Sixth months ago, most new employees faced the usual worries of starting a new job: will I work well with the team, will I be able to handle the tasks I am given, will I be interested in the problems I have to solve? However, as the COVID-19 pandemic caused many workers to begin working from home, they found themselves with many new things to worry about. How do we work remotely as a team, how do I communicate with others when I need help, how do I complete my job from home, and how do I keep a work-life balance while not overwhelming myself? Early-career computing professionals were particularly affected by these new circumstances. Although computing careers tend to be very amenable to remote work, early-career workers face challenges in interacting with and growing their professional network, balancing home and work life, and many other areas.
Although the COVID-19 crisis has forced many to work remotely to support public health efforts, many companies are making plans to continue remote work indefinitely, even after the crisis has passed. This change to how we work has potential benefits for both employees and their employers. Using the lessons learned from those working remotely during COVID-19, we hope to ensure that future remote work is a positive experience for everyone. Given the unknown effects of remote work on early-career computing professionals, we seek to answer the following questions:
- What are the unique challenges associated with remote work for early-career computing professionals (both practitioners and academics)?
- What are some best practices for overcoming these challenges?
- How can these findings be used to inform policies and/or practices that promote the long-term success of early-career computing professionals?
We will first address these questions through an online survey that asks early-career computing professionals about their experiences with many aspects of remote work, such as productivity, mental health, well-being, privacy, security, usability, accessibility, diversity, and inclusivity. By gathering feedback from early-career professionals on these topics, how they have been affected, and what they have felt has worked best for them, we will develop a list of targeted recommendations for remote work of early-career practitioners and academics.
Given that this time period has thrown workers of all levels into remote work, we expect that many of these recommendations will apply to remote work in general. While the COVID-19 crisis will eventually pass and people may have the option to return to work, teams may switch to being more remote-friendly or have a better understanding of the issues their regularly remote co-workers struggle with. The recommendations for new professionals can be generalized into recommendations for all those working remotely.
In addition, our team will work with the ACM Technology Policy Council to inform the development of policy recommendations in support of computing professionals’ wellbeing in the future. These recommendations may also lead to initiatives for mentorship to support early-career computing professionals. Through this collaboration, FCA can share their insights with the computing field across the globe.
COVID-19 has thrown everyone for a loop, especially early-computing professionals who have not worked remotely before and haven’t developed their professional support networks. Learning from their experiences can help us to understand the issues of those working remotely and protect their well-being, privacy, and security. The suggestions developed from the feedback can then be used to address the issues in all remote workers, early-career or not. The goal is to help those across all of the fields of computing, in all aspects of their life.
ACM Future of Computing Academy