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The Economic Research Institute, Stockholm School of Economics SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Business Administration

No 2002:1:
Telecommuting resistance, soft but strong: Development of telecommuting over time, and related rhetoric, in three organisations

Jon Rognes ()

Abstract: Telecommuting, or working part of the time from another location than the office, normally from home, has been tried by several organisations in the recent years. This has not always been a success. Still, many arguments in favour of telecommuting are forwarded by previous studies. This paper investigates the development of telecommuting in three organisations, and elaborates on mechanisms behind the fact that the practice of telecommuting has not been as widespread as expected. The study is longitudinal, covering three years, and mainly based on interviews. The practice of telecommuting is found to have a negative development over time in all three cases. The social/symbolic aspects are found to be strong, but initially not reflected upon by the organisations. Many arguments in early phases of telecommuting are of a rational/functional nature, and tend to treat work as an output-related activity, without considering social and symbolic aspects of distancing oneself from the worksite and the colleagues. Over time, symbolic aspects become more pronounced. This complements/overrides the rational/functional arguments initially used by those in favour of telecommuting. This shift over time needs to be taken into account to understand the initial positive response to, but difficulties to sustain telecommuting.

Keywords: Telework; telecommuting; Geographical dispersion; Organisation; (follow links to similar papers)

16 pages, April 3, 2002

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