The start of the twenty-first century marked the beginning of a new industrial revolution. Characteristics of the revolution included rapid advancement of technology and data sharing, IoT (Internet of Things), digital transformation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and blurred boundaries between the physical and virtual world. The introduction of these elements had flow-on effects on how and where work is performed.
The advances and expansion of information and communication technologies and the accessibility to “any time, anywhere” work models have enabled employees to carry out work activities at remote and flexible locations. Perhaps most notably, flexible, remote and virtual work from home have become widely accepted and, at times, vital to maintaining and fostering organisational success. This trend, further fuelled by Covid-19, appears to be here to stay, hence leading to the question of how does it influence employee well-being?
Due to remote working, employees working from home are not commuting, which is excellent for the environment and a host of other reasons. However, corridors, watercooler moments, or spontaneous moments of respite like waiting for a lift, sitting at a red light, or waiting for public transport are all gone. These informal micro-moments vital in everyday life are being replaced with a home office. Homes have become workspaces, meeting rooms, classrooms, gyms, as well as places of rest.
From my perspective, the power of a community lies in the learning network that can be found in a community. It is imperative to tap in to this community – whether professional, academic or personal – to reflect on how we can benefit from, and continue to benefit this community in response.
- Research or work skills
I have learned so much from participating in online chats, webinars, blogs, learning sessions, and catching up with friends and colleagues afterwards to discuss and reflect.
- Exchange of ideas
Online learning networks are a perfect playground to test out ideas, and exchange ideas to see in which way your story can be best told.
- Learning about your field
I really enjoy reading journal articles relating to design and wellbeing. There are times that some of this work is not related directly to my research at all, but it is interesting to hear more about the broader field.
At the same time, I find that the best way for ideas, thoughts or musings that I either read about or fabricate, is to share them with others. So, this idea sharing, putting thoughts into words and saying them out loud, or even simplifying the research topic into a digestable sentense, often helps me realise what it is that I’m trying to say!
- Learning about someone else’s field
I have learned so much about engineering, medicine, computer science, marketing and human resources by engaging with peers. And while this isn’t related at all with my research, I have learned so much about theoretical frameworks which I would never have come across otherwise.
It is similarly great to connect with like-minded people, regardless of their discipline. Doing so can provide a greater understanding of how other people respond to similar experiences or feelings that the current isolated situation is forcing us to experience.
These communities must be explored and enhanced within remote working or virtual models to encourage well-being. While traditional communities have changed, the importance of a community for reflection, continual learning and psychological respite is critical as we continue into the next industrial revolution.