What makes a resilient e-worker? A competency approach supporting well-being. 

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What makes a resilient e-worker? A competency approach supporting well-being Abstract This qualitative study aims to identify skills and competencies to help e-workers and organisations better understand the impact of e-working and ICT use on well-being, and the positive and negative behaviours that influence their ‘e-resilience’. Data were obtained from 34 semi-structured interviews with experienced e-workers from a range of work roles to investigate their understanding of the skills, competencies and coping strategies required to be a resilient e-worker. The five emergent themes were: knowledge, skills and abilities; agile working; lifestyle and personal qualities; management styles; and organisational actions. Findings suggest a competency-based approach could enhance e-resilience and well-being in e-workers. Introduction The number of e-workers in the UK is growing rapidly. Research findings have highlighted the potential for e-working to threaten as well as facilitate work-life balance, well-being and job performance, but little is yet known about the competencies required by resilient e-workers. This qualitative study aims to gain insight into the skills, competencies and coping styles that are ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ for e-workers. It is anticipated that the findings will help to develop a research-informed framework to better understand the impact of e-working on job effectiveness, work-life balance and well-being with clear benefits for employees and organisations. The main aim of this research is to develop an e-worker competency framework enabling e-workers to manage their work-life integration more effectively and ameliorate work-life conflict, both of which can impair well-being and performance over time. Research objectives: • To identify key skills, attributes, knowledge and experience that contribute to the resilient e-worker. • To develop a preliminary competency framework of the knowledge, skills and behaviours of the developed and undeveloped e-worker. Theory and Significance: There is evidence that frequent ICT use for work purposes has both positive and negative effects on individual well-being and organisational productivity (Grant, Wallace & Spurgeon, 2013). The incidence of e-working is rapidly growing, but there is evidence that organisations provide employees with little guidance on how to engage with ICT for work purposes in a healthy and sustainable way (Grant & Kinman, 2016). Such problems may become more common if organisations do not identify the skills that are important in order to develop their e-workers in the light of the constant availability of technology allowing work to continue after hours. Extended working hours can lead to a lack of opportunity for recuperation and an increase in work intensity, which can lead to health-related problems (Grant et al., 2013). Furthermore, it is acknowledged that developments in technology, by themselves, cannot increase job performance; an associated change in working practices, behaviour and new skills are required (Kowalski and Swanson 2005; Baruch 2000). This research is based on the notion of resilience in the workplace which has been defined as the cognitive abilities, competencies and behavioural characteristics that are contextual to situations (Lengnick-Hall et al. 2011). With limited research available in this area, there is a clear need for an e-competency framework that offers guidance on how e-workers can improve their skills and self-regulate their behaviour, whilst organisations need to provide mechanisms to support and guide employees towards healthy and productive behaviours. Design & method Data were collected through a series of 34 semi-structured interviews, mean age 45.7, with 16 female and 18 male participants. The majority were working full-time and from a range of job roles within a UK software development organisation. The criteria for selection of participants included experience in e-working. During the interviews, interviewees were asked to explain what makes their own e-working successful and to highlight the issues that affect them negatively. They were also asked to identify and prioritise the skills, competencies and coping strategies that they believe makes them effective and productive e-workers and to identify healthy and unhealthy strategies used to manage e-working. This study was approved by the Coventry University Ethics Committee and adheres to the British Psychological code of conduct for research. Data analysis & results Data were transcribed and subjected to thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006). The data was further analysed using a framework analysis approach (Gale et al., 2013) to extract the key skills, behaviours associated with e-resilience and associated competencies such as self-management of work-life balance and well-being. Five key themes emerged: knowledge, skills and abilities; agile working; lifestyle and personal qualities; management styles; and organisational actions. Organisational actions are identified as the need to provide specific e-worker training, inclusion of the required skills and behaviours in appraisals and to review policies, ensuring they are effective and relevant to e-workers. The ability to self-manage and self-motivate were considered particularly important competencies enabling healthy behaviours to be maintained. Interviewees also identified the ability to develop trusting relationships with line managers and to be aware of the implications of blurred boundaries between work and non-working lives for work-life balance and well-being. Communication skills that are well developed were also considered vital by many interviewees, as was the need to have effective coping mechanisms in place to manage workload. The framework can help organisations to develop key skills and competencies to support e-workers primarily through training and coaching. Managers could use the framework to help e-workers develop a self-regulatory approach. This research is appropriate for the work and well-being category as the potential benefits for the health and well-being of e-workers are clear. This paper is part of an on going body of work completed by the authors on the emerging field of e-working that has attracted attention from organisations and policy makers. The team is currently developing solutions to improve the way in which we use technology in a healthy and sustainable way and develop a more resilient approach to e-working. Discussion & conclusions The findings provide insights into the skills, competencies and abilities required for effective e-working. The preliminary framework emerging from the data indicates that, whilst many skills thought to be essential for healthy and productive e-working are similar to those required for working in the office, there are some crucial differences. What is clear from the research is that, although some individuals may have developed some of the competencies, the framework has strong potential to enable e-workers to develop self-regulatory practices and for organisations to provide effective guidance and support to manage issues such as managing boundaries and work-life integration effectively when using technology. Practical applications This research provides organisations and managers with the ability to benchmark their e-workers capability and to identify (using the framework) specific training needs and coaching/counselling opportunities to improve their performance and productivity and ameliorate some of the negative effects of ICT usage. A short discussion will consider what organisations and e-workers can do to manage risks and develop appropriate guidance and coping strategies for ‘e-resilience’. A PDF copy of slides will be provided online. References Baruch, Y. (2000). Teleworking: Benefits and pitfalls as perceived by professionals and managers. New Technology Work and Employment, 15(1) 34-49 Braun, V., Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis n psychology. Qualitative research in Psychology, 3 (2), 77-101 Gale, N. K., Heath, G., Cameron, E., Rashid S. Redwood S. (2013). Using the framework method for the analysis of qualitative data in multi-disciplinary health research. MC Med Res Methodology 13: 117. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24047204> [Accessed 1 August 2016] doi:10.1186/1471-2288-13-117 Grant, C. A. & Kinman, G. (April, 2016). E-Resilience: Managing Technology Conference, Birkbeck, University of London Grant, C.A., Wallace, L.M. and Spurgeon, P.C. (2013). An exploration of the psychological factors affecting remote e-worker’s job effectiveness, well-being and work-life balance. Employee Relations, 5, 35 Kowalski, B. K., and Swanson, J. A. (2005). Critical success factors in developing teleworking programs. Benchmarking: An international Journal, 12(3), 236-249 Lengnick-Hall, C. A, Beck, T. E., Lengnick-Hall, M. (2011). Developing a capacity for organisational resilience through strategic human resource management. Human Resource Management Review, 21(3), 243-255
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDivision of Occupational Psychology Annual Conference
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2017
EventDivision of Occupational Psychology Annual Conference 2017 - Liverpool, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Jan 20176 Jan 2017


ConferenceDivision of Occupational Psychology Annual Conference 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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