This project will investigate human-based aspects from the specialised viewpoint of teleworking within rural areas, using subjects and systems within such areas.
The revitalisation of rural areas, economies and cultures will depend largely on the efficient management of human resources; it is people who work within an organisation and it will be people who will enable rural areas to develop and thrive. Unfortunately, a move away from rural areas towards the larger towns and cities to seek work is having deleterious effects on population structure within rural areas, with the resultant effect that economic activity in rural areas continues to decline. This trend is exacerbated in some rural areas as a result of diminishing opportunities for agricultural employment.
Communications technologies offer an efficient way of reversing this migratory trend. It is perfectly feasible, for example, for individuals to work from home rather than having to travel to work, for them to work within their own communities rather than having to migrate to large conglomerations to seek mployment. So teleworking can be a major potential saviour of rural economies.
However, simply translating office-based work into solitary working from home or from smaller groups within a network of rural areas, is not without difficulties. Historically it has always been the case that considerable social and organisational problems arise when new technology is introduced into existing working situation, nothwithstanding problems faced by individuals who may be naive to the sophistication of modern electronic systems. Such social and psychological barriers to teleworking, therefore, may well undo all of the good which teleworking systems can bring to rural areas. These factors must be investigated and overcome before efficient teleworking systems will have a hope of bringing the expected benefits.
Specifically the programme is composed of four integrated workpackages. In the first year, the main effort will be centred on two workpackages. First, to categorise the facilities available for teleworking operations at a functional level and the kinds of communication acts and structures which are created by teleworking. The second workpackage will investigate the social and psychological factors which may inhibit or facilitate teleworking from the human-centred viewpoint: organisational, social and cognitive/ergonomic factors. The second two workpackages will begin half-way through the first year and continue to the end of the second year. In workpackage 3, the important factors identified in workpackage 2 will be investigated in a longitudinal study of teleworkers. The final workpackage will develop human-centred information appropriate to enable potential teleworking organisations to make the best use of their organisation and workforce within rural areas.
LS2 9JT Leeds