Monday, May 30, 2011

Reading :: Telework and Social Change

Telework and Social Change: How Technology Is Reshaping the Boundaries between Home and Work
By Nicole B. Ellison

In this 2004 book, the author examines how geographically flexible workers managed their relative independence in telework. Ellison argues that we're in the middle of a shift in which work is something you do, not somewhere you go; the organization is a network rather than an office (p.3). To explore telework, Ellison conducted case studies of two organizations over 22 months in 1998-1999 (p.15).

Some of the takeaways from these case studies included the following:

First, Ellison found that telecommuting meant becoming a generalist. For mobile workers, being "empowered" meant having to do the sorts of things that sales secretaries once did (p.67).

Second, she found that, in contrast to some of the earlier research on telework, teleworkers in her case studies did not feel isolated; they "expressed a sense of relief at not having to socialize with coworkers as they would in a traditional office" (p.95).

Third, she found that teleworkers had to set boundaries when working in their houses (Ch.6).

Although the results were interesting, I'm afraid the book is sometimes a bit repetitive. Ellison has a habit of providing a block quote from an interview, then restating that quote in her own words. My sense is that the book could be much shorter. Still, if you're interested in telework/telecommuting, it's worth a read.

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