Organisational identification in hybrid work

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Management and International Business (MIB)
The shift towards hybrid work arrangements has garnered the interest of a wide array of academics (e.g. Surma et al., 2021; Martyna et al., 2021; Peters et al., 2022; Juchnowicz & Kinowska, 2021; Chafi et al., 2021; Becker et al., 2022). Meanwhile, the coronavirus appears to have accelerated “at least two pre-pandemic trends that were already eroding organisational identification” (Ashforth, 2020). The benefits of organisational identification for employees and their organisations are well-established and include, but are not limited to, intrinsic motivation (van Knippenberg and van Schie, 2000), performance (van Knippenberg, 2000; van Dick, 2001), and information sharing and coordi-nated action (Cheney, 1983; Tyler, 1999). My research question therefore is “how might hybrid work affect organisational identification?” My study relates to literature on hybrid work, work design, and organisational identification. Organisational identification has its roots in Social Identity Theory (SIT), and Ashforth and Mael (1989) were the ones to introduce SIT to organizational studies. Organisational identification has been studied in office-based and telework settings but how hybrid work might affect organizational identification has received little to know attention as of yet. Instead, a notable focus in hybrid work research has recently been placed on issues caused by Covid-19 such as loneliness (Bareket-Bojmel, 2023), employee engagement (Surma et al., 2021; Martyna et al., 2021), onboarding (Mazzei et al., 2023) and well-being (Peters et al., 2022; Juchnowicz & Kinowska, 2021; Chafi et al., 2022; Becker et al., 2022). I applied a grounded theory approach to my study of organizational identification in hybrid work. I took inspiration from Charmaz’s (2006) constructivist grounded theory. I conducted 14 in-depth, qualitative interviews. I transcribed the interviews and through a series of coding, theoretical sampling, and memo-writing arrived at my findings and conclusions. My primary findings concerned the freedom of choice allotted to hybrid workers regarding where they work and the effects this might have on organizational identification. The other prominent theme which emerged during the interviews was the role of face-to-face interaction in fostering organizational identification, and how hybrid work affects the ways in which this may or may not occur. Based on my literature review and interviews I conclude that it is likely hybrid work could play a part in reducing organizational identification. However, due to the complex nature of organisational identification this is difficult to discern for certain, and whether this matters to employees is unsure whereas for employers this may have more meaning at least in the long-run. Therefore, I encourage further explorations into the subject e.g. directly aimed at how to foster OI in hybrid work.
Thesis advisor
Seristö, Hannu
organisational identification, hybrid work, social identity theory, future of work