Development of modern societies is determined by digitalization. Industry 4.0, uberisation, new media, smart factories, IoT, 3D-printing, cyber-physical systems, neural networks, cloud computing and AI led to a breakdown of the pre-digital business algorithms and models. Digitalization is profoundly changing labor landscape and results in rethinking of the work concept itself. The pandemic contributed to further deepening and acceleration of the employment digital transformation, which resulted in unforeseen deformations in labor institutions and employment patterns. This entails new unexplored risks, reduces labor market’s manageability and controllability, requires urgent theoretical understanding, search for methodological measurement tools and empirical assessment.
Although digital labor practices existed before the COVID-19 outbreak, most countries were not sufficiently prepared for the surge in online employment caused by the pandemic. There are several reasons for this: lack of specific online work guidelines in most organizations, inability of many online platforms to be used in the work environment, the need to adjust working processes to online features, imperfect organizational mechanisms for managing remote working processes, insufficient digital literacy of employees and employers, limited workers’ access to digital infrastructure etc. For many companies and workers remote work became a challenge and an improvisation as they had not had any similar experience before.
Since labor market is one of the key institutions in a modern society, it is extremely important to carry out an urgent reflection of its ongoing changes. Sociology has a unique set of tools that allow receiving the population’s feedback through opinion polls, which is quite valuable for operational harmonizing labor and employment policies with people’s expectations. It will help develop adequate and reliable policy responses for labor markets, which will best meet the actual needs of societies, organizations and individuals.
Our research project “Social aspects of labor and employment transformation in the digital age” is aimed to provide such advisory support for decision makers. It is being realized in 2021–2022 in the Polish Institute of Advanced studies PAN and based on the author’s original methodology. Our research goals include studying of the workers’ labor practices and strategies of adapting to the massive shift to remote work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, constructing of the socio-economic profiles of workers involved in remote work, evaluating perspectives of the COVID-19’s long-term impact on employment and framing best-practice policy recommendations to optimize labor, employment and social protection policies based on the population’s feedback.
To gather the empirical data 10 online workers in Poland with different job profiles, family structure and personal characteristics will be interviewed during the spring-summer 2022.
The in-depth interviews will be based on the empirical indicators, incl.:
‒ skills and access: digital skills, technical access to remote work opportunities, understanding of cyber risks and skills to prevent them, online work experience prior to the COVID-19 outbreak;
‒ organization of work: work regime and schedule, time and intensity, working conditions (workplace, adaptability of home environment to work), work management and autonomy, patterns and modality of teamwork, communication with coworkers and supervisors, salaries (pay cuts?);
‒ psychological mediators of work: satisfaction with work, work motivation, efficiency self-evaluation, feeling of personal performance, ability to planning and self-organization, work-life balance (integration/separation/blurring of work and family roles), physical and psychological health (stress, anxiety, feelings of isolation / support, risk of losing a job, organization commitment.