or with significant employee control over data, can present ethical challenges and have potential benefits and legitimate use cases. For more on this topic, see our research page on surveillance. More objective measures of effort and work quality may be needed, especially given that we’ve said some groups are vulnerable to stereotyping and bias. However, this still does not justify the use of surveillance or tracking when less stressful and more ethical options exist.
Awareness-supporting technology can provide objective information on employee inputs. For example, using keystroke-counting software can increase contributions of team members, but only in those groups that were already lower performing (Glikson et al., 2019). While effective, it is also intrusive and stressful, and likely circumvents the root causes of the problems with lower-performing teams that would be better addressed through selection, management, and training. The introduction of keystroke monitoring may simultaneously accelerate both the work outputs of the less-engaged team member and that individual’s intent to leave the company (to escape the monitoring), creating a turnover problem in place of a performance issue.
Working from home and the technology to make it a reality can create additional stresses of mixing work and home life, increasing the possibility that non-work factors interrupt work (Navarro & Helms, 2020), or the reverse (Andrade & Petiz Lousã, 2021). Ethical remote work culture and policies support employees to craft an environment in which they can succeed despite these obstacles. Certain individuals can also be at a disadvantage due to having less suitable homes in which they work, larger families, or similar factors. People may work more effectively from home when this also results in reduced communication with co-workers (more time on task), when they have a suitable space in which to work, and when they can take advantage of the opportunity to take care of family members (Nakrošienė et al., 2019).
It may not be just working from home, but more so when working from home extends into excessive workload, after-hours working, and low autonomy, when work-family conflict results (Schall, 2019). For dual-earner families working from home with young children, there can be additional risks to the well-being of females who become the spouse that “does it all,” while more egalitarian arrangements like alternating days for responsibilities lead to better well-being (Shockley et al., 2021). Workplaces cannot dictate these arrangements, but could present the research and ramifications of different work-from-home options.
Recent events have made it clear that remote work is an important part of the future for jobs where it is feasible. Thinking of this transition as one of location and technology is not enough, and specific efforts will be needed to ensure the success and ethicality of remote-work arrangements. Due to the complexity individual differences, job roles, and technology introduce, adapting to remote work will require significant change and experimentation. Organizations making few changes and investing little in research/experimentation are likely to fall behind those that invest more effort, and that effort alone will have highly variable impact (including harm) unless those skilled in business and psychology manage it. Remote work creates opportunities to advance both working conditions and inclusion, and can be done in a way that maintains a strong company culture. However, realizing these benefits may require a lot of focused effort and expertise.
Suggestions for Future Research
- Examine the effect of more salient antecedents of an ethical culture in virtual interactions, such as awareness of the goals, competencies, and integrity of team members.
- Investigate predictors of remote-work success within populations that report less affinity and propensity toward remote work, instead of in aggregate with those more amenable and/or predisposed.
- Discover how to adapt efforts surrounding ethical culture and ESG such that they are effective in remote context.
- Experimentation within organizations (ideally randomly controlled), guided by relevant theory and valid interventions, to determine the relative strength of available solutions.
- Exploratory research aimed at understanding remote workers’ psychological experiences through ethnographic, phenomenological, and qualitative methods.
- Group-level comparisons of remote-work strategies (leadership, systems, technology) to ensure equal benefits for a diverse workforce.
- Case studies on disadvantaged groups to identify strategies to more successfully include them in remote work, similar to those already conducted regarding neurodiverse individuals.
- Compare different approaches to management of diverse virtual teams, to determine what training or education programs are most effective.
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