Emotions in the Digitalised Workplace

Call for papers for: Information Technology & People

Open for submissions until 30 April 2021

Guest Editors

Niki Panteli, Royal Holloway University of London, UK, [email protected]

Fay Giaver, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway, [email protected]

Jostein Engesmo, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway, [email protected]

Background and Rationale

This Special Issue aims to advance scholarly understanding of digitalised workplaces, and the ways in which they affect emotions as well as impacted by them. While over the past couple of decades we have witnessed an affective revolution within the field of organisational behaviour (Barsade et al., 2003; Ashkanasy and Dorris, 2017), research into the role played by emotions in the digital workplace has remained scarce. We believe that with increased digitalisation, put to test with the recent COVID-19 situation and enforced lockdowns where workers wittingly or unwittingly  needed to work entirely in a digital environment, there is a pressing need to explore and understand the ways in which emotions emerge, are expressed, shared or suppressed within the context of the digitalised workplace. This is following our understanding of emotions as functional and critical for individuals for interpreting and navigating their surroundings (Lazarus, 1991). Hence, emotions are seen as highly contextual, triggered, fuelled and shaped by the situation in which the individual finds him/herself in, with important implications in a digital workplace. We define emotions as a transient state constructed on the spot based on bodily sensations, events and situations in the environment (Barrett, 2016) with an inherent action tendency (Frijda, 2007).

Over the last decade, the ‘virtual’ has advanced in different and unprecedented ways. The use of social media and smartphones developed from early adopters to mass market adoption, resulting in what is now more than ten years of experience with these solutions as a part of everyone’s private and professional virtual or digital environment. Furthermore, in the era of ubiquitous computing new technologies also blend the digital and physical (e.g. use of GPS or sensors) with potential disruptive and unknown effects on work and employment in organisations (Cascio and Montealegre 2016). The digitalised space is also more fluid now than before, where solutions and devices are used across the boundaries of professional and personal lives (Yoo, 2010), and online communities (OC) and digital platforms connect people professionally across organisational boundaries. We define digital workplace as a workplace with a digital environment or space (e.g. virtual) constituted of different digital devices and solutions.

Historically, it is also worth noting that Trist and Bamforth already in 1951 demonstrated and advocated the role of psychological wellbeing in the introduction of new technology at work, a perspective that has also been inherent to the socio-technical perspective represented by the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (Burnes and Cooke, 2012). At the same time, recent contributions to the Information Systems (IS) literature warns that humanistic objectives have been lost of sight in recent years (Sarker et al., 2019). Hence, at this point in time there is a particular need to re-address, and re-emphasize the role of psychological factors, such as emotions, in the digitalised workplace. For instance, the role of emotions is only scantly researched within the information systems (IS) literature (Bala and Bhagwatwar, 2018; Stein et al,. 2015; Koch et al., 2012; Lawrence et al., 2010). As noted by Fineman et al (2007, p. 556): “The research agenda is an exciting one, stretching from the micro psychological, to the critical and sociological”. There are therefore many opportunities to engage with this area of research. For this, we invite researchers to contribute toward enriching our knowledge in this emerging and yet vital area of research.

In this special issue we seek to address this gap in knowledge, and ask for contributions within four streams of research:

First, the COVID-19 situation with lockdowns and workers obliged to work from home, has resulted in many workers finding themselves working virtually.  This may include the experience of working with new digital tools, but also the experience of working without the usual complementary face-to-face interaction and physical closeness. These experiences may differ depending on the work domain, profession, age and gender. For example, digital natives are more accustomed to being digitally immersed (Vodanovich et al., 2010), and may emotionally deal with this situation compared to digital immigrants. Here, we are interested in contributions that explore the emotional experiences and implications of this experience.

Second, related to the first, but not limited to the COVID-19 situation, employees in many organisations may find that their workplace is increasingly constituted of a digital environment.  In pre-digital organisations that existed before the digital economy, as opposed to born-digital organisations, adopting digital technologies is often necessary in order to prevail and prosper (Chanias et al., 2019). Hence, the experience of what now in both cases can be called a digital workplace may nevertheless differ. While contrasting these experiences would be interesting, we also look for contributions that study the experience of working in born-digital companies from an emotional perspective. Twitter, for example, recently announced that workers would be allowed to work from home indefinitely. And with core processes being digital, e.g. fully digital interaction with customers, how are emotions dealt with and how do emotions influence the work being carried out? Furthermore, in the process of adopting new digital solutions and digital transformation programmes within the context of pre-digital organisations, we seek to understand how are emotions dealt with and what role will emotions play in the digital transition or transformation?

Third, an increasing number of interactions take place online within organised spaces forming communities, enabled by digital platforms, where dispersed, voluntary members create opportunities for innovative product designs, knowledge creation, collaboration and learning (Chamakiotis and Panteli, 2017; Faraj et al., 2015). Knowledge exchange, coordination, and emotional support are identified as key communication purposes in online communities (Faraj et al., 2016), whilst members’ identification and sense of belonging contribute to their sustainability (Panteli and Sivunen, 2019). Questions therefore need to be asked about the impact of these communities on the emotional wellbeing of their members (both positive and negative) and the role of online community leaders as well as members in providing emotional support. Furthermore, digital platforms also enable work organised differently, e.g. according to the principles from the sharing economy (e.g. Uber) and microwork crowdsourcing (e.g. Amazon Mechanical Turk) (Constantinides et al. 2019; Panteli et al., 2020). Here, questions about the emotional wellbeing and influence are relevant, as workers to a larger degree would experience alienation, invisibility and loneliness (e.g. Martin et al. 2014).

Finally, we look for contributions to the literature on emotions in leadership when taking into account the implications of the digital workplace. There is a lot of literature on affect and emotions in the leadership/management literature and affect and emotions have been found to be deeply intertwined with the process of leading, leader outcomes and follower outcomes (Gooty et al., 2010). At the same time there is a disproportionate interest in positive emotions, something which has been addressed in the leadership literature (Rothman & Melwani, 2017) and organisational research literature (Lindebaum & Jordan, 2014). At the same time there is a body of literature on leaders within the online setting such as virtual teams and online communities with an emphasis on effective e-leadership behaviour and practices (Johnson et al., 2015). However, less is known about how emotions among leaders unfold in the digitalised workspace and the impact of these on leadership behaviour.

Potential topics:

  • COVID-19 and impact on the emotional wellbeing of employees
  • Enforced national, regional and global lockdowns, dependence on online work and impact on emotional labour
  • Digital natives and emotions
  • Digital connectivity and emotional implications
  • Digitalisation processes and emotional implications
  • Emotions and the rise of digital transformation
  • Emotional labour in digitalised workplaces
  • Cyberattacks and their impact on the emotional wellbeing of employees
  • The use of social media for emotional work
  • Social media and online interactions and their emotional implications
  • Emotional Intelligence and online leadership
  • Emotional e-leaders
  • Impact of emotions on online posts (and vice-versa).

Deadline and Submission Details

The submission deadline for all papers is 30 April 2021
The publication date of this special issue is January 2022

To submit your research, please visit the ScholarOne manuscript portal.
To view the author guidelines for this journal, please visit the journal's page.

Contact the Guest Editors

Niki Panteli
[email protected]

Fay Giaver
[email protected]

Jostein Engesmo
[email protected]


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