While work-life balance is a much-discussed topic in the world of HR, new findings have given us a more valuable insight into the role technology plays.
With technology simplifying how and where we can access communications, a survey by CareerBuilder found at half of workers check their email outside of working hours. More worrying is the fact that 24 per cent of workers do so while engaged in activities with family and friends.
The key difference between generations was the element of choice vs. obligation.
This isn’t just a millennial-driven trend either. While 52 per cent of workers in the 18-24 year-old bracket admitted to checking emails outside of work, those aged 55 and up were not far behind, with 46 per cent keeping the electronic lines open outside the traditional nine to five.
The key difference between generations was the element of choice vs. obligation. While the vast majority of the older set in the survey (70 per cent) felt it was their choice to engage with email outside of working hours, a much lower percentage of 18-24 year olds felt the same (56 per cent). When you compare these results to the overall average of 62 per cent throughout the survey, there is a clear generational gap where the youngest workers feel obliged to stay in contact with work while at home.
In many cases, access to technology can impede on the quality of life outside the office. In the “Work-Life Imbalance Report” complied by Workfront, 57 per cent of those surveyed believed that technology had “ruined the modern family dinner”. Millennials may be the most guilty of this as 52 per cent of the 18-34 year-olds believed that leaving dinner to answer an urgent email was acceptable.
While technology certainly can affect work-life balance in a negative way, Laura Anscombe, writing for Executives Online, believes that there are great gains technology can bring when it comes to flexible working. In a May 6 blog, she highlighted that technology allows for remote working and more flexibility in the day. Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder, agrees with this sentiment.
“Workers want more flexibility in their schedules, and with improvements in technology that enable employees to check in at any time, from anywhere, it makes sense to allow employees to work outside the traditional nine-to-five schedule,” she said.
The key to managing technology usage outside of work is control. Feeling obligated to check emails when engaged with valuable social time is not a sustainable or healthy behaviour. IT governance training may help business leaders manage IT usage amongst their employees so they may eventually gain ownership of their working and personal life.