top of page

ACPHIS Medal 2017 Winner - Dr Ella Hafermalz

Dr Ella Hafermalz was awarded the 2017 ACPHIS Medal after completing her PhD thesis titled "The Performative Office: A Multi-Case Problematization of Remote Working" at the University of Sydney.

​[ORCID: 0000-0002-3053-915X]

Supervisory team:

  • Prof Kai Riemer (University of Sydney)

  • Prof Bradon Ellem (University of Sydney)

  • Dr. Kristine Dery (MIT Sloan Management School)

Link to thesis:

About the PhD Project

The research of Dr Hafermalz during her PhD candidature led to a number of publications in peer-reviewed journals and a book chapter.

  • Hafermalz, E. (2021). "Out of the Panopticon and into Exile: Visibility and control in distributed new culture organizations." Organization Studies, 42 (5), 697-717.

  • Hafermalz, E., & K. Riemer (2020). "Interpersonal Connectivity Work: Being there with and for geographically distant others." Organization Studies, 41 (12), 1627-1648.

  • Hafermalz, E., & K. Riemer (2021). "Productive and connected while working from home: what client-facing remote workers can learn from telenurses about ‘belonging through technology’." European Journal of Information Systems, 30 (1), 89-99.

  • Dery, K., & E. Hafermalz (2016). Seeing is belonging: Remote working, identity and staying connected. In J. Lee (Ed.), The Impact of ICT on Work (pp. 109-126). Singapore: Springer, Singapore.

About the award winning thesis

Remote work involves working for an organisation from a location other than a central office, usually from home. In this thesis I aim to reorient the conversation on remote work away from evaluation and towards understanding. I do this by asking the question "how does remote working work?" I present four cases that relate to empirical material generated through interviews with remote workers and managers. I problematize dominant assumptions about remote work, in both theory and practice, through an abductive research process that leads to the development of two conceptual models. There are five main findings presented in the thesis. The first is that the notion of remoteness can be revealingly understood as an experience that is linked to the fear of exclusion. The second finding is that the practice termed “flexible working” can either support or undermine remote working arrangements, depending on how the office is seen and enacted according to differing ontological positions. Thirdly, I find that the assumption that remote workers are “absent” from the office neglects the ways in which remote workers are able to skilfully become present with others by using basic ICTs to become present with one another, a process that I illustrate in a model of presencing work. In the final case I present the finding that remote workers engage in layered mediated communication in order to construct social and professional belonging amongst the work group, through what I term the work of belonging. The fifth and overarching finding is that our current way of understanding remote work is shaped by how we think about and enact the category of the office in practice. I argue that when the office is thought of solely as either a physical place, or alternately as a virtual space that is purely technological, we miss the layered, distributed way in which most organisational work is performed today. I therefore present as a key contribution and thus alternative starting point for future research the notion of the performative office. I draw here on a performative ontology to propose an understanding of the office as a sociomaterial configuration that is enacted through ongoing and distributed work. In such a conceptualisation, the need for the qualifier of remote is removed, as all workers have the potential to be equally involved in the enactment of the office.


bottom of page