Workplace Flexibility and Communication Flows: A Structural View

Author(s), Title and Publication
Nordback, E., Myers, K. & McPhee, R. (2017). Workplace flexibility and communication flows: A structurational view. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 45(4), 397-412. DOI:10.1080/00909882.2017.1355560.

Summary
Organizational policies, including those on teleworking or working remotely, shape employees’ perceptions of work and demarcate the lines between personal and professional boundaries. Underpinned by structuration theory, this study examines how flexibility in the workplace promotes or restricts flows of communication and related organizational membership. The study recognizes scholarship has focused on workplace flexibility in a myriad of postures (e.g., job-sharing, condensed work schedules, part-time work, maternity leave and flex-time) and seeks to fill a gap in how these policies shape and direct organizational discourses, work/life boundary perception, and influence work behaviors. The authors conducted interviews with 53 employees at two Finnish firms, with one being supportive of flexibility and teleworking, and the other with an in-office culture, allowing teleworking only by exception and did not promote flexibility. The authors conducted interviews with a stratified sample covering a range of roles, units, and tenures with the commonality being that all interviewees were aware that their role did not technically require their physical presence in the office.

Results demonstrated that in the organization in which teleworking was permitted workers agentively structured their workdays to use the policy to serve both individual and organizational needs and easily adapted to coworkers’ teleworking. By contrast, the in-office-policy organization featured communication flows that affirmed the lack of flexibility; in fact, most workers did not value teleworking or desire additional flexibility. Through negative discourses about telework, an organizational culture that did not support flexible work was reproduced, maintaining the expectation that organizational activity occurred only at the office.

Implications for Practice
Organizations should (1) link organizational policy regarding flexibility with internal communications and discourse that support the policy, (2) create and implement policy that is consistent with organizational culture, goals, and the communicative environment, and (3) contribute individually and collaboratively to helping team members identify priorities to preserve work/life balance and flexibility.

Location of Article
This article is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00909882.2017.1355560 (abstract free, purchase full article)

Posted in [Research Library], Employee / Organizational Communication, Organizational Systems, Communications & Channels and tagged , , , , , .

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