Improving knowledge work productivity through new ways of working
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Knowledge work and knowledge work productivity have been studied for several years without achieving a consensus on how to improve it. One of the reasons is that the work practices and methods are based on traditional ways of working originating from the industrial era. Such ways of working are not applicable in our contemporary knowledge economy, hence there is a need for innovative ways to improve knowledge work productivity. ‘New ways of working’ offers a novel approach to tackle the issue. The main objective of this research was to examine how new ways of working affect knowledge work productivity and thus to ascertain how new ways of working could improve knowledge work productivity. This study entails two aspects: work environment consisting of three dimensions (physical, virtual, and social) and work practices (such as flexible and mobile work). This study incorporated both a theoretical and an empirical approach. The theoretical part focused on understanding the dynamics of knowledge work, knowledge work productivity and new ways of working. The empirical part took the form of a qualitative case study with two case companies, Rapal Oy and Granlund Oy. The empirical material was gathered from 18 thematic interviews. As a result, the impacts of the work environment and work practices were identified in both cases. The potential of new ways of working to improve knowledge work productivity was analyzed resulting in three most important aspects in both cases. Most of the key findings of this study corroborated those of earlier studies. However, this research emphasized the significance of the social environment and work practices as regards productivity. New ways of working were considered to affect, for example, work flow, time efficiency, knowledge sharing, and more intangible aspects, such as job satisfaction and motivation. However, the impact on the work-life balance was perceived to be a rather complex issue, since both positive and negative impacts emerged In conclusion, this research increases the understanding of the relationship between new ways of working and employee productivity, offering a comprehensive view on the matter.