The extensification of managerial work in the digital age: Middle managers, spatio-temporal boundaries, and control

John Hassard, Jonathan Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How has the experience of managerial work changed in the digital age? This two-phase (2002-2006; 2015-2019) study addresses this question by examining how middle managers perceive the spatio-temporal boundaries of their work to have shifted. Typically, such managers report change occurring in two directions: (i) the contractual employment boundary becoming stretched as hours completed inside the workplace increase, and (ii) this boundary becoming breached as managers conduct additional work voluntarily from locations outside corporate premises. While such trends can be explained deterministically – the former stemming from corporate acceptance of consultancy-influenced organizational prescriptions (business process reengineering, lean management, agile management, etc.); the latter from widespread adoption of digital communication innovations (BlackBerry, email, WhatsApp, etc.) – we argue to achieve a more rounded appreciation of such work ‘extensification’ attention must also be paid to agentic forces of strategic and political choice. Developing this argument, and acknowledging paradox when theorising spatio-temporal change, we suggest future research on managerial employment must entail documenting not only factors influencing the stretching and breaching of work boundaries, but also – given incipient political regulations and innovative surveillance technologies – others serving to strengthen and protect them; notably those directed at improving work-life balance and physical/psychological health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1647-1678
Number of pages32
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • digital communications technology
  • managerial work
  • organizational control
  • strategic choice
  • work surveillance
  • working time


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