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Publication Title | Remote Office Work Changing Work Patterns in Space and Time

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Morgrethe H. Olson is currcnijy involved in the long-term evaluation of companies experimenting with work-ot-home programs, a s port of a long-
stondinginterest in Ihe lmpoct of office automation on the nolure of work, She 51t.. on the rtjltorco,boards of Olfl~e'.~'echrio~ogaynd
Remote work generally refers to organizational work per- formed outside of the normal organizational confines of Space and time. Although manyself-employed profession- als, artists, writers, and crafts~eo~wleork at home and set.their own schedules. mostAembloveeswork nine-to- five at a specified ~r~an'izationiaolcition.
Office automation, the use of computer and communi- cations technology to support office functions, provides the potential to alter the locational and temporal defini- tion of a large number of office jobs. The term telecom- muting 1111refers to the substitution of communications
ABSTRACT: Remote work refers to organizational work that is per- formed outside of the normal or- ganizational confines of space and time, The term telecommuting re- fers to the substitution of commu- nications ca~abilitiesfor travel to a central wdrk location. Office au- tomation technology permits many office workers to be poten- tial telecommuters in that their work can be performed remotely with computer and communica- tions support. Thispaper exam-
.ines some behavioral, organiza- tional, and social issues surround- ing remote work, particularly work a t home.
An exploratory study was con- ducted of 32 organizational em- ployees who were working at home. Important characteristics of
jobs that can be performed at home were: minimum physical re- quirements, individual control over work pace, defined delivera- bles, a need for concentration, and a relatively low need for commu- nication. The individuals who worked at home successfully were found to be highly self-motivated and self-disciplined and to have skills which provided them with bargaining power. They also made the arrangement either because of family requirements or because they preferred f e w social con facts beyond family.
Center for Digital Economy Research Stem School of Business
IVorking Paper IS-8 1-56
This paper was presented
at the Third International Conference on Information Systems, held December 13-15,1982, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Author's Present Address: Margrcthe H. Olson, Graduate School of Business
AclministrirIion, New York Univcrsity, YO l'rinity Place, New York. New York 1WOG.
Permission to copy without Ice all or part of this material is granted provided that the copies arc not made or distributed for direct c:ctmmcrc:iitl advnnlagc. Ihc ACM copyright noticc and the title of the publication and its date appear, and noticc is given that copying is by permission of lhc Association for Computing Machinery. To copy otherwise, or lo republish, rcquircs il Iec and/or specific
permission. O 1983 ACM OUOl-O782/83/0300-0l82 75s
182 Cornrnunicolions ofthe ACM
capabilities for travel to a central work location. Office automation technology permits many office workers to be potential telecommuters in that their work can be per- formed remotely with computer and communications sup- port.
This paper examines some behavioral, organizational, and social issues surrounding remote work. Several kinds of remote work options are presented; the emphasis throughout is on work-at-home. Based on exploratory research by the author, some preliminary conclusions about the types of jobs that can be performed remotely and the types of individuals that are suited for work-at- home are presented. Some questions regarding the effect of remote work, particularly work-at-home, on the indi- vidual's relationship to work and nonwork are discussed, with emphasis on the need for research.
TECHNOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL TRENDS Developments in computer and communications technol- ogy are facilitating the trend to remote work. The dra- matic decreases in the costs of this technology have in- creased its availability to large numbers of people. Elec- tronic communications services such as electronic mail and teleconferencing facilitate communications without requiring both parties to participate simultaneously and face-to-face. Most significantly, the general trend to office automation will see the development of professional workstations-microconlputer-based systems tailored to a particular professional, manager, or secretary. In the long
run, the individual will not need the equipment, paper files, or supplies provided in the office because they will be built into a workstation.
Technology itself will not bring about changes in orga- nizational structure and climate. Companies are facing

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