Interpersonal connectivity work: Being there with and for geographically distant others

Ella Hafermalz*, Kai Riemer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this paper we ask how interpersonal connectivity can be achieved at a geographic distance. This is in contrast with extant literature that focuses on states of connectivity rather than the work needed to achieve it. We draw on phenomenological ideas of embodiment, presence and distance, in combination with empirical material from an extreme remote work context – telenursing in Australia. The nurses we interviewed triage patients entirely by telephone. We argue that even with low social and technical connectivity, interpersonal connectivity is achievable through skilful work with technology. We explore the work that goes into ‘being there with and for distant others’ by combining the phenomenological concepts of ‘maximal grip’ and ‘intentional arc’ with empirical examples. We propose that interpersonal connectivity is oriented empathetically towards both the other person and agentically towards the joint situation. We thereby develop a conceptual model of interpersonal connectivity work, which argues that distributed workers need to skilfully balance the dualities of freedom/control and nearness/farness to achieve interpersonal connectivity. Achieving and maintaining interpersonal connectivity is an important skill, particularly for leaders who operate in work contexts that are increasingly distributed, flexible and temporary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1627-1648
Number of pages22
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number12
Early online date28 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Ella Hafermalz is Assistant Professor at the KIN Center for Digital Innovation at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her research uses abductive qualitative methods to investigate how technologies are used, managed, and experienced in contemporary workplaces. Her research focus includes how technology is used to support remote work, existential experiences of new work forms, and the role of Artificial Intelligence in knowledge work. Ella's research has been published in Organization Science, Information Systems Journal, European Journal of Information Systems, and Organization Studies.

Kai Riemer is Professor of Information Technology and Organisation in the Discipline of Business Information Systems at the University of Sydney Business School. Kai has extensive experience with industry-funded research and leads a Linkage project initiative on the Management of disruptive technologies, sponsored by the Australian Research Council. He is the founder and leader of the Digital Disruption Research Group (DDRG) and convener of DISRUPT.SYDNEY. Kai’s expertise and research interests cover the areas of Social Networking, Technology Appropriation, Enterprise 2.0, Virtual Work, Digital Disruption and the Philosophy of Technology. His research follows practice theoretical and non-orthodox approaches and has appeared in journals such as MISQ Quarterly, European Journal of Information Systems, Journal of Information Technology, Information Systems Journal and Journal of the Association for Information Systems. Kai co-hosts "The Future, This Week", Australia’s leading podcast on the future of business and technology published by Sydney Business Insights.


  • connectivity theory
  • distance
  • embodiment
  • interpersonal connectivity
  • phenomenology
  • presence
  • remote leadership
  • remote work
  • telenursing

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