The development of an e-competency framework to support agile working 

Christine Grant, Emma Russell, Maria Charalampous

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceedingpeer-review




With 45% of people now spending over an hour commuting to their jobs, and 70% of people reporting that flexible working options make a job more attractive (, 2017), ‘agile working’ holds significant appeal for today’s workforce (Jeyasingham, 2014). However, there is a dearth of guidance available for organisations that want to facilitate flexible working arrangements. Research into the knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviours (KSABs) of competent agile workers is absent, meaning that organisations are unable to manage their emerging needs. In this paper, we present an e-competency framework to address these issues. This framework clusters agile worker KSABs into three key themes. These themes represent the psychological needs outlined in Ryan and Deci’s (2008) self-determination theory (SDT), and suggest that if agile workers are able to satisfy competencies related to autonomy, relatedness and competence, they will be able to flourish in their roles. We aim to utilise state-of-the-art theory (SDT) to support the e-competency framework, providing practical insights and guidance to both organisations and agile workers interested in optimising the burgeoning trend of flexible working, to realise performance and well-being benefits for a modern workforce.


Thirty-four semi-structured interviews were conducted with agile workers in a range of job roles, within a large international private sector company. Agile workers were defined according to whether they: (i) were able to work from home, as well as in the office, on more than one occasion per week; (ii) were primarily involved in knowledge work; (iii) used technology to remain connected to work. Data were analysed thematically by two researchers, and a framework analysis applied to extract the key KSABs associated with e-competence and associated personal wellbeing.


Having coded the interview transcripts, using a two-stage process of decoding and then encoding (Saldana, 2015) agile working KSABs, 20 competencies emerged. These competencies were categorised into 3 broad themes representing the SDT needs for autonomy (7 competencies), relatedness (6 competencies) and competence (7 competencies).


Interview data was obtained from a single organisation, meaning that the emerging e-competency framework will need to be cross-referenced in other domains to ensure generalisability.

Practical Implications

The preliminary e-competency framework highlights differences in the KSABs required for healthy and productive agile workers, based on self-determination theory. The framework has strong potential to: (i) inform and develop self-regulatory practices; and (ii) help organisations provide effective guidance and support in managing the well-being of agile workers. In our next tranche of research the e-competence of agile workers will be appraised according to our framework, and this will then be related to daily occupational health markers (engagement, well-being, absenteeism, productivity) in an experience sampling study.


This study is the first to: (i) investigate and propose a comprehensive set of competencies to facilitate effective agile working; and (ii) link e-competencies to a motivational theory of psychological needs. It is intended that this framework can be used as a guide to support the health and well-being of those transitioning to this nascent work-form.


Deci E. L. and Ryan, R. M. (2008) Self-determination theory: A macrotheory of human motivation, development, and health. Canadian Psychology. Vol. 49, No.3, 182-185.

Jeyasingham, D. (2014) Open spaces, supple bodies? Considering the impact of
agile working on social work office practices. Child and Family Social Work. Vol. 21, 209-217.

Saldaña, J. (2015). The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers. London: Sage.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication13th EAOHP Conference 2018 Proceedings
Subtitle of host publicationAdapting to rapid changes in today's workplace
EditorsKevin Teoh, Nathalie Saade, Vlad Dediu, Juliet Hassard, Luis Torres
Place of PublicationNottingham
ISBN (Print)978-0-9928786-4-1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2018
EventEuropean Association of Occupational Health Psychology Conference - Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: 5 Sept 20187 Sept 2018


ConferenceEuropean Association of Occupational Health Psychology Conference
Abbreviated titleEAOHP


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