Crafting Work in the Digital Workplace

The nature of work and the way it is organized continues to undergo profound transformation. "Always-on, always connected:" The ability to a access information and to tap into our social network anytime and anywhere has become a familiar experience to increasing parts of society. The once familiar notion of "workplace" has been stripped of its physical boundaries. In particular, mobile technologies empower the individual to fashion their own work environment, freeing the employee form the confines of time and place that once characterized work. Instead, individual solutions to the demands of work and private life are conceivable. 

Yet, the impact of technology seems ambivalent.  Information and communication technology supports a kind of social acceleration that manifests in "high speed society" in which an increased pace of work together with heigthened levels of competition become our constant companions. While ICT empower employees to find and enact individual solutions to the demands of modern life, the technology seems to burden or force employees to accommodate a culture of 24/7 responsiveness - a constant availability to the needs of the company.

Appeals, incentives, and rules as well as particular technical design features are commonly accepted means to “correct” unsustainable behavior and to foster employees’ wellbeing. ​We don't believe that these existing remedies will be enough. Indeed they may foreclose a discussion that centers on developing the necessary skills for the individual worker to thrive in the digital workplace.

In line with the direction of the transformation, we argue that the enpowerment of individuals and teams should not be limited to technical tools but needs to include a reflection of what matters and how to find an appropriate response to the dilemmas of modern work.  Exercising this ability is what we call „crafting work in the digital workplace“.


Why "crafting" work?

  • It builds on experience (masterhood) instead of evoking abstract rules.
  • It incorporates a sense of constant care, a drive towards continuing refinement.
  • It emphasizes longevity rather than bricolage or short-term solution.
  • It requires to assume responsibility and to take control.

Our Research Design

Sustainable High performance is an impressive achievement. Like successful athletes in sport, individuals need to find a balance between exertion – high performance – and periods of relaxation and regeneration. Our research aims at understanding how high performers succeed to maintain their level of performance and to balance demands and periods of rest. Our research program endeavours to reverse the conventional approach of identifying risk-factors deemed responsible for the origin stress-related illnesses. In the tradition of salutogenesis we seek to understand what allows some people to thrive in a demanding environment 

Research Objectives

  • Transformation of work: In which ways continues ICT to transform the modern workplace?
  • Craftsmanship in the digital age:
    1. In what ways is sustainable high performance the result of a skillful coping and balancing of demands and resources?
    2. What are challenges to learn, develop or exert this kind of craftsmanship?
  • Cultivating sustainable work systems: How do and how should companies act to establish a work system that is regenerating rather than consuming its human resources?


Our approach is to combine physiological measurements (HRV) with qualitative data gathering techniques (e.g. personal diaries, in-depths interviews, or focus groups). The physiological component of our research design consits of small bio-sensor devices that would record the variation of intervals between two heartbeats over 24 hours (RR interval variation or heart rate variability (HRV)). This variation describes the ability of the body to constantly adjust the time interval from one heart beat to the next based on stimuli of the autonomic nervous system. It has been found to be a valid indicator of chronic stress and well-being (Togo & Takahashi, 2009). It allows us to identify periods of the day that were physiologically stressful as well as review the quality of phases of recovery, i.e. sleep.

Yet, in order to become meaningful, HRV data needs to be contextualized. For this purpose we rely on the qualitative data.


In our research we have found individuals who are thriving and delivering sustainable high performance even under demanding conditions. Like successful athletes in sport, these individuals succeed to find a balance between exertion - high performance – and periods of relaxation and regeneration. Thus we cannot subscribe to the equation smarter work == unhealthy work. Yet we need to acknowledge that sustainable high performance is an impressive achievements that combines a number of factors both from the individual as well as from the (organizational) context.