Virtual Work Research Agenda

Virtual Work Research Agenda

France Bélanger (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch641
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Abstract

The paper by Bélanger, Watson-Manheim, and Jordan (2002) addresses the gap between research conducted and practitioner concerns in virtual work. One of the key difficulties in conducting research in this area is the overlap between terms used (McCloskey & Igbaria, 1998; Pinsonneault & Boisvert, 2001). While there are other distributed work arrangements such as hotelling, neighborhood work centers and flextime, most of the previous literature has focused on telecommuting (telework) and virtual teams/ organizations. In this article, the term virtual work represents work environments where individuals spend some time working in a non-face-to-face (FTF) mode, using information and communication technologies to perform work activities. Virtual work environments are increasingly employed by organizations. While there is increased complexity and potential for problems, virtual work strategies allow organizations a great deal of flexibility to compete in a rapidly changing business environment. While existing research provides insights into such environments, it does not clearly deal with major concerns faced by managers (referred to as the “gap” between research and practice). One of the potential reasons for this gap is that practicing managers are concerned with current challenges in their own work setting while academics are concerned with developing more generalizable rules and understanding.
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Introduction

The paper by Bélanger, Watson-Manheim, and Jordan (2002) addresses the gap between research conducted and practitioner concerns in virtual work. One of the key difficulties in conducting research in this area is the overlap between terms used (McCloskey & Igbaria, 1998; Pinsonneault & Boisvert, 2001). While there are other distributed work arrangements such as hotelling, neighborhood work centers and flextime, most of the previous literature has focused on telecommuting (telework) and virtual teams/organizations. In this article, the term virtual work represents work environments where individuals spend some time working in a non-face-to-face (FTF) mode, using information and communication technologies to perform work activities.

Virtual work environments are increasingly employed by organizations. While there is increased complexity and potential for problems, virtual work strategies allow organizations a great deal of flexibility to compete in a rapidly changing business environment. While existing research provides insights into such environments, it does not clearly deal with major concerns faced by managers (referred to as the “gap” between research and practice). One of the potential reasons for this gap is that practicing managers are concerned with current challenges in their own work setting while academics are concerned with developing more generalizable rules and understanding.

This article addresses these issues, with three particular objectives:

  • 1.

    examine the gap between research and practice in virtual work;

  • 2.

    investigate factors leading to the gap; and,

  • 3.

    identify a research agenda that addresses emerging issues and concerns relevant to practice in virtual work.

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Background

To explore the gap between virtual work research and practice, the authors first review previous literature, which they then compare to concerns raised by practitioners in two organizations. To identify relevant academic research, the authors searched for articles in mainstream IS journals. They then used the “snowball” technique, mining citations in articles for further references. They did not include the large number of conference papers and studies of home-workers, entrepreneurs, or supplemental work at home. They focused on empirical and/or theoretically grounded studies.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Group Support Systems (GSS): A set of technologies used to help groups in their decision making processes.

Virtual Teams/Organizations: Teams and/or organizations where some or all of the members work from different physical locations.

Virtual Work: Work environments where individuals spend some time working in a non-face-to-face (FTF) mode, using information and communication technologies to perform work activities.

Telecommuting (Telework): Work arrangement that allows employees to work at home during regular work hours.

Longitudinal Case Studies: Research method that involves looking at particular cases over a longer period of time, with repeated measures to observe a phenomenon as it evolves.

Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW): Research area that focuses on investigations and development of technologies that can be used for collaborative work in distributed settings.

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