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How does homeworking affect a line manager's ability to exercise control?

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posted on 03.03.2010, 11:31 authored by Kirsten E. Stevens
Changes in the nature of work e.g. Location Independent Working and the growth of homeworking, mean that managers and their staff may not work in close proximity and so rarely meet in person. The consequent loss of visibility and physical presence creates specific challenges and constraints in relation to the managers' role in the employment relationship. As previous research has compartmentalised the perspectives of homeworkers and their managers, analysis has always been restrictive, lacking in an all-encompassing view of the employment relationship. Seeking to address this disparity, this research assesses the views of both sides of the employment relationship, thereby exploring the experiences of managers and homeworkers. Using contrasting organisations, this research explores how the practice of management control differs in a homeworking environment. The case study organisations suggest that job role, skill level and organisational size can influence a line manager’s ability to exercise control. Direct control is possible for organisations employing low skilled workers undertaking repetitive tasks. Close electronic monitoring of performance stimulates a cyclical process of resistance and increased management surveillance. For an organisation employing highly skilled autonomous workers, direct control is problematic. Managers become increasingly reliant on external proxies of performance. The objectivity of these external measures is questionable, which consequently reduces the manager’s ability to control performance. As a limited amount of research has investigated the practicalities of managing homeworkers, this research is unique as it has explored the influence of homeworking on a manager’s ability to exercise control. Consequently, these findings will offer new insights into the practice of management control in a homeworking environment. As these findings have uncovered some of the specific challenges of homeworking from a managers and homeworkers perspective, the practicalities of managing homeworkers and the potential advantages and drawbacks of working at home may now be more readily understood.



Williams, G.

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University of Leicester

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