The advances in technology in recent years have had many positive effects on the ways in which people can combine work and personal life. For example, being able to access email via a smartphone means that many can work from home, or work a flexible work pattern that successfully fits around caring responsibilities. However, the resulting “always-online” culture in which people expect almost instant responses to email messages, brings stresses and strains to those who feel under pressure to respond immediately and be available on a 24/7 basis. The default settings on many smartphones mean that owners of such devices are frequently alerted by beeps and vibrations to new messages via an array of communication channels. Such irresistible interruptions result in friends and family complaining that the smartphone owner is not always mentally present despite being physically present. Such situations are so common that the term ‘Crackberry’ has entered common parlance to refer to the excessive use of the Blackberry smartphone by its users. In addition to supporting modern work-life balance practices, new technologies and their specific design characteristics therefore also present challenges for those seeking an acceptable or satisfactory work-life balance.
Despite widespread and proliferating debates about the impacts of digital technologies on work-life balance, few empirical studies have explored how these technologies are being used and what impact their use is having on people’s work and personal lives. This project seeks to enhance our understanding of the paradoxical and double-edged effects that new technologies and digital practices are having on work-life balance.
There are four different research strands in the project and you can find out about each one by clicking on these links: