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

See all articles by Paul M. Leonardi

Paul M. Leonardi

University of California, Santa Barbara

Jeffrey W. Treem

Northwestern University

Michele Jackson

University of Colorado at Boulder

Date Written: October 1, 2009

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Leonardi, Paul M. and Treem, Jeffrey W. and Jackson, Michele, The Connectivity Paradox: Using Technology to Both Decrease and Increase Perceptions of Distance in Distributed Work Arrangements (October 1, 2009). Journal of Applied Communication Research, Vol. 38, No.1, pp. 85-105, 2010 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1488199

Paul M. Leonardi (Contact Author)

University of California, Santa Barbara ( email )

Phelps Hall
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.tmp.ucsb.edu/leonardi/

Jeffrey W. Treem

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Michele Jackson

University of Colorado at Boulder ( email )

1070 Edinboro Drive
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

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