Corona Virus Is Changing How We Work

The corona virus pandemic has accelerated digitization processes in many organizations. Video conferences and cloud-based file storage are now the standard for working from home. “Covid-19 will affect our work – the way we work, our employment status, and our work cultures – to a huge degree and possibly for the long term,” says cultural studies expert Dr. Sarah May from the University of Freiburg. May and several colleagues have written about how certain people actually work in the digital world. The journal issue “Digitale Arbeitskulturen” (Digital Work Cultures), which is accessible online for free, consists of ten studies on what role workers play in the changing world of work. The studies are based on interviews, observations, and the participation of the researchers themselves. The authors also discuss how digitization is promoted and shaped by work, as well as how it is avoided.

“The digital world is changing how we work. But at the same time, work is changing the digital world,” May says. She adds that we should not simply sit back and let it wash over us; rather, we should recognize that digitization processes do not happen in a vacuum. “You shouldn’t forget what opportunities are available and what a powerful role every working person has,” she says. May and her colleagues show, for example, how online platforms offer many Indian crowd workers the opportunity to find project work that is better paid than what is available to them in their immediate environment.

They also studied women who worked as journalists and/or in public relations before having children and who are now using the Internet to work as professional lifestyle bloggers who blog about such content as important family events like a child starting school, pregnancy, or birth.

The authors also discovered which groups of workers are putting up resistance to digitization, such as bike couriers, who deliberately avoid digitally controlled work processes by not following suggested bike routes. “We want to focus on the power of social actors to affect and shape their work environment,” says May.

The publication is also intended for other researchers, which is why the authors propose methods for researching transformations in the digital world of work in the future.

Publication:

Eckhardt, D., May, S., Röthl, M., & Tischberger, R. (2020). Digitale Arbeitskulturen. Rahmungen, Effekte, Herausforderungen. Berliner Blätter, 82. DOI: 10.18452/22135

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