After the pandemic, it is urgently important to explore the special challenges which arise with hybrid work. Through cross-case analyses of published papers, we propose collocated distance as a design challenge uniquely relevant for hybrid cooperative technologies. We identify and conceptualize collocated distance as a design challenge that arises in hybrid work situations, where at least three actors are mutually dependent in their work while being located within fewer contexts than the number of actors. Collocated distance reminds us that when designing hybrid technologies, we must not only focus on creating technologies that support the work across geographical locations but equally pay attention to the relations and possible disconnections which exist locally between collocated actors. When designing cooperative technologies supporting distributed work, often focus is on the boundaries between geographical contexts – however, in hybrid work, we must not forget to pay attention to the collocated boundaries within the same context.
Organizations are becoming increasingly distributed and many need to collaborate synchronously over great geographical distances. Despite a rich body of literature on spatially-distanced meetings, gaps remain in our understanding of temporally-distanced meetings. Here, we characterize cross time zone collaborations by analyzing 20 million meetings scheduled at a multinational corporation, Microsoft, supported by a survey on how 130 employees perceive their scheduling needs. We find that cross time zone meetings are closely associated with scheduling patterns around early morning and late evening hours, which are challenging and discordant with employees’ stated temporal preferences. Additionally, the burdens of meeting across time boundaries are asymmetrically distributed among workers at different levels of the organization and different geolocations. Nonetheless, we further observe evidence that cross time zone attendees are organizationally distant and diverse, suggesting that addressing these challenges by limiting meetings would disafford employees the opportunities to connect. We conclude by sharing opportunities for facilitating cross time zone meetings that foster healthier global collaborations.
Since 2020, worldwide COVID-19-related lockdowns have led to a rapid increase of remote collaboration, particularly in the domain of knowledge work. This has undoubtedly brought challenges (e.g., work-life boundary management, social isolation), but also opportunities. Practices that have proven successful (e.g., through increased task performance, efficiency or satisfaction) are worth retaining in future. In this qualitative empirical study, we analyzed four teams' (14 participants in total) mandatory remote collaboration over a period of several days to several months during a nationally imposed lockdown. We report results derived from questionnaires, logbooks, group interviews, and meeting recordings. We identify possible factors influencing quality of task outcome as well as subjective aspects like satisfaction, motivation, and team atmosphere. As a basis for our conclusions, we provide a scheme for categorizing effects of remote collaboration based on an exhaustive literature review on pandemic-induced mandatory remote work and collaboration.
Initiating conversations with new people at work is often intimidating because of uncertainty about their interests. People worry others may reject their attempts to initiate conversation or that others may not enjoy the conversation. We introduce a new system, Nooks, built on Slack, that reduces fear of social evaluation by enabling individuals to initiate any conversation as a nook—a conversation room that identifies its topic, but not its creator. Automatically convening others interested in the nook, Nooks further reduces fears of social evaluation by guaranteeing individuals in advance that others they are about to interact with are interested in the conversation. In a multi-month deployment with participants in a summer research program, Nooks provided participants with non-threatening and inclusive interaction opportunities, and ambient awareness, leading to new interactions online and offline. Our results demonstrate how intentionally designed social spaces can reduce fears of social evaluation and catalyze new workplace connections.
Many people gather online and form teams with strangers to collaborate on tasks. However, while intrateam trust and cohesion are critical for team performance, such characteristics take time to establish and are harder to build up through computer-mediated communication. Building on prior research that has shown that enhancing familiarity between members can help, we hypothesized that the use of a chatbot to support the familiarization of ad hoc teammates can help their collaboration. As such, we designed IntroBot, a chatbot that builds on an online discussion facilitator framework and leverages the social media data of users to assist their familiarization process. Through a between-subjects study (N=60), we found that participants who used IntroBot reported higher levels of trust, cohesion, and interaction quality, as well as generated more ideas in a collaborative brainstorming task. We discuss insights gained from our study, and present opportunities for the future of chatbot-assisted collaboration.
Collaborative writing is prevalent, yet is rife with issues of discomfort and miscommunication among others despite access to limitless text. Editing, one key activity in collaborative writing, is prone to such issues, and providing rationales could be a promising solution. To understand the efficacy of rationales in this context, we conducted an online experiment pairing 40 participants to co-write two essays on Google Docs—one without rationales (control) and another with rationales (treatment)—followed by post-experiment surveys (N=40) and interviews (N=11) with participants who received edits with and without rationales. Despite no significant differences between conditions in survey results, interviews revealed that most people preferred collaborating with those who provided rationales and perceived them more favorably. All interviewees deemed rationales important in collaborative writing and felt the pros outweighed the cons. We contribute design recommendations with illustrative examples for effective collaborative writing.