Improving work-life balance

A well-balanced article is that of technology journalist David Berlind. He writes, “leveraging technology has led to measurable productivity gains…but it has also led to a culture in which the lines between business and home life are blurring.” Technologies that have been relevant to business lives are now equally relevant to personal lives; Berlind describes these devices as a way to “embrace the fusion of work and leisure.”

A problem that is associated with this fusion is a work vs. home connectivity issue. While at work, jokes are not wanted to intermingle with important business correspondences, but what time the grocer plans to deliver an internet-placed order is important so that you’re home in time. Berlind’s concluding thought is that technologies are available to help manage the convergence of work and personal lives but they were not designed to manage the mesh in mind.

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Academics Worrall, Jones and Cooper researched into the area of managerial perceptions of work-life balance and found that the two halves of our lives – work and home appear to be increasingly out of date. They bring up a valid point concerning existing government programmes. How can rationales of economic growth through greater productivity and competitiveness be balanced with rationales for protecting the workforce from the stresses and pressures that these forces tend to engender?

All literature does not believe that technology is solely the answer to a good work-life balance. Developing an “organisational culture” is the idea behind Claire McCartney’s guide on work-life balance. As with other literature, work-life balance can result in tangible benefits to the bottom line. By putting work-life balance at the heart of their cultures and their strategic plans they will not only be satisfying employees and creating more equitable workplaces, but increasing their productivity and responding competitively to significant changes, such as a growing 24/7 lifestyle. This view is consistent with the Work Foundation study into ‘About time for a change’ by Alexandra Jones. These benefits will only be realised if work-life balance values and practices are embedded into the organisational culture. This approach concentrates on relationships and the support of the whole organisation; technology can still be associated within this frame of thought.

Technology can help a business support these relationships. A press notice by http://www.ukonline.gov.uk/ is valid evidence that “the use of technology within business communication between customers and suppliers is key to business growth.” Within this press notice and other literature, a balance needs to be understood for the advantages of technology to transpire. A national newspaper writes “as with any technology, people will use it to death, it’s the novelty factor. They need to learn to use it and realise its place in life as only a tool to help with working life.”

Work-life balance is no doubt a very hot topic at the moment; the amount of literature written is unassailable evidence of that. Views have varied from Rauschs’ ‘Don’t let it use you’ to Perron’s ‘new technologies…allow temporal and spatial boundaries of paid work to be extended.’ Opposing views are inevitable but it is the underlying strength of evidence that is of greatest importance. Perron’s paper was written in conjunction with ‘Employers for work-life Balance,’ and thus has a more convincing argument since it is supported by commissioned research. The topic is far from researched; technology is constantly developing new devices that will assist in the balance of work and life. The question is as Berlind puts it, “where these products designed with managing the mesh in mind?”

Few researchers have managed to give a truly balanced view on the work-life aspect. The literature review has exposed a gap in the associated arena of study. In the following section I intend to look at the effects of information technology on both the social and work aspect. Gaining an understand of how computers have altered the way of life, has the Internet led to greater exchanges of human relationships and is the new way of working leading to a blur of the home and work divide?

References

Ashton W (2002) Businesses face growing technical demands from customers and suppliers http://www.internetforum.org.uk/newsdetails.php?ID=6 17 September

BT Case Study (2003) Improving work-life balance through technology The Work Foundation

Berlind D (2003) When work becomes life http://www.comment.zdnet.co.uk/other/0,39020682,39118290-2,00.html

Carrol J (2002) Too much Technology? CPSA April

Guest D (2001) Perspectives on the Study of Work-Life Balance A discussion paper The Management Centre King’s College, London

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