All together or all alone? How demographic and digital trends affect socialisation and isolation at work (1 fte)

Cluster 2: Mobility of commodities and information

The softening and hardening of borders poses several fundamental challenges for the future of work and for individuals in organizations. Top amongst those are shifts in demographics in the workplace towards more diversity (e.g., in terms of age, culture, and nationality), as well as an increase of digitalisation of the workplace. On the one hand, one might expect that these developments lead to more connectivity and more socialisation amongst teams and organizational members. For example, people from different generations, cultures, or nationalities could share their experiences and thereby discover a new common ground that increases group cohesion and identification. Moreover, new digital ways of communicating and working might future facilitate this, because, for example, they can increase the ease by which people interact. Yet, on the other hand, these current developments might lead to more disconnection and isolation at work if individuals would retreat into their own demographic bubbles and thus ‘put up borders’ between them and their co-workers from different backgrounds. This might be even more so when digital tools lead to shallower, more depersonalized, interactions, as this might hinder gaining a deeper understanding of the others. Gaining more insight into when – and how – workers are successfully socialized at work is important as this increases individual and team performance, as well as individual well-being. Avoiding isolation is important as it has been associated with lower health and well-being. Yet although there are various (anecdotal) reports that isolation is on the rise in (parts of) society, there has only been limited research on this topic in workplace settings. This is surprising as many adults spend about a third of their time at work, making work potentially an important predictor of isolation.

This PhD project will research the above topic in-depth by drawing on the literatures on socialisation/isolation and connecting that to research on the future of work (e.g., recent developments in the diversity and/or teamwork literature). Data will be collected via a minimum of three quantitative studies, which will form the three core empirical chapters of the thesis. Together the three studies of the PhD project will shed more light onto the highly topical question if – and how – the softening of borders and the increase of digital technology will affect the future of work and lead to more, or less, socialisation or isolation amongst employees. 

The researcher will be based at The Organization, Strategy & Entrepreneurship Department of The School of Business and Economics of Maastricht University (The Netherlands), and undertake a secondment at the University of Konstanz (Germany).

Supervision team:
Promotor: Prof. dr. Simon B. de Jong, Professor in Organizational Behaviour and HRM, School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University
Co-supervisor: Dr. Julia Kensbock, Assistant Professor, School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University
External supervisor: Prof. dr. Florian Kunze, Chair for Organisational Studies, Department for Politics and Public Administration, University of Konstanz

Any inquiries about the position or the project may be addressed to the supervisor.


You are invited to apply for a 4 year PhD position in the project “LIMES – the hardening and softening of borders”. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 847596.

Because the PhD candidates work in a larger research project, team work is essential. In addition to individual work on their dissertations, the PhD candidates will contribute to regular project team meetings and joint academic publications. The PhD candidates will receive extensive training, including regular supervision, training by the Graduate Schools of the relevant faculties, and the partner organisations, where they can benefit from a secondment.


Candidates will be judged on the basis of the requirements outlined below. Candidates should make sure that their application letter demonstrates how they meet these requirements:

  • Knowledge and interest on the topics covered by the relevant PhD project;
  • Advanced skills in research design and relevant analyses, as demonstrated in education and/or work so far;
  • Strong analytical skills;
  • Outstanding writing skills;
  • Show an obvious interest in academic research, particularly qualitative and/or quantitative research methods;
  • Have the capability of autonomously conducting original research as well as working in a team;
  • Fluency in English; Dutch, German and/or French would be preferential.

Application (eligibility criteria and application requirements)

Applicants submit an application package for one of the PhD projects. The full application must be submitted by email and in English, and consist of:

  • The application form containing: personal details (including language proficiencies), the LIMES project targeted, and a research proposal and a time plan which responds to the relevant project description (max. 1.000 words) (cf. template).
  • Annex I: A letter of motivation stating the candidate’s qualifications and reasons for interest in the position.
  • Annex II: Curriculum vitae, outlining relevant work experiences and research output (where applicable). Applicants who have taken a break in their career should indicate this in their application (and in their CV), so it can be taken into account during the selection process.
  • Annex III: Ethics self-assessment, based on the standard ethical research principles and the ethical principles of H2020 (cf. template).
  • Annex IV: Copy of Bachelor (BA) and (Research) Master (MA) degree and transcript (including GPA).
  • Annex V: Proof of proficiency in English (for applicants who neither are native speakers of English nor followed an English taught BA/BSc and MA/MSc); see below for the expected level.
  • Annex VI: One academic paper (e.g., course paper; (draft) thesis; academic publication).
  • Annex VII: contact information of two references (including e-mail; phone number, mailing address, and relationship to the applicant).

Following receipt of an application, the Programme Office (PO) carries out an eligibility check. In addition to the completeness of the application file, the PO also checks compliance with the Marie Skłodowska Curie Action (MSCA) requirements (1), minimum standards of academic performance (2), and language skills (3).

(1) Early-Stage Researchers (ESR) must on 26 August 2019 be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research careers and not yet have been awarded a doctoral degree. 

Full-Time Equivalent Research Experience is measured from the date when a researcher obtained the degree entitling him or her to embark on a doctorate, either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the researcher is recruited, even if a doctorate was never started or envisaged.

Mobility Rule: Researchers may not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the Netherlands (country of employment) for more than 12 months in the three years immediately before 26 August 2019.
! Please notice that the mobility rule only applies to the Netherlands (opposite to what was announced at an earlier stage on this website) !

Time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention[1], compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account.

(2) LIMES will only consider applicants who have reached an overall average Grade Point Average (GPA) of the completed Bachelor of at least 3.4 and/or completed their Master study with a GPA of at least 3.5 (MA).[2]

(3) For applicants who neither are native speakers of English nor followed an English taught BA/BSc and MA/MSc, the PO accepts certificates from:

  • IELTS test: minimum score overall 7.0 and writing minimum score 6.5
  • TOEFL test: overall, internet-based minimum score 100 and writing minimum score 25
  • TOEFL test: overall, paper-based minimum score 600
  • TOEFL test: overall, computer-based minimum score 250
  • A Cambridge certificate: C or higher for the CAE (Certificate in Advanced English)

In case of ineligibility, the PO notifies the applicant by e-mail within ten working days after the receipt of the application.

Maastricht University is committed to nurturing an inclusive culture and a welcoming atmosphere. This inclusiveness strategy has resulted in a very diverse representation of nationalities and cultures. We strongly believe that diversity (including, but not limited to ethnicity, gender, age, and (dis)ability) is to our advantage. Creating an inclusive working climate in which students and staff feel a valued member of the UM community is therefore a top strategic priority. UM values diversity within its community and encourages you to apply if you are qualified for this position.

The deadline for submitting your application is 26 August 2019.

Please send your application electronically to

Selection process

All applicants will be notified by 7 October at the latest as to whether or not they have been selected for an interview with the LIMES Cluster Committees. The interviews will take place in Maastricht between 4 November – 2 December 2019. Please see the application procedure on the website for more information.

What we offer

We offer a dynamic and challenging job in an internationally-oriented organisation where people receive an advanced education and scholars conduct exciting research. You will be part of an international network of top universities and renowned scholars within the field.

We offer a 4-year full-time appointment as PhD candidate in one of the research projects under the umbrella of LIMES.

The first year will be a probation period, after a positive assessment the position will be extended with another 3 years.

Remuneration will be according to standard salary levels for PhD students starting with a salary of € 2.325,- with a yearly growth to € 2.972,- gross a month in year 4 (based on a full-time appointment).

Each year the standard salary is supplemented with a holiday allowance of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%.

You have to be willing to move to (the vicinity of) Maastricht. You will be eligible for an allowance for moving costs. You may also be eligible for an allowance for alternative housing. Other secondary conditions include e.g. a pension scheme and partially paid parental leave.

You will be provided with shared office space and a PC.

Maastricht University’s Terms of Employment are laid down in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). Furthermore, local university provisions apply as well. For more information please see the website:

Starting date: 1 December 2019 – mid-January 2020 (or as soon as possible thereafter).

Further information is available on the website:

  • Selection process, application form and instructions
  • Host institution, partners involved, employment conditions
  • Set-up of the Programme, staff and contact points
  • Training and secondment programme
  • Information on the ethical and legal standards
  • FAQs

[1] 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol.

[2] GPAs are represented on a 1-4 scale, with 4 being the maximum score. The minimum thresholds are in line with the requirements of the major Dutch PhD funding schemes in the SSH sector (Research Talent / PhD in the Humanities). NUFFIC is referred to for any translations of grades between countries.


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