The argument of a paradigm shift in the organization of work is not new, it goes back to the post-Fordism debate, in which the dissolution of traditional production structures was predicted, especially as a consequence of the good results achieved by the flattening of hierarchies, as well as the practice of a more flexible and decentralized organization of work. Since then, the issue of flexibility in working arrangements has been central in order to make enterprises more competitive in a global economy, where fragmented and rapidly changing markets impose a more efficient use of human resources in order to respond to the changing external demands and opportunities. Sisson et al. (1999) distinguish two main approaches to workforce flexibility: numerical and functional. Numeric flexibility is the ability of the organization to adjust the quantity of labor to meet fluctuations in demand (for instance the part-time jobs or the temporary work). Function flexibility is about the ability to increase the level of responsibility of the workforce, which involves continuing training to enable employees to acquire new skills and competences (for instance the job rotation and the polyvalent workers), as well as collaborative approaches ensuring that employees become more responsible for organizing their own work (for instance the workplace flexibility that characterizes telework or the subcontracts dissemination).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Telecottage: A technology center that provides telecommunications equipment for local residents in sparsely populated or rural areas, teleworkers or not.
Neighborhood Work Centers: Facilities used for telecommuting shared by the employees of two or more employers.
Satellite Work Centers: Facilities used for telecommuting by the employees of a single organization.
Telework / E-work: Interchangeable concepts used to describe work, which takes place outside the conventional office involving the use of ICTs.
Mobile Work: This concept refers to employees working at various locations (customer companies, hotel rooms, airports …) and provided with the necessary ICT infrastructure to communicate with the employer.
Remote Work: Work done by an individual while at a different location than the person(s) directly supervising and/or paying for it.
Telecenter/Telework Center: A site, other than the home, from which the employee works instead of travelling to a more distant central work location.
Telehomework: Information processing work done at home and provided with the necessary ICT infrastructure to communicate with the employer and/or customers.
Telecommuting: This concept implies that certain trips to work, for example a few days a week, are substituted with work from home, from a satellite centre or from a neighbourhood office involving the use of ICTs (it exclusively applies to employees, not self-employed persons).