Designing Remote work Radio

The remote work radio project was the culmination of years of work with the GetaMoveon Network+ and the Ework research group, based on some initial work on soundscapes and work. It followed various stages of user research to develop a useful and usable tool to support break-taking for people working remotely and demonstrates a range of user research methods.

This began with the planning, designing and developing eWorklife site which aimed to both share the findings of our group work-life balance research and explore the needs of new remote workers at the start of the pandemic. I helped develop the web-based dissemination of a number of research-backed strategies and tools to support them while working remotely. A key part of this was a survey tool I developed in Qualtrics which collected a combination of quantitative and qualitative responses about how people were finding the transition to remote work and linked them to personalised advice which would best help address these problems.

The eWorklife personalised recommendations tool

This tool was distributed across a number of social media platforms and specific mailing lists leading to the recruitment 1500 survey responses. From our initial recruitment, we gathered responses from 350 participants of which 25 were recruited for follow-up interview studies to explore in more depth the barriers and opportunities for technology to support their work.

Timeline for the initial deployment of the Eworklife research probe

This in combination with my work on how people use music while working formed the initial basis of Remote work Radios requirements. Some initial research analysing 142 people’s worktime playlists using the Spotify Audio Analysis Web API and a qualitative survey from workers across a range 31 of countries including the UK, Portugal, Poland and Mexico.

The audio features of workers’ playlists

This data underwent both qualitative analysis and quantitative analysis. Through a series of thematic analyse of both our survey and interview data we identified a number of aspects of how people adopted technology during the pandemic, some of the technologies they used and how their activity levels changed while working remotely. A quantitative analysis of workers’ playlist music showed us how different kinds of music are used to support different kinds of work (higher energy music blocks internal distractions, i.e., boredom, while low energy music is used to block external distractions, i.e., interruptions). This led to the first initial pilot of Remote work Radio which was a weeklong diary study in which JQBX was used to have changing music across the workday to support break taking.

The schedule for the original remote work radio pilot: The energise full day playlist and the focus full day playlist

Working with the design and development team at Passio, the findings from this initial research was used to develop user journeys, personas and stories collaborating with the multidisciplinary team. Following an agile development cycle, after these initial designs, we began planning and developing initial useability testing with version 1 of the application. We designed a study in which participants work through an initial task list using the application for one day with a focus on identifying usability issues and design flaws.

The remote work radio design for “Focus Sessions” and “Break time sessions”

After these initial usability issues were addressed a four-week deployment study was planned. A further 30 participants were recruited (with 28 completing the full study). Both their day-to-day usage was monitored alongside a weekly diary survey, with a mixture of open-ended and Likert scale questions. After the four weeks, a final evaluation survey was sent to participants to reflect on their experience. From this data, we identified a number of new features for the application as well as some key insights into how people use such technology. The results of this will be reported in an upcoming academic paper detailing the design and use of Remote work radio, but an updated version of the application can be found at https://radio.eworkresearch.org/

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