A multi-level analysis of telework adoption and outcomes following a natural disaster: the experiences of two Christchurch organisations
Green, Nicola Jane
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The city of Christchurch, New Zealand and surrounding areas experienced a series of large earthquakes which began in 2010 and continued for more than 17 months. Many organisations were suddenly faced with having no place in which to work due to building damage, difficulties with access and the loss of other infrastructure. Adopting telework as an alternative work arrangement was one solution to this problem. Telework is using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to support working at home or at a location that is removed from the physical location of the organisation. Telework is used by organisations for personal, organisational and environmental reasons. More recently the adoption of telework has been emphasised as a critical component of business continuity after disruption to normal operations. This qualitative study sought to explore the experiences of two case organisations in rapidly implementing telework following a disaster. This research adopted a socio-technical systems approach, using a multi-level teleworking framework, to examine the role of personnel, technical, task, environment and organisational factors and their interactions in telework implementation and outcomes in a post-disaster context. Findings indicated that teleworking was enabled by prior teleworking capabilities and experience, adequate information technology (IT) systems and management support. Telework adoption was hampered by IT infrastructure, hardware resources and lack of planning. Once implemented the barriers to effective telework were the limitations of communication and collaboration. Telework in a post-disaster environment supported the wellbeing of individuals and assisted with business continuity of the organisation while there was some loss of connectedness for groups. After returning to business as usual ongoing telework was enabled through technological improvements and teleworking experience though utilisation of telework was limited by management attitudes in some instances. This research contributes to the existing body of knowledge by applying socio-technical systems theory to telework and assessing a socio-technical system framework in a post-disaster context. In addition it uses the unique opportunity of a natural disaster setting to provide an understanding of how telework can enhance organisational resilience in disruptive situations and what organisations can do to realise this potential. This includes planning, developing personnel and technological capabilities and supporting and using telework regularly.