Identity, identity work and the experience of working from home.pdf - The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at

Identity, identity work and the experience of working from home.pdf

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Identity, identity work and the experience of working from home Susanne Tietze Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK, and Gill Musson Sheffield University Management School, Sheffield, UK Abstract Purpose – This paper seeks to show how the shift of paid work from traditional locations into the home environment raises serious questions of identity for managers who have started to work from home and who have to “cope with” the sometimes conflicting demands imposed by different socio-cultural spheres. Design/methodology/approach – Based on an empirical study of working from home, three case studies are presented, which articulate and summarise different modes of engagement with both paid and domestic work and respective identity issues. Findings – Adding to the extant literature on working from home, the findings indicate that the success or failure of working from home is intrinsically tied into issues related to homeworkers” identity. Research limitations/implications – The empirical data are taken from a period when homeworkers had to “learn” how to cope with being both “at home and at work”. Further empirical enquiry might focus on longitudinal aspects of the relationship between working from home and identity. Practical implications – With regard to working from home policies it is advisable to take into account questions of identity, rather than applying exclusively task-based or technical aspects when considering the organisational benefits of this form of spatial and temporal flexibility. Originality/value – In conceptualising working from home from an identity perspective, new insights have been gained into the reasons why this mode of work sometimes fails to deliver on its promises, yet proves outstandingly successful on other occasions. Keywords Work, Identification, Managers Paper type Research paper Introduction In recent decades work organizations have begun to spread beyond their temporal and spatial boundaries and work has become an “unbounded activity” to be conducted “anytime and anywhere” (Kurland and Bailyn, 1999), including the “other sphere” of the home environment. This flexibility has been hailed as a utopia with huge potential to turn the pre-industrial cottage into a post-industrial electronic cottage; a new system of production where individual agents are enabled to achieve a precious balance between the demands of work and home (see Toffler, 1980, pp. 204-17). Other commentators point to the ambiguous nature of such flexibility because they see the possibility of rationalistic, control-based norms and values of industrial production discourses and practices infiltrating the private sphere. The result is the potential instrumentalisation of domestic relationships, an erosion of the private enclave through the introduction of words and techniques resonating with modern forms of The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at JMD 29,2 148 Journal of Management Development Vol. 29 No. 2, 2010 pp. 148-156
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