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What has the internet ever done for employees? A review, map and research agenda

James Richards (Heriot‐Watt University, Edinburgh, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 1 January 2012




The main purpose of this paper is to assess the extent to which employees have benefitted in the internet age and to identify research gaps that surround such activities.


The approach is a combination of a systematic literature review and an empirical analysis of secondary data drawn from press reports of emergent employee internet activities.


The internet continues to provide fresh and exciting opportunities for the employee to explore in relation to furthering employment‐related interests. However, the internet very much represents a “double‐edged sword” in that the many advantages of the internet can be quickly cancelled out by employer attempts to monitor, control, and exploit for themselves such activities, for their own ends. It is also evident that a full assessment of some activities cannot be made without further research.

Research limitations/implications

The paper is reliant on extant literature and resources that are known to have limited scholarly application.

Practical implications

A broad and eclectic discussion of employee internet activities is likely to be of interest to academics and human resource practitioners whose interests are based on a blend of employee relations practices and new internet‐based technological developments.

Social implications

The study addresses how a distinct actor in employee relations has faired in an age denoted by shrinking opportunities for collective action, yet also denoted by rapid developments in empowering user‐generated and social networking forms of information communication technology.


This paper synthesises literature and data from a wide range of largely incongruous academic and non‐academic sub‐disciplines to provide a fresh and authoritative account of emergent employee behaviour.



Richards, J. (2012), "What has the internet ever done for employees? A review, map and research agenda", Employee Relations, Vol. 34 No. 1, pp. 22-43.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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