Organisation and Management

 

The organisation and management of work and economic futures

This strand of my research explores how the changing world of work is organised, managed, experienced and contested in thought and practice by those employed and self-employed in a range of different fields and industries, including the creative industries and professional services. It consists of five areas of interest: Organising the self-employed, New ways of working in an age of digital transformation, Work in the creative industries, Measuring and valuing work time in the professional services, and Self-quantification in and against the digital workday.

 
 

 
 
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Organising the self-employed

Growing out of research with freelance creatives in the Netherlands funded by the EU COST Action for Dynamics of Virtual Work, reported in a recent book chapter, and an ESRC-funded research collaboration with Unite the Union, an ongoing concern of my research has been the development of alternative labour strategies for the organisation of the unorganised. Funded by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund/National Productivity Investment Fund, I have been working with Indycube.Community, the co-working cooperative and trade union for the self-employed, on the feasibility of the implementation of the Belgian SMart model in the UK. As part of this, I am currently investigating how self-employed workers can use new collective institutions to overcome some of the challenges associated with the Universal Credit. I am also interested in the Dutch Broodfonds model and its possible application in the UK.

 

New ways of working in an age of digital transformation

With an ESRC grant funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund/National Productivity Investment Fund, I am working with Vodafone on how work and workplaces are organised in the context of digital transformations, with a specific focus on agile working methods and the impacts of automation and artificial intelligence. This follows previous research on the organisation, measurement and valuation of work in a range of digital and creative contexts. These preoccupations is reflected in my research-led teaching, which in the first-year core unit Global Business Environment centres on the role of platforms in restructuring Global Production Networks and international divisions of labour, and in the second-year optional unit, People, Work & Organisations, considers the darker side of how new organisational forms are lived and experienced by managers and workers.

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Work in the creative industries

My previous research has centred on the creative industries as a forum for many of the wider changes associated with the new world of work. My ESRC-funded doctoral research explored how creative labour is measured, valued and quantified in graphic design, advertising and branding agencies in the UK and the Netherlands. Supported by the EU COST Action for Dynamics of Virtual Work, I conducted a study of how freelance creatives organise the individual and collective times and spaces in which they work, resulting in two chapters (here and here) for edited collections in the COST Action book series. Alongside this empirical focus, my work has also been concerned with how a Marxian theoretical lens can be applied to capture and conceptualise the economic position of the creative industries, including through contributions to tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique and the Creative Industries Journal.

 

Measuring and valuing work time in the professional services

A recurring theme of my empirical work has been how work time is measured, valued and quantified in fields where the character of the work makes this difficult. My research into this topic has focused on the system of billable hours whereby professional services firms bill work out to clients and budget the internal allocation and completion of working hours. My ESRC-funded doctoral research investigated how this system structures the experience, management and practice of creative labour in graphic design, advertising and branding agencies, and some of the tensions and conflicts that open up around it. I am currently developing research with firms in other professional service fields, such as tax accountancy, to continue thinking through the impacts of the billable hour upon companies and their employees, and the possible alternatives.

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Self-quantification in and against the digital workday

Another strand of my research into the measurement of work and time has focused on the potential of self-quantification technologies to both enforce and resist the structure of the capitalist working day in a digital age. Supported by Brigstow Institute Seedcorn Funding I have been collaborating with two artists, specialising respectively in performance and sound, on a prototype research method, staged performance and electronic soundscape using self-tracking devices including Fitbits, glucose monitors, heart rate monitors and phone apps to record, represent and better understand the movement of the body through the times and spaces of work and life. We are currently developing the prototype for wider use and thinking through the implications of performance as a means of not only presenting but critically interpreting and analysing quantitative data for transformative ends. I have also recently been awarded Seedcorn Funding from the ESRC Productivity Insights Network to think about the relationship between collective bargaining, wellbeing and quantification in the workplace.