Katie Stephenson

Stephenson, Katie 3Doctoral Candidate : Katie Stephenson
Supervisors: Joep Cornelissen and Svetlana Khapova
Research Track: Strategy and Organization
Start date: September 2014

Negotiating Space: A Longitudinal Study of Professional Service Firms Implementing Flexible Work Arrangements and its Embodied Effects

Due to the shift in producing intellectual assets over natural resources, intensified demands of constant connectivity, and changing needs of the workforce, many organizations have implemented flexible work arrangements (FWA) in which the location, scheduled hours and amount of hours scheduled to work for employees can vary. These arrangements range from virtual teams to telecommuting, and they are comprised of countless variations meant to fit the needs of specific individuals, organizations, and cultures.

In this project I focus on one aspect of FWAs, and that is how these FWAs impact a professional service firm’s workspaces. A recent trend in professional service firms is to provide open offices with hot-desking, or workspaces that employees use temporarily and requires them to remove their belongings at the end of a work session. Attention to the material arrangement of working environments and the artifacts that professionals can use is gaining increasing attention in management and organization literature. This is because not only do material arrangements and artifacts constrain and afford particular working practices, they also play a role in shaping meaning and impacting individuals’ emotions.

While a significant amount of literature has focused on how open offices with hot-desking has impacted corporations, we contribute to the call to study how these offices impact educational institutions. By focusing on a faculty at a Dutch university transitioning from traditional cellular offices to open offices with hot-desking we aim to show how space and its material configuration play a role on shaping behaviors and actions; meanings; and emotions, and how this unfolds over time.

Our first study investigates how academics make sense of their identity as academics after the artifacts and the material set up of their organizational work environment change to be in conflict in with their profession’s norms of organizational space and artifacts. Our second study looks at four different embedded cases within the same faculty to see how group cohesion is impacted by the material setup of the offices. And our third study focuses on how the organization of space in open offices with hot-desking embeds structures of control, and to what degree employees adhere to them or improvise other ways of working.

Keywords: materiality, space, professional identity, embodiment, new ways of working, control

Brief Resume
Katie Stephenson is a first year PhD candidate at the Amsterdam Business Research Institute at the VU University Amsterdam. Before joining the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Katie earned her Bachelor of Arts degree (Summa Cum Laude) at Drake University in Des Moines, IA in English and the study of culture and society. Her theses were entitled “A Transgendered Voice: Antony Hegarty’s Vocality” and “the Aesthetics of Objectivity: Troubling the Production of the Real.” Following her bachelor’s degree Katie earned her Master’s degree at the University of Amsterdam (Cum Laude) in the Netherlands with a degree in Cultural Analysis. Her master’s thesis was entitled “Animated and Disturbed: Narratives of Immaterial Labor Practices.” After completing her Master’s thesis, Katie participated in the junior researcher program at the VU University Amsterdam.

Contact Katie

Papers and conference presentations

Stephenson, K. A., Cornelissen, J. & Khapova, S. N. (2015) But We Are Not Consultants: How Academics Make Sense of their Professional Identity in Non-territorial Offices. To be presented at the Second International Interdisciplinary Conference on Research on Work in Turku, Finland. Working Paper.

Stephenson, K. A., Cornelissen, J. & Khapova, S. N. (2015) The Paperless Professor: How Academics Make Sense of Professional Identity when Confronted with New Ways of Working. To be presented at the EGOS Conference, Athens. Working Paper.

Stephenson, K. A., Cornelissen, J. & Khapova, S. N. (2014) The Paperless Professor: How Artifacts Play more than a Symbolic Role in Shaping Professional Identity. Presented at ABRI Research Seminar at the VU University Amsterdam. Working Paper.

Stephenson, K. A., Cornelissen, J. & Khapova, S. N. (2014). Researching Organizational Spaces with Embodiment: A Theoretical Trace of Embodiment Derived from Neo-Structuralist Theories. Presented at the Writing Workshop Giving visual and material form to ideas, identity and imagination: Architecture, urbanism and sustainable construction” at WU Vienna University of Economics and Business in Vienna, Austria. Working Paper.

Stephenson, K.A. (2012). Disturbing Boundaries: Embodied Experience and Immaterial labor in Annie Abrahams’s “Separation.” Conference Paper Presentation at Feminist Materialisms Conference at the University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Peng, S., Stephenson, K.A and D. Vandergrift (2011). Cultural Consumption of Ba Ling Hou in Nanjing, China. Poster Presentation at the ASIANetwork Conference in Oak Brook, IL.

Stephenson, K.A. (2010) Antony Hegarty's Vocality: How Materiality, Technology, and Symbolic Systems are Entwined. United Academics, One, 1:1.

Stephenson, K.A. (2010) Intensities of Music: Kunqu Opera, Classical Music, and Punk Rock in Nanjing, China. Invited Guest Lecture at Drake University, Des Moines, IA, USA.

Stephenson, K.A. (2009). Not to Return: A Closer Look at Immobility, Labor, and Two Drake Roommates Coping with Losing Family. Annual Meeting of the Midwest Sociological Society (Could not attend).