Developing More Equitable and Inclusive Remote Workspaces

Dr. Rabindra (Robby) Ratan and Dr. Adam Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz were recently awarded a $1.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study how future virtual meeting platforms can better support well-being and social equity. The grant supports four years of research.

Dr. Ratan is an associate professor and AT&T Scholar at the Department of Media and Information, and Dr. Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz is an assistant professor in the Department of Media and Information. They, along with collaborators from other institutions, including three MSU alumni: Alex Leith, David Beyea and Brian Klebig, are working on this grant. 

The project will focus specifically on video game developers, who rely heavily on virtual meetings within teams with varied expertise and roles.

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a new era of remote work which highlighted the barriers to well-being, equity and inclusion in the workplace,” Dr. Ratan said. 

The project uses a mixed-methodological approach to pinpoint and test virtual meeting-platform features that influence user welfare.

“Video meeting fatigue is especially harmful to women and people of color, intensifying things that were already occurring in face-to-face meetings, such as unequal talking time and interruptions,” Dr. Ratan said. “It is the ultimate hope that this research will allow for insights to improve general best practices for virtual meetings among a number of diverse teams and industries to minimize this fatigue.”

The study will include language processing of social media, a survey of remote workers, targeted interviews, and an online experiment to test hypotheses about which specific virtual meeting features enhance video game-developer welfare. The final part to this study will use prototypes and user tests in a virtual reality meeting platform with game development teams to confirm which design features promote well-being and social equity.

“I am thrilled to have received this award because this project has the potential to improve remote working environments, making them more inclusive and improving employee well-being,” Dr. Ratan said. “Even beyond COVID-19, remote workspaces will clearly play an important role in our future work activities, so we must learn and understand how we can make these platforms equitable for all.”