The advancement of information technologies is changing the work environment, forcing organizations to adapt more flexible work arrangements for their employees. The New Way of Working (NWOW) provides the context for these developments. It consists of three distinct pillars or dimensions: (1) Bricks, the physical dimension; all aspects of the physical work environment; (2) Bytes, the technological dimension; all aspects concerning the use and application of IT; and (3) Behavior, the personal dimension, which addresses all aspects concerning the manager-employee relationship. In his dissertation study Arjan de Kok aims to uncover the effects of the implementation of NWOW from the transformational, knowledge management, and the IT and information security perspective.
De Kok developed an analysis tool, that assesses the current and desired level of adoption of NWOW in an organization. This enables organizations to focus on specific aspects, improving the transition to NWOW. In a longitudinal study he assessed the attitude of employees towards NWOW. The results show that the implementation of NWOW has a positive effect on the performance and satisfaction of employees. The majority is positive and indicates they can work well in the new work environment, though there are also negative signals. The biggest obstacle is the loss of one’s own workplace, and having to be ‘productive’ in a flexible office setting.
Working more flexible and mobile has its effects on the way knowledge is shared. A number of case studies show that the channels that are used to share knowledge change when workers move from a traditional to a new work setting. Compared to traditional workers, ‘NWOW workers’ use less face-to-face communication and more virtual communication channels to share knowledge. Knowledge is shared in less formal (planned), more tacit (personalized), and less explicit (documented) ways.
As work becomes more flexible, IT support of mobile working becomes crucial. A survey in a Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) environment, assessed the effects of having more freedom of device choice versus the information security risks involved. The conclusion is that more freedom of device choice is possible without loss of corporate security, unless the right technical controls are in place. The results indicate that this freedom would improve task performance and lead to a higher satisfaction of employees.
Finally, a large survey with over 1,000 respondents was performed to assess the effects of NWOW and information security policies. The results show NWOW has a significant positive effect on employee engagement and the performance of organizations. Of the three dimensions, Behavior has the strongest positive effect on employee engagement. This indicates organizations should not only focus on the new work environment (Bricks) and mobile working (Bytes), but also address the personal aspects such as result based working, trust and autonomy (Behavior), where the highest potential gain is. The results also show information security policies have a significant negative effect, especially on employee performance and work-life balance, potentially offsetting the gain in productivity and employee satisfaction. This implies organizations need to find the intricate balance between enabling mobile work versus information security policies.
The New Way of Working has positive effect on the performance and satisfaction of employees and ultimately organizations. The biggest gain comes from result based working and giving employees more trust and autonomy. Working more flexible and mobile changes the way knowledge is shared; there is less face-to-face communication and more use of virtual channels. Giving employees the freedom to choose a device of their own choice improves their task performance and satisfaction, and does not have to come at the cost of a less secure information environment. Imposing strict information security policies will however offset the potential gain of mobile working.
Organizations should closely monitor the implementation of the New Way of Working, in order for the transition to be successful. Negative signals should not be ignored. To reach the biggest gains, the focus should not only be on the new office environment and mobile IT, but also on the personal aspects, such as result based working, trust and autonomy. Because the communication changes, organizations should capture and manage knowledge that is shared via virtual communication channels to not lose grip on knowledge that is important to their operation. Organizations need to find the intricate balance between the freedom of device choice and enabling mobile work versus information security policies.
You may also read the blogs Arjan de Kok wrote about his research.