Hybrid, Remote & Flexible WorkResearch

How We ‘Do Work’ Evolves with Digital Innovations

'Three Generations of Telework: New ICTs and the (R)evolution from Home Office to Virtual Office'.
Extracts and summary of the research by: Jon. C Messenger and Lutz Gschwind (2016)

Summary of the research: 

Remote working has evolved through three main stages since the 1970’s.

Stage 1: Home Office (1970’s to early 1990’s)

This first stage involved performing office-based tasks at a stationary (often home-based) location using information-based technology (i.e. relatively immobile desktop computer) alongside landline-based, fixed communication technology. 

Stage 2: Mobile Office (early 1990’s to early 2000’s)

The more mobile laptop computer, was used alongside mobile phone-based communication technology to transform static work into mobile work either at home or on the move.  

These first 2 stages are often referred to as “Old ICT” (Information & Communication Technology).  Most research to date around ICT use at work has been focused on these first two evolutionary stages.  

Stage 3: Virtual Office (later 2000’s to 2020)

The third stage, which includes the “New ICT” revolution, started with the launch of smartphones and tablets in the second half of the 2000’s and refers to the merging of both information access and communication into one device.  

It also coincided with the advent of powerful technology that connects any mobile device instantaneously to work via cloud-based systems and does not require work-based information to be physically stored on the device itself in order for work to be completed or to communicate with others.

The effectiveness of remote work increases when managers shift their perspective from work monitoring to information sharing. 

Research Conclusion

‘On the one hand, [digital technology has enabled] us to constantly connect with friends and family as well as with work colleagues and supervisors; on the other hand, paid work becomes increasingly intrusive into the times and spaces normally reserved for personal life. Crucial to this development is the detachment of work activities from traditional office spaces.

Today’s office work is largely supported by Internet connections, and can thus be undertaken from basically anywhere at any time. This new spatial independence dramatically changes the role of technology in the work environment offering both new opportunities and new challenges.

Scholars are increasingly concerned with the advantages and the disadvantages of new ICTs for aspects such as working time, WLB and OSH, as well as individual and organizational performance. 

  • As digital technology continues to evolve, how we incorporate this technology into our working lives will change and adapt how we both view our work in addition to how we engage with our work. The development of Extended Realities and The Metaverse will take us into Stage 4…
A reminder of what the acronyms mean:

ICT: Information and Communication Technologies – i.e. digital technology that provides access to electronic information through portals such as wireless networks, mobile phones, tablets and other electronic devices. It includes the use of electronic communication tools such as email, social media and the Internet, for both work and home life. 

WLB: Work-Life Balance

OSH: Occupational Safety and Health.

This is not an open-source document and will need purchasing to read the full original article.

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