Remoteness and sensework in harsh environments
There is a general trend of more distributed work configurations in many work domains, examples being air traffic management and telemedicine. As the offshore petroleum industry conquers increasingly remote and harsh areas, there is a pressure towards lower offshore staffing and more sensor-based onshore management. This introduces new challenges of control and safety. Integrated Operation (IO) addresses many of the challenges associated with remoteness. IO denotes an operating philosophy where new technologies and work processes make possible an increased use of real-time data and collaboration across geographical distances and professional disciplines.
It presupposes clearly defined work processes, and a strong division of labour with respect to decision making and execution. In this article, interpretation work, decision making and execution are investigated through the lenses of sensework. Sensework denotes sociotechnical work in safety–critical operations where groups of professionals try to put together pieces of information to give meaning to familiar and unfamiliar situations. The division of labour and the envisioned decision making processes of IO build on assumptions that are not necessarily valid for distributed sensework in remote areas or modes. Sensework is characterised by close, iterative interaction with nature through the use of sensor data and digital representations, implying that decisions are problematic to make for experts that are not really engaged with the operational context.
There is a need for more research on and refinement of models for operating in remote areas or modes. In particular, there is a need for harmonisation between technological solutions and organisational arrangements.