by John Wihbey, The Journalist's Resource
April 5, 2013
The issue of whether or not U.S. workplaces should allow more telecommuting, and hence better work-life balance, continues to create controversy. But for many workers, technology has proven a mixed blessing: The Internet-enabled smartphone makes one accountable to managers and coworkers at all hours of the day, seven days a week.
Researchers have been studying the extent of this “work-home spillover” phenomenon and its impact on American life. Prior scholarship has shown that employees with greater levels of ambition are more likely to use communication technologies when not at work -- but they are also likely to report having work-life conflicts. Other research has focused on how technologies are associated with the creation of more “supplemental work,” performed during off hours, and how, again, these are linked to perceived conflicts. In principle, though, technology may afford some workers greater flexibility and allow for more balance.
A 2013 study published in Information, Communication & Society, “When You Just Cannot Get Away,” analyzed responses from 1,100 individuals who participated in the Work-Life and Technology Use Survey, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The researcher looked at the frequency of ICT (information and communication technologies) use and the relationship with perceived conflicts between work and home; respondents were asked whether jobs interfered with family life (work-home), and if issues at home made workday activities more difficult (home-work). The respondents were 68% female, 68% married or co-habitating, and 89% white. The researcher notes that this sample is not fully representative of the U.S. population as a whole, and so the study must be seen as a window into these issues and not as a valid national picture.
The study’s findings include:
“In addition to what has already been suggested,” the researcher writes, “future research should also explore the potential positive effects ICTs may have on work/home spillover. This paper focuses solely on the impacts ICTs may have on negative spillover, but a body of literature suggests that ICTs may also assist in alleviating work-home and home-work conflict … and future investigations may continue to unfold the complex positive and negative relationships technology may have with work/home life.”
Tags: technology, Facebook, women and work, telecommunications