Flexible Working Practices and Knowledge Worker Performance
01 / 2011 - 01 / 2015
'Work' and the way we work is changing. Today's workplace is invaded by information and communication technologies that are meant to increase knowledge workers' levels of spatial and temporal flexibility and lead to a future of work practices that deviate fundamentally from our past industrial work practices. Organizations hope that these work practices improve knowledge worker performance, but concrete evidence supporting this effect is mostly anecdotal in nature. Despite a steady increase and strong projected growth rates concerning the number of organizations that are implementing (or experimenting with) flexible working practices, its effects are hardly investigated, and scientific research on practices such as telework and open office plans provide outdated, mixed or insubstantial results based on self-reported data only. In this PhD project we therefore propose to examine the effects of flexible working practices on knowledge worker performance. While doing so, we shall pay attention to two new theoretical perspectives on work design and the changing nature of work: 1) a focus on the role of interpersonal relationships and work interdependencies and 2) a proactive view on how employees shape their own job and work contexts. In particular, we will examine how communication and knowledge sharing act as coordination mechanisms that mediate the relationship between (enactment levels of) spatial/temporal flexibility and knowledge worker performance. Special attention will be paid to 1) communication media use by flexible workers, and 2) the work context. The former is important as communication media are (one of the) enablers of flexible working and the linchpin of communication within organizations, whereas the latter is important as a lack of context has been reported for most research in the field of management. To this end, we aim to develop a knowledge worker typology that helps to differentiate groups of knowledge workers with distinct characteristics and requirements. Further attention to the context resides in the multi-method research approach, which includes an ethnographic study of several years, longitudinal surveys, and field experiments.