I just read an interesting piece of research about the future of work life balance and our work habits in general. As I was reading I wondered what work must have been like 30-40 years ago, without all the technology we have today. As I have grown up in a world where computers and the internet is pervasive I really couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to write reports and documents with pen and paper. The thought of not being able to communicate through IM, mobile phones, email and even Facebook is just unthinkable.
These thoughts entered my brain again a few days ago but from a different angle. It was 11 o’clock at night and I was responding to a bunch of urgent emails when I suddenly thought that if I didn’t have the technology I wouldn’t feel the need to write emails late at night. The ability to “always be connected” has increased our expectations around work but also socially. I often feel that my friends expect me to respond (rapidly) to their messages, comments, tweets and pictures online. If you don’t respond online people will try your mobile phone. Too often I feel like there isn’t enough time to manage it all but I guess that it all becomes part of a routine that you don’t think much about.
The amount of unpaid work hours has soared over the past decade and the amount of time we spend with our families has decreased. It is clear that technology has imposed new burdens on families and individuals and there aren’t many signs of improvement. The big winners are of course the companies we work for, as we can now work from anywhere at any time. Work and private life are becoming increasingly integrated but it seems like work is eating away at life at a rapid pace.
I not right to put all the blame on technological advancements but it is of course part of the problem. It is also important for us to remind ourselves that no matter how much technology moves forward, human beings still have rationale and ability to make their own decision on what is right or wrong, that is something technology can’t replace. Employees and employers will need to take more responsibility to ensure that this doesn’t spiral out of control because that is where we are heading. A glance at government statistics shows that “over-work” is one of the primary causes of growing ill health, both physically and mentally.
These thoughts made me think a bit differently about technology and maybe technological advancements aren’t always positive. The ability to “always be connected” has definitely eaten in to the amount of time people spend together but does the buck stop with us or is technology the one to blame? Or maybe it’s just that our economy has become more demanding?