Call for papers – Journal of Business Research

Special Issue – Worker location, work arrangements engagement, equity and participation in a post-pandemic world

Guest Editors:

Jyoti Choudrie (University of Hertfordshire, UK)

Isabel Ramos (Universidade do Minho, Portugal)

Andri Georgiadou (University of Nottingham, UK)

Alain Chong (University of Nottingham Ningbo China, China)

Claas Christian Germelmann (Universität Bayreuth, Germany)

The rise of the digitally enabled ‘disruptive technologies’ or ‘sharing platform-economy’ has been propelled by advances in computing power and information communication technologies (ICT) (De Stefano, 2016; Forde et al., 2017; Gandini, 2018; Howcroft and Bergvall-Kåreborn, 2019; Kenney and Zysman, 2016; Peticca-Harris et al., 2018; Srnicek, 2017; Wood et al., 2018, Veen et al, 2019). These technologies in the platform economy have become vitally important during the present pandemic situation of Covid 19. To slow the spread of the pandemic, countries around the globe imposed ‘lockdowns’ and restricted individual movements, which resulted in the concept of ‘working from home’ to become the new normal way of working. In the workplace, collaboration tools have disrupted communication tools in the form of the three most popular platforms- Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, all allowing contact with colleagues and linking up with friends and family for weekly digital get-togethers. Yet while they all share the common capability of messaging and video calls, each come with their own features that might make one a better option for individual specific needs than the other.

Although most governments have gradually started relaxing the lockdown, social distancing measures remain a top priority within the policy agenda with respect to public and business concerns. To this end, information and communication technology (ICTs) have been mobilised and are important for helping essential and main economic activities at local and international levels during the pandemic by offering virtual interactions among employers, employees and customers as well as online services, sales and support (e.g. Richter, 2020). During the lockdown, certain sectors such as, office based, white collar services (accountancy, financial analysts, online schooling) were operating near to normal services due to the provided disruptive technologies. This led to positive workforce productivity outcomes as these technologies offered scheduling flexibility as well as perceived autonomy; thereby, generating greater work-family integration (e.g. Raghuram et al, 2004) with better work-life balance (e.g. Dockery & Bawa, 2018) and lower workfamily conflict (e.g. Gajendran & Harrison, 2007; Kelly et al., 2014). It can also improve job satisfaction (e.g. Castellacci & Viñas-Bardolet, 2019; Bloom et al., 2015), employment opportunities (e.g. Mello, 2015), reduce work stress (e.g. Gajendran & Harrison, 2007) and turnover intentions (Golden, 2006). The technologies have also saved commuting time that lead to productivity gains. Overall, it may be suggested that the working from home concept could have led to higher employee productivity, lowered operating costs and offered various positive work-related outcomes that in turn could increase firm financial performance (e.g. Bailyn, 1988; DuBrin, 1991; Council of Economic Advisors, 2010; Dutcher, 2012; Bloom et al., 2015).

However, not all individuals found the working from home concept beneficial as it led to longer working hours, due to the reduced times spent on travelling or ‘informal socialising’, which made it more difficult for the workforce to rest and recover and resulted in more tiredness (Song and Gao, 2018). Working overtime at the expense of family could jeopardize employees’ social wellbeing by raising work–family conflict, increasing the workers’ guilt about neglecting their families and resulting in more family disputes (Ojala 2011). The border theory also suggests that due to the working from home concept heightened negative work- home spill- overs as the workers found it difficult to ‘switch off’ at the end of the day and unwind at the end of the work day (Crosbie and Moore, 2004; Marsh and Musson, 2008). A Hopkinson et al (2003) study found that the social interaction offered in a work environment was pertinent for work productivity. Another also found that career development opportunities and the technical support offered by being within the workplace was missing and vital for productivity (Felstead and Henseke, 2017). These 3 disruptive technologies also pose as risks in their own respective ways, although Google met and Teams less so than Zoom. Zoom is famous for video meetings being accessed, particularly where there is no password protection. A famous Zoom bombing occurred within England where a screenshot of a Zoom meeting was shared publicly by the UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson where the Zoom Meeting ID was also shared (Hachman, 2020). With google meet the risk is that when there are connections with low bandwidth, the video freezes a lot, but making only voice calls solves it. Google Meet’s desktop plugin sometimes freezes if there are any interruptions in its provision. The only risk that has been seen with Teams is that some of the settings can be difficult to find (i.e. notifications, sounds/alerts). These are risks that have been observed presently, but there could be more risks that we seek to identify through this call.

Due to such drawbacks, difficulties can occur for users, which can lead to a resistance to using the technologies within users (Choudrie and Zamani, 2016) and a digital divide (Iansiti and Richards, 2020).

Now that the lockdowns are easing, what is the role of these platforms? Will they remain and how much trust will there be in such platforms in the future. Until the easing of the lockdowns and social distancing measures there was no viable option for employers and trust was placed in these platforms for many occupations and jobs. The workforce has also experienced a working from home concept where drawbacks such as, longer working days are also now clear and personally experienced by individuals.

With the lockdowns being eased and social distancing reducing, governments are striving for economic growth and encouraging everyone to return to their ‘normal’ working routines. Does this mean, that there will be an increasing effort to move from a traditional office-based work operations to work from home (WFH) arrangements together with computer based assisted technology, also referred to as telecommuting, telework or remote working (van der Lippe and Lippenyi, 2020).

This call seeks to identify, explore and understand whether these disruptive, collaborative platforms will remain and be sustained in our daily life activities. What will their role be in the ‘normal’ working practices day? How will performance and productivity be measured when using such platforms? Are there other collaboration, disruptive technologies that are less risky, more trustworthy, but also user friendly. Given that organizations are now having to adapt to a working from home culture to also exist with their current situations, how will the productivity of the workforce be measured. Many organizations are already seeking employee monitoring software (Ghosh, 2020), so new questions will emerge. Will face to face meetings become extinct, or is there a place for the technologies and face to face meetings and working besides one another practice to co-exist? Will these technologies be adopted and used only in certain sectors, or in all? How will they be used? What will they be used for and are they likely to remain, or will they disappear as we become used to returning to the traditional ways of working? How do the use of the application platforms affect how we experience co-working? How does attending Zoom/Teams or other platform meetings from the home office blur the border between work and leisure, and how does this affect the perception of a home life? Do we zoom in or out with consideration to well-being?

In this call for papers we seek papers that will identify whether these technologies do have a place in our society by examining the role of trust, risk, working practices, resistance to change, productivity, the digital divide and culture. This call is open to both theoretical, applied and empirical papers that seek to unpack and uncover these ‘hidden’ relationships and offer directions that can benefit policy makers, businesses, employees, practitioners and other stakeholders. For instance, empirical studies involving a mixed method, sole approaches such as, qualitative, or quantitative aspects will be considered. For this, techniques using Business Analytics, Artificial Intelligence can be considered in addition to analytical techniques like, interviews, observations or regression techniques.

Particularly, we encourage submission of papers that deal with the following themes, although we welcome other themes that can be used along these and contribute to the aims of this call for papers, which are:

  • To identify, explain and understand role of the themes of trust, risk, culture, the digital divide and resistance to change during and after the ‘lockdowns’ and social distancing issues.
  • To explore which of these themes feature the most when considering the ‘lockdown’ and social distancing and after the lockdown and social distancing.
  • To explore whether a digital divide and resistance to change exists now that organizations have been using the disruptive, collaborative tools and their impacts on productivity.
  • How, when and what organizational cultural changes will have occurred and will occur during and after the ‘lockdown’ and social distancing.

This call is timely given the growth of the working from home phenomenon during the Covid 19 pandemic. Whilst we seek papers that will consider the collaboration, disruptive technologies impacting the ‘lockdown’ and social distancing period, we are also seeking publications that consider the situations after countries have begun to ease the ‘lockdown’ and social distancing measures.

Abstracts of 300 words should be sent to the Editors by APril 26, 2021. Full papers should be submitted by October 15, 2021 at https://www.editorialmanager.com/JOBR/default.aspx, indicating Worker location, work arrangements engagement, equity and participation in a post-pandemic world as the Special Issue. The Special Issue is to be published in 2022.

Enquiries related to the focus of papers or other queries related to the call for papers should be directed to Jyoti Choudrie (j.choudrie@herts.ac.uk), Isabel Ramos (iramos@dsi.uminho.pt), Andri Georgiadou (andri.georgiadou@nottingham.ac.uk), Alain Chong (Alain.Chong@nottingham.edu.cn), or Claas Christian Germelmann (claas.christian.germelmann@uni-bayreuth.de).