BIS Cluster Seminar: Hafermanlz and Riemer

6 November, 2015 - 10:30

Remote workers are typically knowledge workers who work primarily from home using Information and Communication Technologies to coordinate and collaborate with their colleagues, clients and managers. While this style of working has many advocates, it also has its critics. Apart from the issues of managerial control and trust at a distance, a frequent complaint is that remote workers lack a “sense of connection” with each other and the organisation. In this case study research I therefore focus on what remote workers do to help address this issue, in the context of tele-health nursing in an Australian health insurance company. I use Goffman’s (1959) concept of ‘communication out of character’ to thematically analyse interview material. According to Goffman (1959), ‘performers’ in a team discuss their audience and their performance in four main ways: Treatment of the Absent, Staging Talk, Team Collusion, and Realigning Actions. I show that the way the nurses understand their discussions on their Office Communicator Server (OCS) platform aligns with these functions. Through this analysis I theorise that the use of ICTs for ‘communication out of character’ is a necessary part of a remote worker’s sense of connection and that this is linked to what makes them confident in their role. I thereby build a theory of the “work of belonging through technology”, where I argue that what might look like peripheral ‘water cooler chat’ is actually significant to the way in which distributed workers use technology in order to establish and maintain a connection with the organisation and each other.

Fried, J., & Heinemeier Hansson, D. 2013. Remote: office not required. UK: Vermilion.
Goffman, E. 1959. The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Anchor Books for Doubleday.

Ella Hafermalz and Professor Kai Riemer

Ella Hafermalz is a third-year PhD candidate in the Business Information Systems discipline at the University of Sydney Business School. Her PhD investigates how remote workers stay connected to their organisations, specifically how they use technology and what they do on a daily basis in order to “matter” in the organisational context. This research is motivated by a wider interest in how our relationship to our organisations, colleagues and work itself is changing. Ella has degrees in Media and Communications, Cultural Studies and Teaching from the University of Melbourne. She has presented her research at ECIS, ACIS, AOM, PROS, and APROS/EGOS (forthcoming). She has participated in the ACIS and OCIS Doctoral Consortia and the KIN Summer School. Ella is an active member of the University of Sydney Business School’s Digital Disruption Research Group and the Sociomateriality Debating Group.