The Connectivity Paradox: Using Technology to Both Decrease and Increase Perceptions of Distance in Distributed Work Arrangements
Journal of Applied Communication Research, Vol. 38, No.1, pp. 85-105, 2010
36 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2009 Last revised: 14 May 2010
Date Written: October 1, 2009
Distributed work arrangements are gaining in popularity across all manner of organizations. But managers are still often worried that the “teleworkers” who opt for them will be too perceptually distant from the office to work effectively. To remedy this problem, managers often insist that teleworkers adopt Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) that enable perpetual connectivity with coworkers. In this study, we show that that teleworkers who use advance ICTs sometimes feel too connected to the office and, consequently, are unable to achieve the flexibility and focus they seek by working out of it. To combat this problem, teleworkers sometimes use their ICTs strategically to decrease, rather than increase, the distance they feel from colleagues. Moreover, the findings show these strategic uses of ICTs to increase distance are often covert, such that teleworkers can appear to colleagues as if they are working in a manner similar to how they would at an office while, at the same time, reaping the benefits of not being in a central location. We discuss how the subversive nature of their practices, though an effective means to manage perceptions of distance, might prevent meaningful organizational change that would improve distributed work arrangements.
Keywords: telework, connectivity, distributed work, distance, organizational change, information technology, presence
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