Working Anytime/Anywhere: An Exploration of Connectivity Management Practices in the Saudi Academic Context

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NJOD EMAD AL-JABR
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Saudi Digital Library
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Information and Communication Technologies render work practices flexible, complicate disconnection from work, and engender constant connectivity affecting employees’ work-life balance. Extant literature seems to indicate a co-constitutive relationship between connectivity and blurred work-life boundaries. Unlike the notion of connectedness, which refers to the state of being connected, connectivity is associated with latent potentiality, referring to both connecting and the potential to connect at any point in the future. An emerging area of recent research has focused on the management of work connectivity, i.e. if, when, how, and how much to connect to work outside working hours. Extant literature on connectivity management has predominantly focused on company-issued BlackBerries, constraining our understanding of the management of connectivity via other devices (such as via personal devices or other mobile technologies). Furthermore, very few studies refer to the organizational context within which connectivity is enacted. Many of these studies attribute variations in connectivity management practices to variations in occupation. The literature does not provide an adequate understanding of other social and material parameters influencing connectivity management practices, such as variations in working hours’ arrangements or in the affordances of the technology used. Most of the literature on connectivity management takes a human-centric approach, not giving an explicit account of the role of technology in shaping these practices. The aim of this research is to explore how academics manage connectivity within a range of socio-material parameters. It applies the framework of socio-materiality to addresses the following research questions: (a) how do academics manage work connectivity in the presence of mobile technologies, and (b) what parameters shape connectivity management practices. This research is based on two case studies. It employs document analysis and semi-structured interviews with academics based at two universities in Saudi Arabia. The study contributes to the literature on connectivity management through the introduction of three connectivity management practices: segmentation, prioritization, and distancing. This research also identifies a set of parameters (organizational, individual, technological, and situational) that shape connectivity management practices. The study contributes to the socio-materiality literature by conceptualizing socio-material imbrications through an account of their foundation. The study also introduces the metaphor of layers to illustrate how socio-material imbrications unfold.
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