Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Technology and how to make it work for you, not against you

The concept of work/life balance is changing rapidly. Work and home life are no longer two separate entities, with the lines between becoming more blurred since the arrival of mobile technologies and portable WiFi.

On the positive side, this means that we are free to complete work away from the office and, as a result, maintain greater contact with our home lives even during a busy working day. On the flip side, it also means that we are constantly contactable and seldom able to switch off.

The impact of technology on work/life balance formed the basis for a recent research paper by First Psychology. Published in 2015, the research explored just how far the use of mobile technologies has spread within society and how it has impacted our home and work lives.

Some key findings from the research included:

  • Over 59% respondents were happy with their work life balance
  • Over 50% respondents believed that technology allowed them to work more flexibly
  • Over 50% respondents – particularly those in the 18-34 age group – thought that social contact during the day helped to relieve work pressure 

Quick question: do you feel anxious when you’re unable to check your work messages – even during ‘home time’? If you answered yes, you are not alone. An interesting theme to come out of the research was that of anxiety, with more than a third of all respondents admitting to feeling fretful when unable to access work messages.

It’s also fair to say that in terms of work/life balance, it is women rather than men that find it more difficult to switch off, with a greater proportion of female respondents conceding that they check their work emails during holidays and other days off.

If you can relate to either of these scenarios, it might be time to tackle your use of technology. We’ve developed three golden rules for ensuring technology doesn’t get the better of you:

Set boundaries and stick to them

Only you know what is acceptable and what is not. Set your own rules - no weekend work; how long you’ll be using your laptop/phone/tablet before taking a break; the time you’ll officially finish work; whether you’ll go cold turkey over the holidays or allocate a hour a day to deal with emails; and so the list goes on... The boundaries you set are up to you – the important thing is that you communicate these to your co-workers and your family, and then stick to them.

Don’t get distracted

Be honest with yourself about how much time you actually spend working and how much time surfing or looking at things that, while work related, are not critical to your job or help you achieve your work objectives; turn off the apps you don’t need rather than leaving them running in the background; turn off notifications on your social media platforms while you are working; link the technology you’ll use to the tasks on your to do list and make sure they’re the only ones you use until the task is complete.

Take a break

Make a deal with yourself that you will switch off fully from time to time – we’re talking about a physical break, not just ten minutes looking at cat videos! Get up and move away from your screen, away from your desk – you’ll be more productive when you return. Technology means we’re always ‘on’ which is great for flexible working, but not so great for down time. You owe it to yourself and your family to get enough time away from technology.

Whilst the First Psychology research found that, in terms of advantages and disadvantages of mobile use, respondents generally leaned towards there being more pros than cons, it’s fair to say that technology has the propensity to control our lives if we are not strong enough to create realistic boundaries about how and when we use technology. It’s all in your hands.

Read the research findings in full >

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