Crisis Readiness: Revisiting the Distance Framework During the COVID-19 Pandemic
While CSCW researchers have studied collaboration across distance for more than two decades, the scale and context of geographically distributed work during the pandemic is unprecedented. Working from home as the default setting during the COVID-19 pandemic provides a unique opportunity for CSCW research to explore and develop new understandings of what it entails to engage in distributed collaborative work during a global crisis. In this paper, we revisit the distance framework, originally developed by Olson and Olson in 2000, through empirical data collected during the critical moments where COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and the world shut down: namely March 2020. We use the data to interrogate the distance framework and to extend it with a new dimension - Crisis Readiness. Crisis Readiness stipulates that for organizations to successfully respond to crises, four factors are required: 1) the ability to respond fast with dramatic measures; 2) the ability to supply adequate infrastructure to their employees; 3) the ability to adapt work practice responding to new work and life conditions; and 4) the ability to handle multiple and diverse interruptions both at the individual and organizational levels. Our contribution to CSCW research is a revised distance framework, which demonstrates that for geographically distributed work to be successful during a global crisis, cooperating actors need to achieve Common Ground, engage in different types of coupled work, be ready for collaboration and collaboration technology – and lastly, work in an organization which demonstrates Crisis Readiness.