Does the Virtual Office Benefit All Professions?
The rise of Uber and Lyft turned the taxi industry upside down. UberEATS and DoorDash have revolutionized the way people order food delivery. Many professionals, like doctors, lawyers, and accountants, who never considered engaging with online platforms are now embracing the challenge and opportunity. But what impact does platform work have on the quality of services provided, and the work experience of professionals. Does platform work, or a hybrid workplace, benefit all professions?
Professor Yao Yao has received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Development Grant to study how online, platform-based legal services have been incorporated into the law profession and how the digital transformation of the workplace affects lawyers in these settings.
Project title: Digital transformation of professional work: Lawyers’ readiness and professional socialization in digital platform-based legal services.
We asked Professor Yao about her personal interest in this project:
“The phenomenon of online platform-based legal services intrigued me: how do the logics and norms created in low-income occupations, like ride hailing and food delivery, play out in a professional context for lawyers, who expect to have lots of autonomy and respect?”
Digital transformations and professional services
The benefit of offering professional services on a platform was clear at the start of the pandemic: it prevented exposure to the virus. Even post-pandemic, the convenience of online professional services is obvious and welcomed by consumers, especially when they consider their one-hour commute for a 30-minute appointment with a professional, or the extra time-off from work needed to attend in-person appointments. But what happens to the quality of services and how are service providers affected by this transformation?
To better understand the impact of the digital transformation of legal services on lawyers, Professor Yao will consider lawyers who actively offer platform-based legal services. She will first survey established law professionals about the antecedents that led to their readiness to transition to platform-based work. She will then interview new lawyers to learn about their professional socialization process, which is how they acquire the values and knowledge about their profession, through platform services. This work will offer important insights into the worker experiences and behaviours that correspond to the digital transformation of professional work.
Who will benefit from this research?
This study will contribute new knowledge about the digital transformation of workplaces and help professional associations make informed decisions when shaping the future of professional practice. The knowledge gained will help researchers and practitioners recognize the possible consequences to service providers, and their expectations if professional services are offered on digital platforms. A better understanding of their needs can help practitioners improve the transition of their practices to online platforms. The insights from this work can also help professionals make informed career choices about pursuing digital services.
Dr. Yao earned a Ph.D. in Industrial Relations and Human Resources from the University of Toronto and holds an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research seeks to understand changing workplaces as technological and institutional environments evolve. Read more about her work.