tommy.jensen@sbs.su.se johan.sandstrom@ltu.se

Interference


New management practices and information technology is challenging the boundaries between work and other spheres of life. But who is setting the boundaries between on/off-work, and between body and mind?

It seems that for blue collar workers, the physical entry/exit passage to the mine is a solid barrier between work and off work. When they enter, they are at work, when they leave, they are off work. For example, once the worker is registered for work, inside the gates, it is not okey to temporarily de-register and fetch something outside the gates (perhaps an important document or the food box in the car). A worker told us that when a worker moves this way, he or she can get a warning. Movement of blue collar workers’ bodies are restricted and continuously tracked inside the gates, but how about information? The workers are not allowed to use social media to show pictures from daily work life. You need permission from the company to take pictures. But workers do this anyway. Information technology and social media seem to escape physical barriers and set rules.

The managers we talk to, however, experience a much more fluid work-life. The physical body is allowed to move around and they continously get reports on how the organizing of rocks proceeds. There is a constant flow of mails and SMSs. This do not only occur when something out of the ordinary happens at work. He or she can, of course, choose to not check mails or SMSs when off work. Those whom we talk to are, however, constantly on line, “just checking”. To be informed about things at work while off work, they seem to argue, makes it easier to come to work. They are more updated and can avoid surprises.

Worlds collide, however, when managers initiate contacts with blue-collar workers that are off work. One example given to us tells of a manager calling a worker at home, inquiring about an event at work. The conversation is not about sharing information, but about inquiring information, and about investigation. Old and new versions of information technology (social media and telephone calls) are obviously ignorant to physical boundaries, but this also raises the question of which practical usages is okey or not, and who is setting the rules?


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