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Chronemics at Work: Using Socio-Historical Accounts to Illuminate Contemporary Workplace Temporality

Workplace Temporalities

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1268-9, eISBN: 978-1-84950-384-6

Publication date: 1 June 2007


The centrality of time to the quality and experience of our lives has led scholars from a variety of disciplines to consider its social origins, including temporal differences among social collectives. Consistent across their accounts is the acknowledgment that time is co-constructed by people via their communicative interactions and formalized through the use of symbols. The goal of this chapter is to build on these extant socio-historical accounts – which explain temporal commodification, construction, and compression in Western, industrialized organizations – to offer a perspective that is grounded in communication and premised on human agency. Specifically, it takes a chronemic approach to interrogating time in the workplace, exploring how time is a symbolic construction emergent through human interaction. It examines McGrath and Kelly's (1986) model of social entrainment as relevant to the interactional bases of time, and utilizes it and structuration theory to consider the mediation and interpenetration of four oft-cited practices in the emergence of a Westernized time orientation: industrial capitalism, the Protestant work ethic, the mechanized clock, and standardized time zones. Surrounded by contemporary workplace discussions on managing the demands of personal–professional times, this analysis employs themes of temporal commodification, construction, and compression to explore the influence of these socio-historical developments in shaping norms about the time and timing of work.


Ballard, D.I. (2007), "Chronemics at Work: Using Socio-Historical Accounts to Illuminate Contemporary Workplace Temporality", Rubin, B.A. (Ed.) Workplace Temporalities (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 17), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 29-54.



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