Technology and the Transformation of White-Collar Work

By Robert E. Kraut | Go to book overview

4 Changing Office Technologies and Transformations of Clerical Jobs: A Historical Perspective

Suzonne lacono Public Policy Research Organization University of Catitomis, Irvine

Rob Kling Department of Information and Computer Science University of California, Irvine


ABSTRACT

Office life and clerical jobs have dramatically changed in the last 100 years. In the last decade, there has been a substantial move to computer-based office systems, and clerks play a significant role in their use.

Some advocates of the office of the future suggest that clerical jobs will qualitatively improve after integrated multifunctional computer-based office systems are used. Other analysts emphasize that computerization has reduced the quality of some clerical jobs. In contrast, we argue that computer-based systems can support better jobs or worse jobs.

Despite some changes in the character of worklife and the division of labor, computer-based office systems do not automatically improve or transform clerical jobs by opening new career lines or by making clerical workers less interchangeable or more valued. During the last 100 years, clerical jobs have developed as a lower and relatively isolated sex-typed stratum of white-collar work. Significant changes in clerical jobs require organizations to make choices that include allowing their clerks to influence the organization of their jobs, increasing investments in developing their organizational skills, and valuing their work.

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