New Technologies and the Work-Life Nexus
Many employers—most notably the federal government—have begun to implement new workplace policies, such as telecommuting, that allow employees to utilize new technologies to potentially ease tensions between work and family. What are some benefits and challenges that new technologies can bring to balancing work and life? Drawing on data from the Life's Work national survey on work-life balance this paper analyzes worker's attitudes towards work and life integration and the potential role new technologies can play in helping and/or hindering this balance. The findings suggest that American workers see technology as both a blessing and a curse for helping them achieve that ever-elusive work-life balance. Cellphones, email and other new technologies allow work to follow from the workplace into the home, thus, breaking down the barriers between work and life. The blurring of boundaries is particularly significant as the vast majority (83%) of workers say they prefer distinct boundaries between work time and non-work time. The results of the Life’s Work survey show that Americans realize that technology is not a panacea. Although the use of new technologies may help workers gain some needed flexibility to help ease tensions between the two spheres, it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of work and life balance. The findings suggest that the real impact of technology on work-life balance is dependent upon variety of factors including how we as individuals interact with and use the technology. If we are going to implement the use of technology to ease work-life balance issues in the workplace on a wider scale, we need to encourage employers and employees to develop a set of strategies to help them cope with the specific demands of using these technologies. This etiquette should include being mindful of the need to maintain the boundaries between work and life.
Keywords: New Technologies, Work-Life Balance
Dr. Leslie Cintron
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Deaprtment of Sociology and Anthropology, Washington & Lee University