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BLOG: Is tech good or bad for work–life balance?

John Henderson | April 29, 2013
Sedentary work and technology combine to create unhealthy working lifestyles. Are there ways to help restore work–life balance?

John Henderson
Photo: John Henderson

The number of mobile Internet devices is set to outnumber humans by the end of this year (1). There will be more smartphones and Internet-connected tablets and monitors than there are people on the planet. The prediction is especially amazing when you think that 3G is only just over a decade old.

The variety of devices that can access the internet is also set to grow. Sergey Brin of Google and other early adopters have been seen wearing the Google Glass—spectacles which allow wearers to use the internet. And it's widely expected that Apple will launch a smartwatch. If we don't even have to reach into our pockets for our phone in order to check emails or use the Internet, it's going to be harder than ever to take ourselves offline.

Positive or negative?
We all know from our daily lives that tablets and smartphones have changed the way people work, but have they helped our work-life balance? In a survey in Hong Kong respondents were shown positive and negative statements about the impact of technology on work-life balance. Whilst only 15.4 percent agreed with the positive statements, 42.7 percent agreed with the negative ones. The main complaint was that people felt they could never really switch off, even while asleep or on holiday. (2)

Technology has facilitated the 24/7 working culture, but other things have fed into it too. Businesses are interacting with customers and colleagues in different time zones, and staff are increasingly expected to be available for late-night or early-morning calls. And the global downturn forced many workers to take on additional duties, which led to them working longer hours.

The positives of work-anywhere technology
So don't let's blame everything on technology. And let's not forget the very positive changes that technology has brought to work-life balance over the past decade. Think how much easier it is to do your job when the cloud means you no longer have to go to the office to access corporate information or applications. Think how video-conferencing has reduced the need for time-consuming corporate travel.

Both those benefits are possible because technology allows people to work anywhere. It's no coincidence that the launch of devices such as the Blackberry in 2003, the iPhone in 2008 and the iPad in 2010 has been accompanied by a steep rise in the number of people using business centres and drop-in business lounges to work. There are now over 1 million customers in 100 countries using Regus flexible workplaces, because people are choosing to work at locations that suit them and their customers, instead of doing the old-fashioned fixed, daily commute.

 

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