The Digital Workplace
Technological advancement has created a platform for transformation of
human life in all spheres. Digitization of workplaces is currently an
ongoing trend where organizations are adopting different types of
technology to enhance the working environment and improve productivity.
According to Shehadi (2013, p. 1-2) digitization of workplaces enhance
collaboration, teamwork, effective communication, and sharing of
resources within the organization. More importantly, organizations are
continually recruiting members of the new generation who are bringing
the latest technology in organizations. Although there is no standard
definition of digital workplace, digitization of workplace is widely
understood as the integration of modern technology (including the use of
computers, internet, and Smartphone) in the workplace in order to
accomplish organizational goals by collecting, organizing, creating,
analyzing, and synthesizing data and information for the organization
(Mack, 2001, p. 925). In addition, organizations should perceive
digitization of the workplace as the modern way of enhancing their
competitive advantage because it enhances performance, customer contact,
optimize costs, reduce marketing time, and attract new talents into the
organization. Digitization of organization affects different aspects of
corporate management, including the transformation, recruitment,
surveillance, wellbeing of workers, and teamwork.
Productivity and competitiveness of organizations are mainly attributed
to four categories of capital, which include technology, human
resources, natural resource, and social capital (Chinien, 2011, p. 9).
Although human capital is given more emphasis, the modern concept of
knowledge based economy is pursued by supplying the relevant information
to employees, which mainly based on technology. This ensures that the
workforce is up-to-date and has adequate skills to lead the organization
through the competitive business environment. In addition, the
installation of digital facilities (such as computers and internet) in
the workplace is perceived to be one of the major assets of growth and
prosperity. This process of digitalizing the workplace and the workforce
gained significance in 1971 following the development of microprocessor,
followed by innovation of personal computer in 1984, and internet
commercialization in 1994 (Chinien, 2011, p. 11). These innovations
resulted in the development of the perception that technical knowledge
is the most significant competitive resource in the modern world because
it improves the well-being of employees while enhancing efficiency and
productivity of the organization.
Justification of the present research
Currently, technology is regarded as a compulsory tool that has the
capacity to enhance organizational competitive advantage in the modern
business environment that is characterized by stiff competition.
Although there is consensus that technology will reform organizations
(Oliveira, 2011, p. 110), its application in different aspects of
corporate governance (such as electronic recruitment, surveillance,
wellbeing of workers, and teamwork) is either understudies or studies
with bias. In addition, various components of digitization are under
theorized, which makes it difficult to conclusively suggest whether
organizations should continue adopting technology as a way of
transitioning from conventional to modern approaches of management
(Vorvoreanu, 2001, p. 21-22). Moreover, organizations have continued
associating technology and performance on the basis of mere assumptions
(Tuan, 2010, p. 144). To this end, it is necessary to study the
controversial issue of organizational digitization with deeply and in an
objective way in order to develop concepts that will guide
organizational towards the successful appropriation of technology in
their operations. This present study will fill this gap by addressing
the application of technology in different aspects of organizational
management, which include transformation, recruitment, transformation,
work-family balance, and teamwork. This will be accomplished by the
review of literature in the field of application of technology in
The purpose of the present study will be accomplished with the help of
the following research questions how does technology help in
transforming workplaces? How do organizations apply the modern
technology in conducting employee recruitment? How do organizations
apply technology in conducting workplace surveillance? How does
technology contribute towards the work-life balance? How has the modern
technology impacted teamwork, especially in the global organizations?
The structure of the present study consists of six sections. The first
section addresses the significance of technology in transforming the
workplace. The information technology, product innovation, and workplace
complementarities are the major forces driving transformation in the
modern business environment.
The second section focuses on the use of electronic recruitment and
assessment of job applicants. Although there is no sufficient empirical
evidence for the benefits of electronic recruitment, organizations are
still adopting this approach.
The third section addresses the issue of application of technology to
enhance the workplace surveillance. Although technology-based
surveillance enhances employee supervision, the ethical issue of
infringement of employee rights is raised by some researchers.
The fourth section provides a discussion on the impact of technology on
establishing work-life balance. Application of modern technology results
in spillover of workload to family life, which affect the female workers
more than their male counterpart.
The fifth section supports the use of technology in enhancing virtual
teamwork, but suggests that emerging challenges should be addressed.
Lastly, the study concludes that technology plays a significant role in
the processes of organizational transformation, recruitment,
surveillance, employee well-being, and teamwork.
Transformation of workplace through technology
The current corporate transformation trends mainly focus on the
attainment of competitive advantage where organizational heads are
adopting multiple technological developments simultaneously in order to
keep up with time. This longitudinal research conducted by Grunberg
(2008, p. 215-236) and Jyoti (2012, p. 1) indicated that there are three
major forces that driving organizational transformations through
corporate restructuring and reorganization. These factors include the
stiff international competition, new and powerful outside investors, and
new information technologies. Most of the research works used in the
longitudinal focused on the impact of organizational transformation on
employees. The limitations of this study include the focus on the impact
of change more than factors driving the change, which include the new
process and new technology that are being introduced in the
organizations. Different organizations have also adopted information
systems to enhance their strategic plans (Besson, 2003, p. 117).
Although different aspects of information technology are being
emphasized in the modern strategies for organizational transformation,
human capital has contributed in the process of organizational
digitalization. Brynjolfsson (2000, p. 1-39) analyzed the introduction
of information technology in the workplace and the need for skilled
labor to drive technology-based transformation. The contributors in this
research identified that skill-based changes are driven by three types
of innovation, namely information technology, product innovation, and
workplace complementarities (Brynjolfsson, 2000, p. 2). The researchers
identified that organizations that recruit professional managers who are
IT competent have a higher opportunity of investing in a high level of
IT compared with organizations that recruit more of the blue collar
managers. These results emphasize on the importance of considering the
different elements of human capital (such as education and training) in
transforming an organization through technology.
Application of internet in recruitment
The adoption of technology in organizations has transformed the human
resource department starting from employee screening and recruitment.
Research shows that the use of internet to test job applicants has been
increasing at a high rate within the last one decade (Lievens, 2003, p.
2 -3 and Plessis, 2012, p. 2-19). Organizations have continued using
internet platforms to test and recruit potential employees in spite of
the fact that there is a little empirical evidence to verify the
effectiveness of internet-based recruitment compared to conventional or
paper-based tests. According to Lievens (2003, p. 3-38) employers defend
their efforts to recruit and testing job applicants using internet on
several assumptions that have not been empirically proven. The first
assumption statutes that internet helps the job applicants to submit
their application faster and easily. Secondly, job applicants obtain
useful information about the organization from the internet. Third,
internet retains the website user interest. Lastly, internet recruitment
and testing are cheaper compared to conventional means of recruitment
and employee screening. The identification of these widely accepted
assumptions calls for research that will verify their correctness.
Overcoming these challenges makes electronic recruitment a flexible and
responsive method of recruitment (Aurelie, 2009, p. 1).
The use of the internet and other technological developments has become
inevitable innovations for recruiting organizations because they
facilitate easy job posting on the company website or recruitment
companies. Job seekers can access such information from part of the
world, thus helping organizations in attracting competent members of
staff. Khan (2013, p. 47-57) used the snowball technique to assess the
effectiveness of e-recruitment and its impact of job seekers perception
in Pakistan. The researcher identified that e-recruitment expands the
selection process since the majority of job seekers prefer using the
internet to seek for jobs compared to other source of career information
such as newspapers (Khan, 2013, p. 54 and Malik, 2012, p. 105). The
availability of this piece of information to organizations has motivated
employers to establish the internet recruitment infrastructure (such as
websites), which is part of digitization of organizations. However, the
use of the snowball sampling technique, which is vulnerable to the
subjectivity and loss of control over sampling process, may limit the
generalizability of the findings to other parts of the world.
Application of digital equipment in workplace surveillance
Electronic surveillance and monitoring of employees and organizational
operations has been gaining significance with the technological
advancement. In most cases, employers use electronic equipments to
monitor the way employees use organizational resources (such as internet
and email services) and ensure that these resources are only used for
work-related activities (Allmer, 2011, p. 566). While conducting the
analysis of different studies that focus on the importance critical
surveillance, Allmer identified that the majority of empirical and
theoretical research works in the field of electronic surveillance
addressed the issues of domination of surveillance relationships
pertaining to asymmetrical powers, social struggles, resource control,
and exploitation of surveillance technology. A similar analysis of
theoretical perspectives in the field of workplace surveillance revealed
that the field is still under theorized in spite of the fact that many
organizations adopting electronic surveillance and monitoring in their
organizations (Sophie, 2012, p. 21-22).
The field of electronic surveillance of the workplace is broad and
technologies used are classified into different categories. The bow-tie
model (not withstanding its limitations) helps in the classification of
the surveillance process into four phases namely the prevention
incidence occurrence, protection of organizational resources from
incidents, response to incidents once they occur, and prosecution of the
culprits (Sophie, 2012, p. 4). The division of the surveillance process
is important because the assessment of ethical aspects associated with
the practice of surveillance serves different purposes. This means that
security surveillance conducted before the occurrence of an incident
should be perceived differently from the surveillance conducted after
the incidence. A quantitative analysis of employee perception of
surveillance installed by the organization to monitor their activities
revealed that the worker would prefer the establishment of boundaries to
protect their privacy, especially during the orientation of new
employees (Allen, 2007, p. 187). Under the theory of communication
privacy and management, the preventive surveillance instills tension
among employees, which hinders their efficiency at work.
Although electronic surveillance is widely accepted and adopted by many
organizations since the onset of the information age, it has remained a
controversial field, especially in terms of legal and ethical aspects
employees’ privacy. Different companies use one or combination of
surveillance techniques (such as windows interaction, desktop
screenshot, keystrokes, internet packet data, and monitoring of incoming
and outgoing data) to track and analyze employee activities at all
work-time (Yerby, 2013, p. 45). The majority of corporate leaders who
support the use electronic surveillance, claim that it prevents leaking
of information that is sensitive to the organization, prevent employees
from breaking laws, recovery of lost communications, and limiting legal
liability. According to Samaranayake (2013, p. 98) electronic
surveillance at places of work often invades employee privacy, which is
an unethical practice. However, the negative perception about electronic
surveillance can be reduced if organizations adopt the surveillance
techniques that aim at improving employee productivity and quality of
work. However, there are researchers who have raised conclusive argument
to support or oppose the use of electronic surveillance of the workplace
(Martin, 2003, p. 353).
The importance of the digital workplace in establishing the balance
between work and life
The capacity of the modern technology to help employees in balancing
their work and family lives is a highly debated issue. A research
conducted to assess the impact of technology on the work-life balance
among academic professionals in Ireland revealed that technology has
enhanced flexibility by reducing the need for University employees to
work from their desks throughout the day (Heijstra, 2010, p. 163). This
is because the installation of telecommunication and internet services
has allowed workers to have a virtual access to the organization’s
data and communicate with other workers from any place. This means that
workers are no longer fully bound to the locus of their employer
organization to exercise their professional mandates. A similar study
conducted to assess the impact of ubiquitous computing on work-life
balance showed that technology enhances asynchronous communication, work
productivity, office relations, and result in benefits to personal life
(Quesenberry, 2008, p. 53). These findings indicate that the
technology-based work-life balance benefits both the employer
organization and employees.
The use of modern technology in enhancing the work-life balance has been
successful in most cases, but there are some emerging challenges
associated with application of telecommunication to enhance the
life-friendly workplaces. This is because technology seeks to enhance
the work-life balance by maintaining flexibility, but the emphasis on
the use of telecommunication blurs the boundary between work and life,
which leads to family-life conflicts (O`Laughlin, 2005 cited in
Heijstra, 2010, p. 149). Women working for organizations that use
telecommunication to enhance flexibility at work experience more work as
well as family related stress compared to their male counterpart. This
is because women assume more domestic responsibilities that are often
interrupted by work-related communications. Similarly, Hill (2003, p.
220) disputed the capacity of technology to enhance work-life balance
and identified that employees who are provided with mobile or virtual
devices to perform job tasks experience more family-work conflicts
compared to employees who work in offices. The conflicting ideas about
the importance of using the modern technology to help employees balance
work and family life necessitate an empirical research to prove either
of these arguments.
The extensive application of information technology blurs the boundary
between family and work, thus reducing family satisfaction and
increasing distress. This is because different aspects of technology
that are being adopted by organizations increase the permeability of the
boundary between work and personal life. For example, telecommunication
allows employers to reach or communicate with employees at all times and
in all places, including the times they are dealing with personal and
family issues (Chesley, 2005, p. 1237). Similar to the findings
presented by O`Laughlin (2005 cited in Heijstra, 2010, p. 149), Chesley
(2005, p 1239) suggested that there are some gender-based asymmetries
where work demands for men spills over their family life while family
life demands for women spill over into their workplace. This indicates
that persistent use of technology in communication is significantly
associated with distress and family dissatisfaction for male and female
workers, but more in female than in male workers.
The impact of technology on teamwork
Teamwork has a direct influence on organizational performance and
creates a perception that teamwork is among the most useful tools of
that can help organizations in achieving their goals. According to
Maymon (1998, p. 4) the technology education offered in modern schools
aim at providing students with teamwork skills and prepare them for the
challenges being experienced in the competitive business environment. In
addition, work teams comprise of people with complementary knowledge and
skills that help in the process of generating synergy by enhancing
coordination among them. This results in the accomplishment of
interdependent and complex tasks that would not be handled by
individuals. However, the increase in globalization presents major
challenges for geographically diversified organizations that may wish
entrench organization-wide teamwork. These challenges (time of bringing
employees together and cost of enhancing teamwork) are resolved by the
modern technology that facilitates virtual teamwork among workers in
different locations and with varying cultural background (Ebrahim, 2009,
Virtual teamwork is an important aspect of globalization, which is
accomplished through technology-based skills link people and surmount
temporal and geographical separation of people with a common purpose and
complementary skills (Ebrahim, 2009, p. 2654). Global organizations
prefer virtual to conventional teamwork because they reduce relocation
and time-to-market time, which enhances flexibility and productivity.
Although some research indicates that the association between technology
and productivity of teams is not statistically significant, technology
plays a major role in enhancing communication be among the team members
and the ultimate success of virtual teams (Earhardt, 2009, p. 4).
Research shows that the use of virtual teamwork will increase
exponentially (Bradley, 2002, p. 68) but there are some challenges that
organizational leaders should be aware and deal with to ensure the
success of virtual teams. These challenges include building trust among
the team members, reducing process loss while maximizing gains, and
overcoming the challenge of feeling of detachment.
Research and Methodology
Most of the research papers reviewed in the present study used
qualitative research design. The interview was the most common method of
data collection that was used by the researchers where participants were
interviewed with the help of structured questionnaires. For example,
Quesenberry and Trauth (2008) and Allen, Coopman and Hart (2007) used
the in-depth interview and grounded theory approach to code their
qualitative data. Some researchers (such as Oliveira, and Martins 2011,
Brynjolfsson and Hitt, 2000) reviewed the literature of research works
conducted over a number of years, which help in the identification of
trends in the area of study. There are only a few of researchers (such
as Chinien & Boutin 2011) who used online tools to conduct interviews.
In addition, most of the research works available in the area of study
were conducted over a short period with only two researchers (Grunberg,
Greenberg and Sikora 2008 and Chesley 2005) conducting longitudinal
research and one (Tuan and Venkatesh, 2010) multiple case study. This
calls for a future study that will use a combination of qualitative and
quantitative study skills in order to eliminate the limitations of
qualitative study design. In addition, the random approach of sampling
should be used in order to reduce the effect of bias and subjectivity in
future research as evidenced in Khan, Awang and Ghouri, 2013 who used
snowball sampling technique and Malik and Razaullah 2012 who used
non-random sampling techniques.
Digitization of organization affects different aspects of corporate
management, including the transformation, recruitment, surveillance,
wellbeing of workers, and teamwork. Technology plays a significant role
in the process of implementing the modern technology with the objective
of transforming organizations and helps them overcome challenges that
are emerging in the information and digital ages. However, the available
research works pertaining to the role of technology in organizational
transformation indicates that organizational leaders are overlooking the
contribution of human capital at the expense of technology devices.
Future studies should focus on ways of integrating technology and human
capital to ensure a successful digitization of organizations.
Application of technological facilities in the process of recruiting
workers has gained significance in the last few decades. Despite the
benefits associated with electronic recruitment have been given a
reasonable consideration by several researchers, the sampling methods
used (such as the snowball) to reduce the implication of the available
studies as a result of effects of bias and lack of generalizability. To
this end, future research should address the issue of proper
representation of study participants to ensure that the research
findings are generalizable.
The workplace surveillance is a concept of globalization and
digitization of organizations, which is gaining popularity
exponentially. Although several researchers have invested their time and
resources in this area of study, the model used in the identification of
application and usefulness of digitized surveillance of workplaces are
not sufficient. For example, the use of bow-tie model presents some
challenges because the model is a one way and does not allow learning
from incidents that occurred in the past. Future research should
consider the use of more comprehensive models.
The importance of technology in establishing the balance between work
and family and the impact of technology on teamwork are fairly studied.
The studies review in the present paper concludes that there exist some
asymmetries where the spillover of work-related overloads as a result of
organizational digitization affects female workers than their
counterpart male workers. Similarly, researchers addressing the
importance of technology in teamwork agree that virtual teams are
important, but organizational management should address all potential
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