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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?

In the latest edition of the Regus Work-Life Balance Index, 41 percent of respondents globally said their companies were doing more to help employees reduce commuting than two years earlier. (3) In Singapore, the percentage stood slightly lower at 39 percent, while in China and India it was well above 50 percent. Working remotely can save the average employee 79 hours of commuting each year. (4) It also cuts their travel costs and car emissions.

It's probable that flexible working and measures to cut commuting are some of the reasons why 61 percent of people in the Regus Work-Life Balance Index said their work-life balance was better than two years ago.

The negatives of 24/7 management models
The negative aspects of 24/7 mobile technology arise not because of technology, but because of management cultures. In the Hong Kong survey above, almost a quarter of people said they use mobile devices and technology for work outside office hours because their bosses expect them to, and almost a fifth because their clients expect them to. (5) So it's not their phones that are preventing them from relaxing, it's other people.

As new mobile devices are launched, and increased mobile data speeds make it even easier to work anywhere, companies in APAC need to intensify the debate about work-life balance and people's availability in a 24/7 world. Sure, people may need to do late-night conference calls, but they may be happier to do so if flexible working patterns let them cut their commuting time or juggle home and work commitments.

And office workers may need to think about their own habits too. One reason why colleagues and clients can so easily reach us out of hours nowadays is that we're already on our tablet or phone—using social media or checking the football scores. We're more likely to hear the ping of an email arriving, so we're more likely to deal with it. The sender assumes we're happy to work out-of-hours, and bombards us even more in future. It's not just employers who need to learn the lessons about technology, presenteeism (either at the desk or at the end of the phone), and how we can work most productively, it's also ourselves.

Notes:

  1. "Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2012-2017", February 2013.
  2. "The State of Work-Life Balance in Hong Kong", Community Business, 2012.
  3. "A Better Balance", Regus, May 2012.
  4. "Productive and profitable: taking the teleworking pledge", Cisco, 4 March 2013.
  5. "The State of Work-Life Balance in Hong Kong", Community Business, 2012.

John Henderson is regional director at Regus Asia Pacific.

 

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