Academic journal article International Journal of Employment Studies

Cultural Sources of Variance in Telework Adoption in Two Subsidiaries of an ICT-Multinational

Academic journal article International Journal of Employment Studies

Cultural Sources of Variance in Telework Adoption in Two Subsidiaries of an ICT-Multinational

Article excerpt

Introduction

Ongoing technological developments are opening up more and more opportunities for distributed working, such as the substitution of home-based telework for commuting to the central office (Mokhtarian and Sato, 1994). Due to the numerous academic and non-academic writings on telework, also global awareness of potential advantages of telework for contemporary organizations facing various challenges has increased. In order to commit highly valued workers, for example, organizations may feel pressured to respond to employees' growing demand for flexible work-arrangements by adopting telework policies and practices which allow for a better reconciliation of work and family life. Also globally operating organizations may be interested in adopting telework as they feel an increasing need for flexible and virtual collaboration among team members inside or outside their organizations. Managers' perceptions of telework adoption by other firms in their organizational fields are shown to enhance mimetic pressure on managers to hold more positive attitudes towards home-based telework (Peters and Heusinkveld, forthcoming) and, indirectly, to increase managers' readiness to introduce telework policies and practices in their organizations (Peters and Batenburg, in progress).

Yet, not all organizations and individual managers may respond to institutional pressures in similar ways (Goodstein, 1994; Ingram and Simons, 1995; Oliver, 1991). Across national boundaries, for example, institutional pressures can be expected to interact with cultural varieties (Maurice et al., 1980), which may provide sources of cross-national variance in managers' adoption of HR-practices (Hofstede, 1991; Trompenaars, 1993), such as telework. In fact, in the telework literature, national culture is presented as one of the explanations for cross-country differences in telework adoption and diffusion (Mokhtarian and Sato, 1994; Peters and den Dulk, 2003; Standen, 2000; Tregaskis, 2000;).

In the present study, we focus on cross-cultural differences in telework adoption, i.e., managers' telework attitudes and telework management behaviours (cf. Peters et al., 2009; Rogers, 1995). To analyze how national culture affects how managers think and act in relation to telework, we draw interview data from line managers. This management category is chosen since a lack of support from line managers is considered one of the most important bottlenecks towards a successful implementation of telework policies and practices (Peters and den Dulk, 2003). Moreover, it is particularly their power position which may be at stake when teleworkers are given greater job autonomy (ibid.).

Up until now, empirical studies into the influence of national culture on telework adoption among line managers are scarce (Baruch, 2001). The present study aims to fill this gap by analyzing differences and similarities in line managers' telework adoption in two subsidiaries of the same ICT-multinational situated in two countries which clearly differ both with respect to their national cultures (Hofstede, 1991) and the uptake of home-based telework (European Foundation, 2007; Gareis, 2002): France and the Netherlands. The Netherlands is one of the leading countries in Europe with a home-based telework penetration rate of 20.6% of the employed population in 2002 (ibid.). With 4.4% that year, France is in the lower rankings (ibid.). We seek to provide an empirical answer to the following research question: To what extend do telework attitudes and telework-management behaviours of line managers in two subsidiaries of the same ICT-multinational in France and the Netherlands mirror variations in national cultures?

In the next section, we expound how national culture, used as an analytical concept (Verschuren and Doorewaard, 1999), may help to analyze similarities or variations in line managers' telework adoption in our two concrete cases. Next, the research methodology is briefly outlined. …

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