Christian Kruschitz is researching how companies use digital media and applications to shape the workplace, by looking at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) currently undergoing digital transformations in Carinthia, Austria.
“More than 30 years have passed since computers took over our workplaces and tangibly changed the way we work,” says Christian Kruschitz, who is currently writing his dissertation on mediatised office work in Carinthia SMEs, under the supervision of Caroline Roth-Ebner. He has noticed a close correlation between the evolution of work and the evolution of media used for work purposes, with both these factors impacting one another. Information and communication technologies too have an effect on the use of these media in day-to-day work, by determining how work processes and communication should be carried out. Kruschitz is now keen to explore the driving forces behind the mediatisation strategies of the SMEs, from a media and communications science point of view. His hairdresser, for example, has used social media to help meet his communication targets. Since he started using Facebook for social media marketing, he has been able to hire two more hairdressers. “The additional time and cost spent on communication have really paid off for him: increased online presence has led to a higher turnover.” But how do other SMEs in Carinthia use media in their work?
There are approximately 17,000 SMEs in Carinthia, and statistics show that almost all of them are digitalised, with computers and internet access. “But if you look more closely, for example at their online presence, you can see there is still a lot of untapped potential,” explains Kruschitz. The statistics also show that companies with more employees tend to be more digitalised. Christian Kruschitz is now researching the aims of the decision makers in such companies when introducing digital end devices and applications. According to his hypothesis, “Many companies are actually not digitalised for the simple purpose of using technology.” Instead, the media and communications scientist says it is more about building a modern image. He also wants to look carefully at how media is used to organise work operations. “The way media is used for work says a lot about company culture, management styles, working conditions and communication methods.”
Christian Kruschitz is currently preparing his empirical research. He is planning to carry out qualitative guided interviews with 20 experts from SMEs across Carinthia who are all responsible for the way media is used at work. Once he has analysed these conversations, he will send out a standardised online questionnaire to all Carinthia SMEs. The results of the qualitative survey can then be contrasted with a larger sample. Kruschitz would like to hear from any companies who are willing to volunteer their expertise for his study. He chose to focus on the SMEs because “the large companies in the area are already very well established. They don’t have the same pressure from outside as they are already forerunners.”
Kruschitz has gained personal experience of such large companies over the last 20 years, having worked in international industrial firms in the fields of work preparation, calculation, project management and strategic purchasing. Before that, he trained as a radio and television mechanic, studying at a technical college in the evenings. “I started by learning how to repair various media devices, then how they are manufactured, and then to research how they are used,” he says with a smile. To him, the fact that his scientific work now focuses on end devices that can hardly be repaired mechanically any more is even a little bit ironic. When asked about the future of mediatised work, he becomes thoughtful for a moment: “Digital technologies make for more dynamic change in the working world. The future will almost certainly bring new forms of organisation, communication and collaboration in the workplace, as well as new ways of controlling and monitoring work. But digital creativity must be designed in such a way that new work requirements don’t demand too much of people.”