Work from Anywhere: Implications for Employees and Organizations

Call for papers for: Personnel Review

Guest Editors:

Dr Manish Gupta, Mahindra University School of Management, India, [email protected]

Dr Priyanko Guchait, University of Houston, USA, [email protected]

Dr Ofra Shoham-Bazel, Temple University, USA, [email protected]

Dr Naresh Khatri, University of Missouri, USA, [email protected]

Professor Vijay Pereira, NEOMA Business School, Reims Campus, France, [email protected]

Professor Shlomo Tarba, University of Birmingham, UK, [email protected]

Professor Arup Varma, Loyola University, Chicago, USA, [email protected]

The main objective of this special issue is to assess the existing human resource management (HRM) theories, models, and their impact on working from ‘anywhere’.

Human resource (HR) professionals and scholars thus far have focused mainly on identifying and solving the at-premise HR issues. However, the recent outbreak of the CoVID 19 pandemic is expected to change the face of employment suggesting a permanent shift toward home working which demands change in the organizational policies and strategies need to be changed (Hern, 2020). Though not all types of industries can facilitate work from anywhere, research thus far suggests that work from home is beneficial to most of the employers and employees as it increases employee work effort and well-being by providing them more autonomy (Bathini and Kandathil, 2019; Bloom, 2014; Rupietta and Beckmann, 2018; Wood et al., 2018). A notable trend of organizations increasingly migrating to embrace agile human resource management systems and transforming their workforce into a lean and liquid workforce may provide the necessary thrust to this switch to remote working. However, there is a parallel body of research, which highlights the negative implications of working from ‘anywhere’, which needs urgent attention of scholars.

Besides eliminating several premise-based factors such as proximity, office environment, etc., work from anywhere, a new form of remote working in which employees are free to live and work freely from any place in the world. This has created a need to attach a reason for explaining the fast-changing role of the human resource (HR) practices in the organizational growth (Choudhury, et al., 2019). At the same time, scholars have recently raised concerns over the negative implications that the HR practices may have for employees while working from home. However, there are positives and negatives relating to working from anywhere and therefore necessitates a re-visit to the several existing HRM theories as argued below.

Wang and Cotton (2017) leveraged the workforce differentiation theory, which suggests that the most effective way to increase the strategic contribution of both workforce and the HR function. They argue that achieving this by differentiating the work force, investing disproportionately in resources, developing reward systems, and grabbing opportunities in strategic roles to know the contribution of different clusters of employees in strategic goals of the organization. Since the cost incurred on work from anywhere (WFA) differs from the office workforce, it is important for the organizations to quantify the basis of differentiating compensation and benefits (White, 2019). For example, the agency theory, which explains the supervisor-subordinate relationship in terms of costs incurred, would suffer from the negligible monitoring costs (White, 2019). However, intertwined with signaling and attributional theories which suggest that interpretation of an emitted signal depends on the signaler (i.e., the employee) and on the receiver (i.e., the supervisor), agency theory can give organizations interesting insights into the supervisor-subordinate relationship in the home working context (Bourdeau et al., 2019). Thus, there is a need to identify the ways in which the employees working from home be differentiated from the regular employees.

Based on the dynamic capabilities theory, Harsch and Festing (2019) argued that organizations could be agile if they increase their adaptability and responsiveness to a changing environment. To achieve the organizational goals through work from home, the organizations, according to the institution theory, need to restructure organizational hierarchy, re-formulate HR strategies, and provide enabling systems (Kwon and Jeon, 2020). In this vein, Khatri et al. (2017) have proposed that HR capabilities are a prerequisite for instituting an agile HR system that allows the organization to face a forever-changing environmental context.  Thus, the research is required to explore research models that the organizations can use to adapt and respond to the work from home trend effectively.

Engaging employees and eliciting proactive behavior in employees working from home may be as essential as in traditional work settings. How this we achieve this? Organizations may have to build human resource capabilities that would enable them to configure and transform their human resource practices and systems to match the new work requirements (Khatri et al., 2017). Further, working from home may require appropriate information technologies properly embedded in human resource practices and systems. Implementing the seamless and employee-friendly information technologies may necessitate building information technology capabilities within the organization (Khatri et al., 2010).

Traditional HR practices and systems, such as close monitoring and control of employee behavior, may not be up to the task to meet the challenges of employees working from home. A new set of strategic HR practices needs to achieve greater motivation, effort, and commitment from employees working from home.

Cardador et al. (2017) used the theory of work gamification to explain how the gamification of the work can help employees engage their physical, emotional, and cognitive energies in displaying the right behavior at work. With a scope of further improvement, the mechanism suggested by Cardador et al. (2017) to engage and motivate employees is yet to be empirically tested. Thus, the need is to develop and examine the models that can explain engagement mechanisms for the WFA human resources. 

According to Bell et al. (2017), as suggested by network approach, employees may develop collaborations to aware themselves of expertise, accessibility, and competence-based trust. Though the authors suggested that well-designed decision support system would be required to address the efficiency related concerns of the organization in developing effective teams, the WFP presents a challenge of developing effective teams online. Thus, the researchers are encouraged to assess the impact that the online WFA collaboration practices would have on the organizational productivity.

Fu et al. (2015) integrated resource‐based and dynamic capability theories to suggest that organizational competitive advantage can be gained if it integrates, builds, and reconfigures its internal and external resources and competencies to suit the changing market conditions. HR being its internal resources may require agility to embrace the WFA trend. Thus, we urge scholars to explore the factors driving a competitive WFA workforce. Using contingency theory, Mayo et al. (2009) suggested that contingent reward leadership style can help employees adopt working from home. Thus, studies that identify the most effective leadership style in the WFA context can assist organizations to employ the most effective leadership and make the employees exhibit the desired behavior.

WFA may leverage the five HR trends as observed by Dachner et al. (2019), Donnelly and Johns (2020), and Wood et al. (2018). These include (1) changing job design such as higher complexity and job characteristics such as higher autonomy, (2) more job demands such as more travel, (3) flattening of organizational hierarchy, (4) learning and networking through technology using social media, and (5) hopping jobs frequently to advance knowledge and skills especially in case of freelancing and contractual working. These according to Dachner et al. (2019), are the emerging factors that encourage updating of the career developing practices of an organization and because these are the fresh trends, it would be useful to know those job characteristics, job design and job demands that would align with technology to ensure development of WFA employees' career.

Recent reports about remote working in its several forms are however concerning. Some equate it with employees ‘being on’ always (Mellner, et al., 2016). Some also suggest that use of technologies such as mobile devices at work causes employee stress (Roman et al., 2018). As Adisa et al. (2017) pointed out, “This [Mobile information technology devices (MITDs)] has inadvertently lengthened employees’ working hours, has affected their family relationships, and affected their general health and well-being. The evidence suggests that MITDs have the potential to improve WLB but could also lead to work-life conflict if not properly managed” (p. 1651). Like positive implications of working from anywhere, the negative implications also remain under explored in theory and practice.

The aforementioned review of literature and relevance to practitioners direct us to the below research questions:

• In what way different arrangements of a workplace such as remote working, tele-working, blended working, and home working may facilitate/challenge the existing HR practices.

• What challenges would the technological changes bring to the workforce and to a typical HR process?

• What consequences would the employees and the organizations experience on the health and safety front?

• How can we differentiate employees working from anywhere from the on-campus employees to ascertain and appraise their contribution to the strategic activities of the organization?

• What could be dark and light sides of the roles that Human Resource Managers may play during and after the crisis?

• Would line managers be resilient or reluctant in adapting to the renewed situation?

• What could be the positive and negative impacts on the employees working from anywhere?

• In what way(s) the organizations can adapt and respond to the work from anywhere trend effectively?

• What are the mechanisms available to engage the WFA human resources to accomplish the desired goals?

• What influence can the online collaborating working from anywhere practices have on the organizational productivity?

• How can firms be more competitive by transforming its workforce into a WFA one?

• Which leadership style would be useful in leading the WFA workforce?

• Which job characteristics, job design and job demands would align with technology to ensure development of WFA employees' career?

The following is a list of indicative and anticipated themes, which are not exhaustive.

Submissions aiming at the main theme of this special issue, “Work from Anywhere: Implications for Employees and Organizations”, with particular focus on the below sub-themes are welcome:

• Remote working, tele-working, blended working, and home working

• Impact of technological advancements on workforce and on the HR processes

• Health and safety: Concerns of and consequences for the workforce

• Workforce analytics to differentiate the work from anywhere workforce from the regular workforce

• The dark and the light side of the roles that Human Resource Managers would play during and after the crisis.

• Dark and light sides of the Human Resource Managers’ roles

• Resilience or reluctance of line managers in adapting to the renewed situation.

• Implications of renewed HR practices on the employees.

• Organizational agility for an effective working from home

• Engaging the employees working from anywhere effectively

• Collaborating online while working from anywhere

• Agile HRM for competitive advantage

• Leading the work from anywhere workforce

• Career development challenges relating to the WFA millennials

Submissions can be made through the ScholarOne manuscript submissions system. Please refer to the author guidelines before submission. Submissions open 11th November 2021. The deadline for submissions is 28th February 2022.

References

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