Thursday, 4 June 2015

How to make friends with technology in the age of 'work/life merge'

The school holidays are fast approaching and with them the possibility of beach visits and time to chill out. Not so long ago, holidays were likely to have been a time when we had no contact with work. However more and more people are choosing to keep in touch with work while on their holidays or days off. And people's social lives are coming into the workplace too with many people checking and commenting on social media posts while at work.

It is clear that something is happening to our lives in the face of mobile technology - what were once two distinct areas of our lives are merging into one and this has been dubbed 'work/life merge'.

So what of this 'work/life merge' and if we vow to keep our working and social lives separate, will that reduce our stress levels?

Unfortunately it's not that straightforward. First Psychology recently carried out research on the impact of technology on work-life balance and found that 89 per cent of participants checked their work emails in the evenings and the figure was an even higher 94 per cent for morning and before work checking. While we found that work was definitely coming into the home, we also found that staff continued to use social media sites while at work and interestingly felt this helped to reduce their stress levels.

If mobile technologies aren't raising stress levels, what is making people more stressed?

From our research, it seems that having control over how we use mobile technology is vital if we are to keep stress levels down. Some people find receiving work texts and emails while on holiday stressful, whereas others like to know what's going on and struggle with 'radio silence'. Simply placing restrictions on people's working hours, use of technology, etc does not help reduce stress and indeed often causes more stress as people try to fit into a restricted way of working. The key is use technology in ways that work for you.

If you're the sort of person who finds 'radio silence' stressful:

  • While on holiday, set aside certain times every day to check your messages and stick to these times.
  • Try to switch off your phone after a certain time each evening to give yourself time to completely switch off before bed.
  • Keep mobile use to a minimum while meeting friends and family. If you're eating out, perhaps check your phone between courses and put it away while eating. 

If you're the sort of person who feels invaded by mobile technology:

  • Make use of technology where it helps you stay flexible, for example, you can use it to stay in touch with work while at home waiting for the boiler repair man, or while away on business.
  • Set aside times to check and respond to emails so you don't feel constantly interrupted and obliged to immediately reply.
What was clear from our research was that mobile technology can be both friend AND foe, it's how you use it that matters, and for it to become a friend, the decision on how it's used has to be personal to you.

Read our full research report on the impact of technology on work/life balance  >

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