The SML Survey allows us to score occupations and sectors in India for their amenability to remote work and need for human proximity during task execution.

Remote Work Index

We estimate an occupational index for feasibility of remote work (RWI) using seven questions that capture the occupational need for physical presence on the job, the data-intensive nature of the job, and the need to explain decisions during job execution.Β Responses are recorded on a five-point scale that reflects increasing feasibility of remote work.

The π‘…π‘ŠπΌπ‘œ for occupation o is estimated as follows:

where π‘†π‘π‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘’π‘ž,π‘œ is the score on evaluative question q for occupation o.

Need for Human Proximity Index

The index for need for human proximity (NHP) is estimated using two survey questions that assess whether it is important that the underlying task outputs are perceived to come from a human and whether task execution requires detailed, wide-ranging or conversational interactions with a human.Β Responses are again recorded on a five-point scale that reflects increasing need for human proximity in task execution.

The π»π‘ƒπΌπ‘œ for occupation o is estimated as follows:

where π‘†π‘π‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘’π‘ž,π‘œ is the score on evaluative question q for occupation o.

Proximity Index

{Dark = High Proximity}
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Managing the work interruptions due to the impact of COVID 19

Productivity & Isolation in Remote Work

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about sweeping changes to the nature of work across the world. Social distancing, the key public policy imperative underlying governmental and organizational responses to the pandemic, has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of organizations that have mandated their employees to telecommute or β€œwork from home” (Baruch, 2001; Belanger & Collins, 1998; Gajendran & Harrison, 2007). In this study, we focus on how two important indicators of remote work efficacy - employee productivity and isolation - vary across jobs that differ in NHP and, therefore, exposure to social distancing policies.

We estimate the effect of job NHP on the two indicators using the given specifications:

where π‘ƒπ‘Ÿπ‘œπ‘‘π‘’π‘π‘‘π‘–π‘£π‘–π‘‘π‘¦π‘–,π‘œ represents relative productivity of employee i in organization o when working remotely compared to when working from a central location, π‘ƒπ‘’π‘Ÿπ‘π‘’π‘–π‘£π‘’π‘‘_πΌπ‘ π‘œπ‘™π‘Žπ‘‘π‘–π‘œπ‘›π‘–,π‘œ represents feelings of isolation perceived by worker i in organization o when working remotely compared to when working from a central location, 𝑁𝐻𝑃𝑖𝑗 is the mean NHP for sector j in which worker i is employed, 𝑋𝑖 is a vector of employee characteristics (intensity of use of videoconferencing tools, gender, age, hierarchical level in the firm, prior frequency of remote work), and π‘‹π‘œ is a vector of firm characteristics (size, ownership type, and clarity in remote work procedures) that correlate with the two work outcomes of the employee.

Our findings supported the prediction that higher job NHP result in lower productivity and higher isolation while working remotely: Job NHP had a negative effect on productivity and a positive effect on isolation.Β 

These findings inform our understanding of the effects that remote work in general and, in particular, that necessitated by COVID-19 has had on employees, why these effects seem to differ significantly across employees.

Our research highlights the need for organizations to optimally design workplace processes and structures to minimize communication and coordination challenges resulting from remote work that account for documented adverse work outcomes for employees in high NHP jobs.

We described the impact of social distancing measures, which were adopted to curb the spread of COVID-19, on two important indicators of remote work efficacy - employee productivity and isolation.

We provide a methodology to construct an index of occupational vulnerability to the COVID-19 induced lockdown. It is based on two features, amenability to remote work and human proximity requirement of occupations. Our indices suggest a large heterogeneity across occupations and sectors in terms of vulnerability to social distancing measures. Using the Need for Human Proximity (NHP) index, our findings report that jobs with high NHP resulted in employees being less productive and highly isolated when compared to jobs with lower NHP.

These findings inform our understanding of the effects of remote work - in general, and while necessitated by COVID-19 - on employees, and the heterogeneity of these effects across employees. We expect our work to generate several important implications for organizational and governmental policy and make important theoretical and methodological contributions to prior research on remote work.

Featured Press

Work-from-Home in the time of COVID-19

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the subsequent work-from-home imperatives and lockdowns have led to significant economic disruptions around the world.
Β 

South India least prone to disruption due to lockdown, says ISB study

The study was conducted to understand the situation and the new research found out how this lockdown affects occupations, industries and the different districts of India.

South India has high work from home potential: Study

A research has revealed that southern states in the country have high potential with respect to work from home (WFH) due to coronavirus lockdown.Β 

Covid19 lockdown: South India facing least disruption to work, says ISB study

States entire peninsular South India found to have high work-from-home potential

Related Research

When does work-from-home work?

Abhishek Bhatia, Deepa Mani, Shekhar Tomar
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The Impact of Job Need for Human Proximity and Communication Technologies on Remote Work Efficacy

Nikhil Madan, Deepa Mani, Madan Pilutla
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The AI Index is an initiative that focuses on monitoring the AI readiness and adoption patterns in India. This initiative is a work-in-progress and will be constantly evolving as we expand our data-sets and delve deeper into the world of AI.