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The first step of a journey toward ‘The New Way of Working’ at the gemeente Deventer

Meulenbrugge, R.L. (2013) The first step of a journey toward ‘The New Way of Working’ at the gemeente Deventer.

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Abstract:Introduction ‘The New Way of Working’ has become increasingly popular the past couple of years. Organizations widely embrace the concept as a way to save cost. However, it might also positively influence different organizational and individual aspects, like for instance performance and work/family balance as well. In the Netherlands many organizations are experimenting with ‘The New Way of Working’ and so is gemeente Deventer. The HR department is interested in the preconditions to make time and space independent working effective. This has led to the following research question: ‘How can time and space independent working be implemented effectively in the gemeente Deventer?’ The main goal is to study the current situation to give recommendations about changes that have to be made to make time and space independent working effective. Theory There are many forms of flexibility, but the focus has been on external temporal and locational flexibility. It is expected that the amount of time and space independent working will affect different organizational and individual outcomes. On organizational level it is expected to increase performance and commitment (Baane, Houtkamp & Knotter, 2011), while it might lower the co-worker satisfaction (Golden, 2007). On individual level it could increase the work/family balance (Gajendran & Harrison, 2007), while it might increase the experience of professional isolation as well (Kurland & Cooper, 2002). The outcomes are assumed to be moderated by individual characteristics, task design, management style and team characteristics. The assumption has been that a medium level of time and space independent working might be the most beneficial for the gemeente Deventer. Methods This study has followed the regulative cycle, because it dealt with a practical business problem. The organization had set-up a pilot to explore the perception of (co-)workers and managers toward time and space independent working. Two groups were created, a group that started experimenting with the extent of time and space independent working and a control group. The emphasis of this study has been on the diagnose phase by conducting a pre-test. This allows creating a reference point to measure whether an implementation will actually be effective. The current situation has been studied by conducting nine interviews with managers and a survey has been conducted among employees with a response rate of 67% (N=120). Findings The interviews revealed that there is a limit to the extent for the effectiveness of time and space independent working. The new work arrangements might be beneficial for the performance and work/family balance. However, it could also harm the balance between work and private life. The greatest fear was found to be a loss of commitment. To guarantee the effectiveness, ICT facilities are argued to be a precondition. Additionally face-to-face interactions, meetings and cohesion should be facilitates to ensure the performance and knowledge sharing. At last, instead of personal need for structure, personal competencies were found to play a crucial role in adopting the principles of the new way of working. The survey revealed that the pilot group is representative, since no large differences were found compared to the total population. However, the type of job instead, might partially influence the effects of time and space independent working, since differences were found between operational and policy workers. Limited relationships were found between the extent of time and space independent working and the potential outcomes. It only had a significant negative effect on the work/family balance. No relationships were found between the extent of time and space independent working and performance, commitment, professional isolation and co-worker satisfaction. Though, different moderators showed an effect on one or more outcomes. First of all, ICT facilities contributed to the performance of employees. Second, commitment was positively influenced by the management style and to a lesser extent by autonomy and task interdependence. Thirdly, cohesion had a strong positive effect on co-worker satisfaction, but face-to-face interactions seemed to contribute as well. At fourth, autonomy and face-to-face interactions and meetings might decrease the negative effects on work/family balance. Task interdependence instead could increase the amount of conflict. At last, personal need for structure increased the professional isolation, while the facilitation face-to-face interactions, meetings and cohesion might overcome professional isolation. Discussion and limitations Since the study has focused on the pre-test the findings should be interpreted carefully. The findings do not give an insight in the actual effects, but at most an indication of the potential effects of time and space independent working. However, the model might be applicable to public and private organizations in general. Although limited evidence was found for the relationships between the extent of time and space independent working and the outcomes, this study might contribute to the understanding of organizational and individual aspects and its consequences. The greatest limitation is the lack of a post-test and therefore further research is needed. Recommendations The extent of time and space independent working was only found to have a direct negative relationship with the work/family balance. However, on different aspects there is room for improvement. In general the personal need for structure was high and there was a lack of ICT facilities. Besides, there is room for improvement on the balance between autonomy and task interdependence. The management style and team characteristics might lead to fewer problems. Overall the findings have led to the following recommendations: 1: support time and space independent working organization wide and stimulate the employees to try this new working arrangement 2: create the awareness under employees and managers to keep watch over their work and family balance 3: provide training and development to those struggling with the principles of the new way of working and study which competencies fit to time and space independent working in the gemeente Deventer 4: improve availability and accessibility of ICT facilities anywhere, anytime 5: find the right balance between autonomy and task interdependence and develop different policies for operational and policy employees 6: focus on the managers and train them to be role models 7: continue measuring the effects of time and space independent working over time 8: find the right balance between face-to-face interactions and alternative communication tools
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/63525
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