Culture and Organization, September 2004, Vol. 10(3), pp.


Feelin’ Groovy e: Appropriating Time in Home-Based Telework
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a Sheffield University Management School, 9 Mappin Street, Sheffield S1 4DT, UK; aNottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University, Burton Street, Nottingham NG1 4BU, UK Sheffield Francis GillMusson September Organization 0 300000 University 10 2004 OriginalandFrancis 0000-0000 (print)/0000-0000 (online) Culture&Article 10.1080/14759550412331297174 GSCO041022.sgm Ltd Taylor and 2004 LtdManagement School9 Mappin StreetSheffieldS1 4DT

In this paper we present some findings from an empirical study into teleworking that challenge the received wisdom that principles of efficiency and speed determine the organisation of public and private lives. Instead, we make a case that emerging forms of work organisation such as telework entail opportunities for some individuals to rethink the relationship between life and work and to engage in questions of ‘how to live one’s life’. Drawing on our research study, which combined participant observation with interview conversations with 25 teleworkers and their families, we argue that teleworking, the epitome of flexibility and instantaneousness, can, rather than always contributing to the acceleration of life, provide potential for regeneration, re-evaluation and slowing down. Key words: Temporal Flexibility; Telework; Home and Work

INTRODUCTION ‘Flexibility’ in the temporal and spatial ordering of (paid) work has become the buzzword of contemporary debates about economic competitiveness, globalisation and the 24-hour/7 day society. The pressures created by unremitting competition are passed on to individual employees, who find themselves ‘harried’ and subjected to ‘long hours’ cultures (Perlow, 1999). Thus they experience their working lives as increasingly stressful, and ironically, this endangers the very achievement of organisational goals. In addition, the negative impact of overwork and stress is also felt in the private lives of employees, whose ‘quality of life’ becomes eroded by the demands of their employment organisation. In the context of such debates about the dilemmas caused by paid employment for individual employees, ‘flexibility’ is often cited as a way forward to address those very ills, because it enables employees to address and manage the demands of their professional and private lives (Rayman et al., 1999; Reilly, 2001). Within the public-policy and academic discourses such attempts to ‘balance’ different and sometimes conflicting aspects of one’s life are expressed by the term ‘work-life balance’, which is understood to entail organisational flexibility initiatives comprising leave arrangements, variations of flexitime and modes of teleworking, including home-based telework (Apgar, 1999; Dex and Scheibl, 2001). In this article we explore the realities of home-based telework by investigating the consequences of such flexibility from the point of view of ‘the household’ rather than from the perspective of employment organisations. In doing so we attempt to address a gap in current

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ISSN 1475-9551 print; ISSN 1477-2760 online © 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd DOI: 10.1080/14759550412331297174



understanding about the complexities of ‘balancing’ work and life. The structure of the paper is as follows. We start by briefly outlining the temporality of efficiency as the major co-ordinating principle of industrial activity, through which time and space became organised by objective, scientific means. We argue that such spatial-temporal concentration of the organisation of (paid) work is not only the consequence of particular technical and administrative requirements, but constitutes and expresses political, social and cultural phenomena. We then outline telework as a challenge to such industrial organisation in that it ends the time/space compression and disperses (paid) work across temporal and spatial boundaries. Thus it has the potential to rupture the social and cultural fabrics into which such organisation is embedded. We position our research within this changing social/cultural context and describe our research rationale, including a description of methods and discussion of our epistemological position. We present teleworking as lived experience from the point of view of 25 teleworkers and their families. Challenging the deterministic assumption about the inevitability of acceleration, and immediateness as the overriding principle of contemporary existence, we show how some teleworkers and their families develop idiosyncratic ways of living that counteract the pressures to lead an increasingly efficient and accelerated life. We conclude by discussing the ambiguous nature of telework, capable of creating dilemmas for individuals and families, whilst also offering potential solutions for their resolution.

HOME AND WORK ‘Home and work’ are often considered to be clearly distinguishable cultural spheres, although these two central cultural arenas are in a mutually dependent relationship (Perin, 1998). This conceptualisation of ‘work’ as different from ‘home’ has developed with the advancement of industrial societies, where industrial and household production became separated in such ways that they follow different normative systems, which in turn shape social interactions and provide trajectories for conduct and behaviour (Morf, 1989; Nippert-Eng, 1996; Zerubavel, 1991). Perin (1998: 41) states: ‘The overarching moral and social principle around which today’s working and living relationships are organised is that paid work of industrial production and unpaid work of household production are “different spheres”’. Although we agree with Perin when she cautions that such clear dichotomies between industry and household production have never been as radical and complete as it is sometimes suggested, there are important differences between the respective values and norms on which they are based. For example, to the same extent that industrial production became associated with paid work, particular locations (the firm, the factory, the office), particular social, gender and occupational roles (e.g., the breadwinner, male, worker) and followed the rational, objective principles of scientific management, household production has become constructed as ‘the other’ (Brocklehurst, 2001), created by the female homemaker, located in the domestic sphere, as an unpaid labour of love. Davies (1990), for example, in her study on women and time argues that time in the household differs from the commodified time of work places in that it is more cyclic, plural, blurred and driven by open-ended tasks. However, this process-oriented and task-driven time exists only in the shadow of industrial time (Adam, 1995). Thus, different ideas about the use of time and the appropriateness of different temporalities are embedded in our understanding of the culturally different spheres of work and home. Industrial Production Industrial production is based on a quantified, reified understanding of time, which is used as a commodity to mediate particular exchange processes as well as a disciplinary tool to



control the production process and those involved in it (Adam, 1990; 1995; Daly, 1996; Morgan, 1996; Nowotny, 1994; Thompson, 1967). In industry, F. W. Taylor’s (1911) principles of scientific management serve as a prime illustration of how the mastery of linear clock time can be utilised to generate the most efficient production system that will yield maximum profits. Time, thus, becomes a measurable resource, which can be (and indeed must be) planned and controlled, with the aim of (profit) maximisation through efficiency (Sabelis, 2001). In a classic essay E. P. Thompson (1967: 61) suggests: ‘This measurement embodies a simple relationship. Those who are employed experience a distinction between their employer’s time and their “own” time. And the employer must use the time of his labour, and see it is not wasted: not the task, but the value of time when reduced to money is dominant. Time is now a currency: it is not passed, but spent’. Thus he argues that the understanding of industrial time is based on time-keeping, time-thrift and time-discipline and that as such ‘men’s [sic] minds became saturated with the equation “time is money”’ (ibid.: 95). The nexus of time and money has become the central concept on which the logic of industry and commerce is built (Adam, 1995). It has become the most dominant ‘metaphor we live by’ (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980; Tietze, 2000). Based on its logic, social and organisational environments become enacted social realities (Berger and Luckman, 1966; Ortony, 1975; Weick, 1995). The time-money nexus expresses an economically based exchange relation, in which the scarcity of the resource determines its (market) value. Hence, it has to be managed and administered with skill and thrift. Encoded into the metaphorical logic of Time = Money are instrumental social/organisational relationships in which social actors treat each other as a means to an end, because relationships are subject to the same dictates of efficiency and subsequent standardisation as the production process. This understanding of time has superseded other measures such as the notion of the historically earlier Tagwerk (German: day’s work) as discussed by Adam (1990) and Sennett (1998). The conceptualisation of time within the Tagwerk is more likely to include and accept the variability and context-dependency of work, but it has been supplanted by the logic of efficiency (see Adam, 1990; Sennett, 1998). The Tagwerk understanding of time has the completion of context-dependent tasks at its core. Workers can engage in such tasks following their own rhythm and adjusting to changing circumstance. It is therefore a more flexible way of engaging with (work) tasks. Following Davies’ (1990) reasoning, then, it could be said that the organisation of the household lends itself more easily to ‘task time’ or Tagwerk-time. Within the context of paid work, the concept of the Tagwerk put the worker or labourer in a relatively stronger position of control in that she or he could organise tasks to take account of changing circumstances and situational contingencies. This practice, of course, disappeared in the same measure that industrial production accelerated. The control exercised through Taylorised management and (Fordist) production systems, was (and often still is) either located in the system/technology or exercised by ‘management’. Despite a shift in production methods toward more flexible modes of operation, the locus of control remains the same. Sennett (1998: 59) is sceptical about whether emergent flexible modes of production will become purely task-based. He reasons that employers are not likely to say, ‘Here is a task; do it any way you wish, so long as you get it done’. Instead, he sees increased surveillance taking hold, in particular in forms of home-based work: ‘Working at home is the ultimate island of the new regime’. Household Production The household has been constructed as the dichotomous antidote to industrial production (Brocklehurst, 2001; Felstead and Jewson, 1999; Kompast and Wagner, 1998, Nippert-Eng, 1996; Mirchandani, 1998; Perin, 1998). Historically, it has been perceived as less ‘powerful’



and visible, being the domain of women and children, organised in line with values of care, reciprocity, and nurture. Of course, there is always a degree of simplification inherent in such dichotomies and the construction of the household as a peaceful respite is perhaps sentimental and has been challenged [see, for example, Morgan (1996) on the Janus face of the family; Coser (1974) on families as greedy institutions; Daly (1996) on conflict and issues of dominance. However, the arena of household production is nevertheless informed by different, plural temporalities (Daly, 1996), grounded in the experience of recurring patterns and rhythms of activities. As such they tend to be cyclical rather than linear, blurred rather than clear-cut, task-based rather than clock-based (and therefore more aligned to the notion of the Tagwerk), embedded rather than decontextualised. However, we do not argue that household production is the pure ‘other’ side of the work-home dichotomy, rather we agree with Adam (1990, 1995) and Nowotny (1994) that its enacted temporalities draw on either side, resulting in a multiplicity of time forms that permeate each other, co-exist, intermesh or vie for power. Within this reasoning, the Time = Money metaphor is one possible framework within which enactment of social realities occur; however, it is my no means the only one. Concerns have been voiced (Hochschild, 1997) about the sneaking Taylorisation of family life, about the ever-extending arm of the tools and techniques of the Time = Money ethos, as epitomised in the application of time management practices to all walks of life (Adam, 1990; Kompast and Wagner, 1998; Sabelis, 2001), so that the private sphere becomes increasingly dominated by the iron logic of industrial production (c.f. Thomas and Linstead, 2002). Grey (1999) makes a similar point when he warns of the overzealous use of the vocabulary of managing and management to public and private lives, since such vocabulary comes with the notions and practices of control and dominance. Telework, that is the relocation of paid work into the home, fosters increased surveillance (Kompast and Wagner, 1998; Sennett, 1998) as well as the Taylorisation of the household (Hochschild, 1997) and the instrumentalisation of social relationships in it. Based on ethnographic evidence Hochschild’s study demonstrates how households become ‘Taylorised’ through the ‘innocent’ adoption of the techniques and practices of management. Time slots are allocated to ‘doing family’, protocols are established to manage relationships efficiently, and the household takes on the norms of industrial production.

TELEWORK The uniform linear timeframe of industrialised production has for some time become unsteadied and challenged not least by the advance of women into the labour market and the different time cultures they brought with them (Nowotny, 1994). More recently, temporal rigidities and boundaries were further unfrozen by the possibilities of (information and communication) technology, which disrupts ossified structures and organisation. This technology renders work an activity to be done ‘anywhere, anytime’ (Bailyn, 1988; Kurland and Bailyn, 1999) rather than a (culturally different) place to go to. The business case for such flexibility has long been made (Casey, Metcalf, and Millward, 1997; Davenport and Pearlson, 1998; Dex and Scheibl, 1999). More cautious voices point to the complexities of managing flexibility (Harris, 2003; Reilly, 2001), while some critical voices raise concerns about surveillance and dominance (Brocklehurst, 2001; Dennison, 1990; Fairweather, 1999; Rifkin, 1995), loss of identity and autonomy (e.g., Sennett, 1998). Many accounts acknowledge that such realignment of temporal/spatial structures results in an overall acceleration of public and private lives, in that—propelled through communication technologies—an exaggerated sense of urgency spreads, which feeds ‘the phobia of time waste and preoccupation



with efficient scheduling’ (Gleick, 2000; Sabelis, 2001). Hurry sickness, time poorness and time famine are expressants and determinants of such new nano cultures (Rifkin, 2001), which paradoxically turn to the orthodoxies of traditional industrial production (in particular, time management techniques) to address the dilemmas created by them. An exemplar of such flexible organisational forms is telework (Brocklehurst, 2001; Jackson, 1999; Jackson and van der Wielen, 1998), which is work mediated or supported by advanced information and communication technology, and which can be carried out remotely (McGrath and Houlihan, 1998)—including in the home of the teleworker. In relocating in such ways, the two different cultural systems of paid and unpaid work, of money and love, of male and female and so on, meet; as do their norms and morals, their roles, scripts and behaviours, viz. the premises on which their respective temporal and spatial organisation are built. This kind of telework has been welcomed by some writers as the golden opportunity to reconcile work and family (Andrews and Bailyn, 1993; Fletcher and Bailyn, 1996) and is also frequently quoted as part of the work/life balance debate as the means to achieve a more holistic life (see Hogarth et al., 2001). Indeed, Toffler’s (1980: 204–17) vision of the ‘electronic cottage’ can be seen as an early and optimistic anticipation of new systems of production, in which individual agents are enabled to achieve such precious balance. However, sceptical voices such as Brocklehurst (2001), Felstead and Jewson (2000), Hochschild (1997), Sennett (1998), Kompast and Wagner (1998) point to issues of surveillance, dominance and the rupturing of identity and autonomy on the side of the teleworker. We would agree with Brocklehurst (2001: 462) who points out that the ‘discourse surrounding new technology homework has yet to generate its “other”’. Domesticity has traditionally been invisible and has not been included in the agenda of organisation studies—a point made by Czarniawska (1997: 2) who says that ‘everyday organizational life is largely limited to employees, and, fragmentally, to their families’. In other words, the unfreezing of temporal rigidities creates complexities and dynamics that are as yet not fully understood (Felstead et al., 2001). Despite some progress in understanding the consequences of such flexible forms of work organization (see, for example, Bryant’s (2001) study on homeworking, gender, and different categories of homeworkers; Harris (2003) on homeworking and the impacts on the employment relationship; Phizacklea and Wolkowitz (1995) on political, social and economic contexts of homeworking) and the generally burgeoning literature about flexibility in general and teleworking in particular, we know little about how the minutiae of the private sphere is affected by the arrival of (paid) work, and vice versa. Sirianni’s (1991) attempt to develop a new time economy, which synthesises old and new temporal frames, provides a sophisticated and rich theoretical account within which to explore such emerging temporalities. She acknowledges the liberating and democratic potential of new temporal arrangements without ignoring the flipside of marginalisation, senseless fragmentation and more insidious (managerial) control. She writes:
Redefining affluence thus requires redefining discipline in a way most appropriate to the dilemmas posed by the permanent tendency of the demand on our time in complex societies to outrun the supply. It requires becoming ever more adept at distinguishing when rationalizing techniques serve to make us more responsible and free, and when they restrict and repress choice, and indeed excuse our failures and rationalize our guilt. The dilemma of action in complex societies is that such techniques can almost always serve multiple purposes, and we often cannot know beforehand which might predominate. (Sirianni, 1991: 250)

Alvesson and Willmott, (2002) echo this view when they suggest that flexibility—the arranging of one’s own schedule or working practices albeit within parameters set by others—can potentially (but not inevitably) promote fluidity, leading to opportunities for micro emancipation. In this context, it could be argued that home-based teleworkers, although freed from direct external control, need to develop internalised control mechanisms (norms, values and attitudes) in order to ‘motivate, drive and police themselves to get the work done’ (Felstead



and Jewson, 2000: 115). In particular, professional workers who are defined by being in charge of their time beyond the immediate control of external mechanisms or persons (Zerubavel, 1981) should be most suitable to become home-based, since they have internalised a particular work-oriented ethos and its temporal discipline. However, as ‘professionals’ they are also expected to show a ‘willingness to devote surpluses of time above and beyond what is formally required as a sign of trustworthiness and commitment’ (Sirianni and Walsh, 1991: 424). Thus, the combination of homeworking and particular internalised dispositions toward work might counteract the opportunities for micro emancipation. Indeed, it could even result in the professional homeworkers ‘working all hours’ to complete as many tasks as possible. In the following sections we argue that such dilemmas of action in complex societies are both symbolised and expressed in modes of teleworking, and involve addressing (among other things) temporal dilemmas. We present in data about how such temporal dilemmas are addressed and sometimes resolved on the level of lived experience.

RESEARCH CONTEXT In order to capture the domestic perspective, we visited 25 teleworkers and their families. We had approached all the participants of the part-time management development programmes at our respective universities, as a result of which 25 teleworkers agreed to participate in our study. The teleworkers came from diverse industrial, sectoral, and functional backgrounds and their employers spanned the continuum from a large multinational IT company to a medium sized paper production company. However, they were all graduates and pursued professional managerial careers. This group of teleworkers was involved in high discretion work (Felstead et al., 2001) in that their work centred on problem-solving and decisionmaking. In this regard they were certainly self-directed in the conduct of their professional activities, and to that extent a privileged group, and any insights we can glean from them about the impact of telework cannot necessarily be generalised to other groups. Our intent was not so much to establish whether the teleworkers achieved more autonomy vis-à-vis teleworking, rather we addressed how they resolved dilemmas created through the meeting of two cultural spheres. These teleworkers, all living in the North of England, worked at home for regular periods of their working lives, while remaining full-time salaried employees at their respective employment organisations. Most of these professional managers had been teleworkers for some time. Some worked regularly at home, having dedicated one or two working days per week to this mode of work. Others followed a more fragmented pattern, dependent on task contingencies. These uneven patterns in our groups of respondents did not prevent us from pursuing our research questions, because all respondents and their families had to address issues posed by the relocation of ‘work’ into ‘home’. Our group of teleworkers came from different family contexts: 18 were married/cohabited, out of which nine families had a single breadwinner and nine had dual career structures. Four of the teleworkers had long-term relationships and three were single. Twenty of our group had children, with two of the single teleworkers having children from previous relationships. While in terms of their family structures and industrial background our group is quite disparate, the main commonality was provided by their ‘professional management’ background, which signalled a shared emotional and mental disposition (Watson and Harris, 1999). Unlike many other studies that investigate telework (see Daniels, Lamond, and Standen, 2001), we conducted our research in the home itself. Apart from thus addressing the neglected ‘fragment’ of the organizational arena (Czarniawska, 1997) this location proved



conducive to conducting the interviews in an informal manner, so that the teleworkers were encouraged to talk freely about their respective experiences. We should say here that epistemologically, we take a subjectivist stance, seeing language as the medium for all forms of enquiry and knowledge about the social world. But we reject the postmodern view that reality is ultimately pliable and nothing more than a self-referential outcome of discursive practices. Rather, our own philosophical approach is one of combining epistemological subjectivity with ontological realism, seeing external reality as a ‘thing in itself’ but which is ultimately unknowable in any complete or ‘true’ sense (Johnson and Duberley, 2003). Within this epistemological and ontological framework we see language and context as having ‘framing’ power (Alvesson and Kärreman, 2000: 152), whilst acknowledging that we have no foolproof way of knowing what meaning certain forms of talk might take on. We aim to explore talk as it occurred in our data, without assuming infallible monologic meanings, and we also draw on observational evidence of practice to construct ‘illuminating and manageable portions of the realities at hand in fieldwork situations’ (Alvesson and Kärreman, 2000: 147), as we have understood them. Turning back to our interview conversations, usually, we had one main respondent (the teleworker), but had negotiated with her/him to include other family members in our discussions, too. Commonly, there was a ‘formal’ interview, lasting between 30 and 60 minutes. In these semi-structured interviews we focused in the first instance on the ‘practicalities’ of teleworking such as how teleworkers and their families structured their days, where they worked, how they managed unforeseen interruptions, how they motivated themselves to work, how they dressed, where and what they ate, how they interacted with family and friends, clients and colleagues. This was followed by a ‘tour of the house’ as an agreed part of our research strategy. This tour provided us with some physical data about whether work and home spaces were kept separate and whether boundaries were quite stringently established or whether the distinction had become blurred. Frequently, partners, spouses, children and pets, neighbours and sometimes even builders accompanied us on these tours, offering their viewpoints and commenting on the viewpoints of the others. Sometimes we were invited to stay on for lunch or even an evening meal. For example, in one instance we had arranged to be picked up after the home visit by our partners. However, the boundaries between research and private time blurred, and we were all invited to stay on for a glass of wine. This hospitality provided opportunities to observe the dynamics of ‘work’ and ‘family’ and complemented the interview data. Much of the social ‘chatter’ was informed by questions about where to draw boundaries, what the relationship between work and non-work is, what counts as work and so on. In other words, we chatted about topics that were highly relevant for our research but which might be much harder to address within a short interview period. Every researcher has to find a solution about how to make sense of and present her findings. We view any presentation of data as ‘crafted’ (Watson, 1995, 2000) in that researchers always make decisions about selecting, organising and evaluating their findings, regardless of method. We have focused on data that seemed to us to express pertinently, succinctly and/ or elegantly the complexities of teleworking, selecting data for presentation here that presents the voice of teleworkers, male and female, their ‘social others’ (spouses, partners, friends) and their children. We then organised the data along the themes in the Simon and Garfunkel song ‘The 59th Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)’, since we saw a possibility to align the (different) wisdom of pop culture with theoretical and academic insights. Built into all of these is of course evaluation. We deliberately selected and presented data that point to the demands and complexities of telework as well as its liberating potential, in that it provides opportunities to rethink, regenerate, slow down. This does not mean that we paint an unproblematic, naïve or rosy picture of telework that fosters the notion of triumphant individualism. We have focused



here, quite deliberately, on accounts which outline the potentialities of home-based telework for degrees of self-direction and alternative ways of living. We have done so, because we wish to challenge some of the rather deterministic and fatalistic accounts as well as those accounts that promote and revel in the ecstasy of speed/instantaneousness. In this sense we acknowledge both our role in constructing this account, and the inherent limits of any knowledge claims that we might make as a result. In the next section we present different aspects of our findings, symbolically offered under the lyrics of ‘Feelin’ Groovy’. First we present the data (talk data; observations), and then we explore them in the light of previously discussed themes and concepts.

Slow down, you move too fast…
The nine to five is gone. It doesn’t exist anymore. I work more or less, it depends on the task. If possible, I structure my day around Peter and Liz – sometimes this means finishing a project off after dinner. But mainly, they get priority. As I said, it all depends on the task. (Roger, 40, accounts manager; teleworks 2–3 days per week; married to Liz; one son, Peter) Daddy’s picking me up from school now. (Charlotte, 6, daughter) Initially, I was still working almost ten hours every day. Now, I save time, a lot of time, because there are no interruptions. I work quite intensively for about six to seven hours. Then I finish work. I go to the gym or just use the rest of the day as lazy time. (Laughs a little.) Don’t tell my boss. (Sue, 43, single, HRM project manager; teleworks approximately 1.5 days per week) My boss says, ‘Don’t get so hot under the collar about stuff’. He sometimes rings me up and says, ‘What are you doing?’ And I say, ‘I am working. I work in my sleep.’ He says, ‘Stop it! Go and put your feet up! You’ve been really busy lately.’ He used to do that an awful lot. He doesn’t do it half so much now because quite often when he rings up and says ‘What are you doing’, I say ‘I’m gardening.’ …it is all about doing things at different times in the day, doing different things in different ways, spending time thinking. (Jodie, 41, OD consultant; single, two teenage children; teleworks in blocks)

Prevailingly our teleworkers talked about their paid work as being task-driven, that it all depends on the task, the job in hand, or the given requirements, the scope of the project. Work tasks were aligned with domestic tasks, but they did not necessarily take priority. In Roger’s case domestic tasks and family involvement were frequently given priority over his professional work, so that he became more involved in the rhythms of the household and generally described his life as less hectic. This task-based approach provided a conceptual measurement for him and other teleworkers to decide when the day’s work was done, particularly in the absence of default mechanisms associated with traditional work settings. This required teleworkers to make more conscious decisions about the length of the working day vis-à-vis task requirements, work or domestic. And in doing so they seemed to become more reflective: You have to think much more about the process; the default is gone; you’re not so much on automatic pilot. In this sense our cohort experienced (degrees of) extended control as much as the conflict of choice in the structuring of work tasks. Children, on the whole, seemed to like parents to be at home (Charlotte’s comment was not the only such comment in our findings) and parents pointed to the possibilities entailed in telework of leading a more balanced life. In many instances teleworkers described how they worked with more focus or more concentration, usually attributed to fewer interruptions as compared to the traditional office. Thus, the tempo, i.e., the pace and intensity of (paid) work had increased for these workers. But, many teleworkers used such intense periods in the spirit of time thrift to save time, which was then not filled with tasks, appointments or work things to do, but frequently described as lazy time, time out or used for leisure or family time. However, internalised time disciplines are hard to shake off. This is born out by Jodie’s words—and other quotes in this vein—that such internalised shackles are resilient indeed. Interestingly,



it is her boss (a traditional, office-based worker)—and he is not the only boss teleworkers mentioned in this way—who encouraged a different mode of working and being. Similarly, Sue’s example points to the power of internalised norms about the length of the working day and points to a degree of nervousness about being found out. For Sue, the pursuit of leisure activities or domestic tasks was accompanied by feelings of guilt. As a professional worker she expected herself to be on the job all the time. As a private person, she attempted to provide more time for herself and her hobbies. However, the symbolic presence of ‘the boss’ points to the continuation of her being bound to a professional ethos, which requires her to put ‘work’ before ‘home’. Nevertheless, both Jodie and Sue have slowed down, allowing more unstructured experience into their lives. In Sue’s case this is done secretly, since it poses a threat to the assumptions of professionalism enacted through ever-availability.

You’ve got to make the moment last…
We have these old mature rose stocks in the front of our bedroom and they smell lovely. When I used to commute every day, I never had time to enjoy them. Now, I go down there—sometimes in my nightie and with a mug—and spend some time or so—just enjoying. (Meredith, 45, office manager; cohabiting with Steve, 39) John: Overall, there is more time. When the children were younger, we always saw them off together to school. Jayne: Yes, these days were nice… John: Well, not every day, but sometimes and I thought, well normally I would never have shared these moments. Jayne: Yes and on a really good day, we would even afterwards spend some time in the kitchen, sorting out the next couple of days. (John, 38, community link manager, retail company; married to Jayne, housewife; teleworks approximately 2.5 days per week) During a tour of the house Tom showed us around their garden. He pointed, proudly, to the beds of vegetables and borders of flowers: They are a direct result of being at home more. (…) I had to learn that I can do my thinking work while I am gardening. I don’t have to wear a suit or sit in front of the screen. Question: Is this multi-tasking? Tom: Don’t know. Sometimes I am just in the garden. (Tom, 33, sales manager; married to Jackie, senior nurse; teleworks predominantly either from home or from elsewhere; visits the traditional office base about 2–3 times a month).

All our interviewees talked about such snatched moments, took time out or experienced glimpses of the other life as a side effect of working at home. These instances were connected to a different understanding of time, which is attuned to the recurring variance of growth and decline and symbolised in gardens, plants, child rearing, cooking and sometimes more generally described as playing. Moments of beauty, contemplation and flow enriched everyday experience. However, all of the above point to a certain routinization of such moments in that they are at least sporadically recurrent, rather than being singular events. Meredith’s enjoyment of the roses, John and Jayne’s family moments, Tom’s gardening are cherished moments based on reciprocity. For these people the time-money nexus and ethos, while not being completely abandoned, had become disrupted and while such punctuations may provide mainly a respite, they also set an existential question mark behind lives lived under the reign of this logic. Tom’s gardening example also points to a blurring of boundaries between paid and unpaid work in that his horticultural endeavours provide time for workrelated thinking—as such he is in two cultural spheres, ‘work’ and ‘home’ simultaneously. They are transported in the flow of experience of time flux. This is not an unusual experience in the teleworkers mode of being. Jayne and John, engaged in their kitchen conversations, blur such strict dichotomies between ‘work’ and ‘home’ so that mutual adjustment, rather than unilateral domination, occurs.



Just kicking down the cobblestones, looking for fun and…
An opportunity at work came up. I was asked to head this new project – it would have implied managing a much larger team and initially returning to the office most days. It was made clear that this would be considered the precursor for a promotion. I talked to Mel about this and we decided to decline. (Jenny, 37, international project manager; cohabiting with Melanie, manager of a nursing home; teleworks irregular patterns, comprising at least half her work time) We are not envious people. We don’t crave things. We don’t need a bigger car or house. We’ve got a good life. (Suzie, 41, wife to David, 45, engineer/project manager; teleworks regularly 1 day a week; 2 children) I’m a homebird, really. I rediscovered that after years of career building and breathlessness. Pat, 48, regional development manager; married to Bill, postman; teleworked initially one day per week; currently two days per week)

The precious moments of time out gathered momentum for some families and resulted in a more reflective mode of assessing their needs and requirements. In Jenny’s example the decision to forgo a likely promotion opportunity was taken jointly by her and her partner, in order to protect the quality of their current lifestyle. Similarly, as Suzie explains above, she and David decided to take a levelling out approach to their material lives, and a more reflexive slant on life in general, facilitated by David’s telework experience. But, in two of our cases an even more radical evaluation of material needs occurred, resulting in a scaling down of possessions and income. Pat, the homebird, was one of them: A very successful manager, she initially agreed to work at home one day per week to increase her efficiency. However, she attuned to the rhythms of her home so well, that she negotiated to work at home two days per week and she began to plan her early retirement, at the expense of a much higher pension. However, her decision was taken in the light of being in the twilight of my career. In the early stages I would never have made this decision. Work would always have won out. In the second case, Pete, a communications manager, decided to work part-time for three years in order to become more involved with his young daughter. This decision was partly brought about through being at home more regularly and reconsidering his role in child rearing. But, in most of our cases decisions were not as clear cut: adjustments or re-evaluations were piecemeal, brittle and oscillated between career aspirations, considerations of status, perceptions and (material) requirements on the one hand, and some insight into the reciprocal side of human relationships on the other.

DISCUSSION … Feeling Groovy ? What then can we say about how our teleworkers and their families experienced the bringing together of the work and home spheres? Some families gave priority to domestic affairs and family needs, thus breaking some conventional thinking that paid work is always to be considered more important than those ‘mere’ domestic issues (Perin, 1998). Of course, these teleworkers were professionals who continued to surveil themselves through the internalisation of disciplinary norms. Telework in this regard and for this particular occupational group did not increase external surveillance as many commentators fear (Brocklehurst, 2001; Dennison, 1990; Fairweather, 1999), but neither did it diminish. However, in and through telework internalised, self-disciplinary control began to influence the conduct of these professional workers, so that some of them ‘saved time’, yet used it to complete more and more tasks, domestic or otherwise. On the other hand, home-based working did allow some of them, sometimes, to progress towards a mode of being that Sirianni describes as ‘properly interpreting the day’ (Sirianni, 1991: 249), in that they cultivated multiple ways of keeping time, that—despite time scarcity—added to their autonomy, and seemed to create micro



opportunities for emancipation (Alvesson and Wilmott, 2002). Sirianni’s (1991) framework of time is appropriate here in that teleworkers/their families drew on a plurality of temporal frames and their respective codes and norms in order to exercise degrees of autonomy, that sometimes, even if precariously, challenged the dominance of the efficiency logic. We can use the notion of the Tagwerk (Adam, 1990; Sennett, 1998)—the organising of tasks to take account of changing circumstances and situational contingencies—to help us understand how teleworkers/families co-ordinated and assessed the day’s paid and unpaid work, taking time decisions according to contextual contingencies rather than being driven by pre-given default assumptions. However, we do not underestimate the effort involved in achieving this, in that learning to adjust to, and accept, different rhythms seems to be tied up with questions of identity (Brocklehurst, 2001). For some, this reorientation was intrinsically tied into a conscious process of re-evaluating internalised norms, resulting in ‘slowing down’ and recasting the relationship between home and work in more plural, less fixed and more open-ended ways, blurring the boundaries between ‘work’ and ‘play’, ‘grooving’ and grafting’. Sometimes this was experienced as blissful—smelling the roses, for example—and lead to new patterns, rhythms and understandings, but sometimes as stressful and anxiety provoking with regard to being ‘found out’, leading perhaps to a questioning of professional identity. The views of others in the employing workplace seemed central here, with some of these teleworkers needing the reassurance of, and sometimes even pressure from, line managers to blur the boundaries and enjoy a different way of being, pointing perhaps to the role of professional peers and cultural norms in identity construction. This blurring of boundaries also means that the construction and understanding of the ‘other’—the household (Brocklehurst, 2001)—is perhaps becoming harder to grasp and delineate, posing a more complex and difficult, if not impossible, task for researchers. We do not argue that these managers/families had become deeply philosophical, or routinely pondered existential questions, rather that such questions were played out practically in the sequencing of time into activity, in prioritising tasks and allocating time slots to them. In other words, the accumulation of material wealth or positions, income and artefacts of success and status were not always and automatically given priority. Rather, some of these teleworkers and their families sometimes used the opportunities of flexibility to ‘richly’ interpret the day (Sirianni, 1991: 251), using the diverse time frames available to shape an existence that could include moments and ways of being that were experienced as different. But this group of 25 teleworkers can claim certain professional and material characteristics that may differentiate them from other teleworkers in significant ways, and these characteristics may be central to the way they experience telework as potentially liberating, if only for brief moments. Echoing ideas expressed by Alvesson and Wilmott (2002), with regard to preconditions for micro emancipation, those teleworkers who appeared to enjoy brief moments of liberation experienced supportive forms of interaction within their home and their work environment. Relating this to Thompson’s (1967) point about employers using an employee’s time rather like currency, being careful not to waste it, it may be that some employing organizations would see moments of liberation as wasted time. But perhaps enlightened and reflexive employers (those talked about by some of our teleworkers may be examples) may come to see that the task based approach of work embedded within other aspects of an employee’s life is, in the long run, a more enlightened and effective way to view (and use) the time that they ‘purchase’ from teleworkers. Furthermore, this cohort also had the physical space and resources to do their job effectively from home, as well as intellectual and emotional space for critical reflection,1 factors which could clearly impact on the telework experience (Alvesson and Wilmott, 2002). Finally, these teleworkers seemed to experience relative stability in other parts of their lives. They were, for example, either in long-term stable relationships or had chosen to be living alone, and they had stable working relationships with



the employing organisation. Perhaps this very stability in other aspects of their lives enabled them to integrate effectively moments of plurality, difference and change. In sum, these teleworkers seemed to experience what has been described as a golden opportunity to reconcile work and family lives (Andrews and Bailyn, 1993; Fletcher and Bailyn, 1996) and their experience perhaps provides some evidence for the work/life balance debate about the ways and means to achieve a more holistic life (see Hogarth et al., 2001), but this is not necessarily the case for other, less privileged teleworking groups. Our work does not suggest that home-based telework is amounting to a silent revolution, which radically and once and for all challenges and changes established practices and assumptions about the relationship between ‘work’ and ‘life’. It does not herald a new age of slowness, harmony and ‘groove’. However, we have provided some evidence that such modes of flexible work do entail some alternatives for some people, and that these can pose questions for the temporalities that structure our (working) lives. We have empirically demonstrated that the conceptual ideas of Adam (1990, 1995) and Nowotny (1994) that enacted temporalities can draw on a multiplicity of time forms that permeate each other, coexist, intermesh or vie for power, and that within this reasoning the Time = Money metaphor is one possible framework within which the enactment of social realities occur, but it is certainly not the only one. Within the temporal experience and logic of capitalism, it is possible to question the logic of money being more valuable than time, however, ‘levelling out’ or ‘cutting back’ only appears possible within that logic.

CONCLUSION We have attempted to provide a counterpoint to some of the more deterministic (and often simplistic) accounts about the impact of flexibility on the organisation of life. We have used the notion of the Tagwerk as a conceptual tool to understand how teleworkers and their families make sense of and manage the opportunities and demands inherent in such flexible forms. In this account we have tried to emphasise the complexities and opportunities that such flexible organisation might entail. We do not claim that our teleworkers/families had succeeded in building their (private) utopias, nor that they could take themselves out of institutionalised time completely. Sometimes the renegotiations of temporal and spatial boundaries were contested; at best it was precarious and inchoate—pointing to an ongoing struggle rather than a once-andfor-all achievement. In this regard those families were not ‘always groovy’. However, they did sometimes appropriate the techniques of industrial production, in particular time management, in order to shape their days and to accommodate a multitude of tasks and responsibilities. The management of time, then, is not simply a disciplinary instrument, but a diversifying one that can enable some teleworkers/families to synchronise and co-ordinate a multitude of activities and relationships. In appropriating ‘time management’ these people exercised choice. In exercising choice they had to reflect upon how to live their lives. Note
1. The authors do not wish to be seen to buy into the popular and simplistic discourse that homeworking provides a panacea for the structural problems of flexible capitalism. Nor do we wish to play down or belittle issues of exploitation, racism, and/or sexism, which are expressed and sometimes expounded in and through homebased work. The results of our study must not be generalised across other homeworking groups.

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