Applying Behavioral Science to Improve Remote Working

Awarded Scholars:
Dan Ariely, Duke University
Ashley Whillans, Harvard University
Project Date:
Mar 2021
Award Amount:
$117,604

The threat of COVID-19 increased the health risks of entering some workplaces, leading many employers to offer and many workers to take up remote work options. While the extent of remote work has significantly increased, there is considerable variation across industries, with remote work more common in industries with better educated and better paid workers and with younger people. Importantly, some employers expect that remote work will remain an option after the COVID-19 crisis ends. However, successful remote work is dependent on at-home infrastructure, like a reliable internet connection and a dedicated workspace, and may have differential effects on worker wellbeing. Behavioral economist Dan Ariely and social psychologist Ashley Whillans will test behavioral science interventions that have been successful in other contexts (such as rituals, social accountability, routine-setting, and salient nudges) to remote working, in order to create a more positive and rewarding remote work experience. They have partnered with the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority, which has 2,000 employees working remotely, and with the Los Angeles County government, which has 15,000 remote workers, to test an intervention that presents and delivers light touch working from home scaffolding nudges to support remote workers.

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