Managing flexworkers: holding on and letting go
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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore what it means to be a manager in the context of working from home, or “flexworking”, as an increasingly common work practice. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is located within an interpretive interactionist perspective, drawing on interviews with managers who took part in a larger qualitative study of employees who work from home two or more days a week in the Canadian subsidiary of a high-tech MNC. Template analysis identified themes which are most salient in managers” experiences of managing these “flexworkers”. Findings – The findings point to several key themes in interviewees’ experiences of managing flexworkers: maintaining a balance between providing autonomy alongside appropriate levels of cohesion between themselves and employees and between employees; the increasing importance of trust and the centrality of interpersonal relationships and interactions. Research limitations/implications – A limitation is a relatively small sample size (27) in the Canadian hi-tech industry. Also, the findings may not be applicable to other industries or to managers in other countries. The paper’s location within an interpretive interactionist framework accords primary focus to individual action rather than structural forces. Practical implications – Contemporary management development initiatives should balance communication and support, while avoiding micromanagement. They should also develop managers’ ability to ensure that social bonds are maintained but do not undermine the principles of flexwork. Originality/value – There is a paucity of qualitative research on flexworking in Canada. Moreover, the paper contributes a theoretical understanding of this work arrangement, whereas previous research has been primarily descriptive.
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