Highly Flexible Workplaces augmented by technology
The Abstract below is for a paper I hope to write by the beginning of June. If you have any idea of papers, books or projects that I should consider for this paper then please add a comment below! I need to learn a great deal before June!
(an exploratory abstract for the Interacting with computers special issue on Feminism and HCI https://sites.google.com/site/feminismandhci/home)
Building on Feminism: Exploring the utopian ideal of Highly Flexible Workplaces augmented by technology
by Dr Lisa Tweedie, Tweedie Consulting, Malmesbury, UK
This paper looks at the role technology can play in supporting a good work/life balance. It argues that there are strong philosophies embedded in our new technology which are allied to feminist perspectives. Instead of pitting the “carer” role against “a career” the paper considers the utopian ideal of Highly Flexible Workplaces (HFW) augmented by technology.
The issue of work is central to human well-being. Work helps us value ourselves. Paid or unpaid it defines who we are. Caring is a form of work. It is also an integral part of our human experience. We are all cared for as children and when ill, old or infirm. Most of us will also be carers at some point in our life. The traditional workplace encourages a distinction between one’s professional role and the caring roles that life brings. Many people find these multiple roles difficult to manage. Some choose to focus on one in preference to the other.
The advent of new technology such as mobile and broadband challenges us to think beyond our traditions. We now live in a world where “always on” professional work travels much further into the confines of our homes. Equally the ease with which one can build an entrepreneurial home based business is astonishing. Such change brings tension as we adjust how we manage our lives.
Web 2.0 represents a shift away from central control. We are all empowered to become creators. Transparency, openness and sharing are key concepts. Highly Flexible Workplaces (HFW) build on such ideals, in particular they focus on mutual support, shared learning and community
This paper will start by reviewing work/life balance. The discussion builds on a rich heritage from both the feminist movement and more general ideas around co-operatives and community. It also considers different cultural solutions to work/life balance. To provide a current perspective views from carers (via social media discussions) are shared and analysed.
To foster the development of HFW one needs to improve carers skills and develop appropriate technology. The paper reports on projects that do this. Women have a long history of teaching and sharing domestic and craft skills. Technology and entrepreneurial skills can be transferred in a similar manner. Carers can support and train each other using small groups, social media and online learning opportunities (e.g. our school parents IT club). Other examples are: fostering entrepreneurial skills by setting up social media “business clubs”; setting up on-line time banks where people barter their time (e.g. Stroud); creating shared workspaces (e.g. Bristol, Birmingham); building carer co-operatives where carers share skills and provide mutual support; micro-finance and credit unions.
The underlying thesis of this paper is that by bringing appropriate technology and philosophy to the table we can transform the workplace by extending flexibility beyond current conceptions. Highly Flexible Workplaces would be healthy places, that build community and encourage a culture of life-time learning. In other words places we can all “have it all”.