Looking at the data of over 60 million tweets, Fiona Carroll, a Senior Lecturer in Computing and Information Systems; Mohamed Mostafa, a Senior Lecturer in Data Science and Simon Thorne, a Senior Lecturer in Computing and Information Systems from Cardiff Metropolitan University, have shared their views on the matter.
Sputnik: Can you tell us more about the research and the findings discovered by your team?
Fiona Carroll: The idea for this research came from a tweet that I posted a few weeks back and it was really reflecting on my own work from home practice. At Cardiff Metropolitan University, I teach professional and ethical issues in IT and we've had quite a lot of debates around the ethics of technology and particularly around robotics and how there's a lot of worry about robots taking over jobs and then in the midst of COVID-19; we saw this kind of wave of change where suddenly technology was allowing us to keep our jobs. So having found myself working at home and in the midst of quite a lot of work I'd recently hooked up with Simon and Mo, and we were being quite productive. The research documented in this particular article is just one of many projects that we're doing at. We're very much about the design and the development of technology for human wellbeing. We found that the combination of those two, three areas have allowed us to push the design of technology for as I said human wellbeing. Particularly around this article, we're finding that technology has really become a key and core player in our existence but needs to work with humans and I think that's the key and that's really the core of our work in the sense that the research is very much cutting edge in three strong areas but when we're brought together it's even stronger.
Sputnik: It's a very interesting study and actually looking at some of details, you looked at over 60 million tweets, is that right, to actually come up with the findings?
Fiona Carroll: Yes, that's right and I know Mo can fill you in with more detail on the data.
Sputnik: Ok Mohamed. What does data from social media and third-party organisations tell us about people's attitudes towards remote working?
Mohamed Mostafa: Social networks rapidly increased, obviously and because we are using it in daily basis and it's not part of like an experiment setting people can express their feelings and can talk freely in social networks and this actually gives you an accurate idea of how people really feel - so the data comes from social networks. Obviously, there's some noise to the data where we can't pre-process the data before we actually use it. We started collecting this data around COVID-19 and coronavirus. We started on 1st March just to see how the social network responds to the COVID-19 and how people are reacting. We gathered the data and we started to query the data around how people feel towards working from home and we used a couple of different approaches like sentiment analysis, where we can identify if it's a positive or negative attitude or feelings, and topic modelling where we can find out what kind of topics people are talking about. Our findings were very impressive really. We had a milestone before and after the lockdown and we started to investigate the data before the look down and we found out that there is a kind of positivity, 70% positive tweets, around how people felt about the working from home concept. Even after the lockdown for two, three weeks, we observed Twitter and we found out that positivity even increased around that concept. Obviously there is a negative response but in general, we had like a nearly 80% positive responses from people tweeting around working from home in this COVID-19 outbreak.
Sputnik: I'm going to turn to Simon now. Can we expect businesses to increase working from home opportunities for employees and what technological challenges must businesses overcome to ensure employees can continue with flexible and remote working?
Simon Thorne: There's going to be an increasing amount of working from home. I think what the COVID-19 crisis has shown is that a lot of people can conduct their jobs in a home setting and I think that's a bit of a revelation - perhaps something that we kind of knew already but in a sense this course has kind of forced people to actually take those steps. There are lots of technological challenges that you face around that, for instance, the basics of having sufficient bandwidth. I live in a metropolitan area, so I have quite good broadband but if you go outside of major cities, obviously, that's much more of a challenge. I think one thing that I'm noticing certainly is your home office setup. The ergonomics of your home office setup is really important. Employers go to great distances to have good workstations but perhaps you don't have the same kind of setup at home. I think this will probably lead to a lot more normalisation of working from home and that's good for a lot of reasons, For instance, the impact on the environment, the reduction in uptake of office space at the employer. I guess businesses as well are going to have to adapt to issues like social distancing, which will probably go on for some time if we understand correctly from what's being said by scientists, and that will impact businesses significantly. So there are challenges around just making things work for them but I think, on the whole, this is going to be a positive contribution to working or adapting how we work.