The switched-on culture is becoming a well-used phrase that describes many of us with constant access to technology. It seems that we can never fully remove ourselves from the impulse to gaze at a screen, leading us to merge together work and non-working activities. Organisations are becoming concerned with the wellbeing of their employees where email access can mean that employees are not fully recuperating from work.
A globalised culture and the ability to access work 24/7 through technology can have a considerable impact on an employee’s work-life balance, wellbeing and effectiveness. Being always switched on may have some very positive uses, such as increasing flexibility to work differing hours of the day, but it can also lead to over-working and extreme tiredness.
Enabling individuals to develop healthy behaviours when utilising technology may sound simple but the ping of an email or text can start a lengthy spell on a smartphone or computer. Staying on technology may mean that we are not concentrating fully on those around us and can affect our relationships.
The first step to resolving these issues is to become self aware of our technology-related behaviours; are we merging boundaries and staring at screens when we could be completing other activities? Developing self-management strategies is key, and these may differ for individuals depending on their job role and on factors such as personality.
An exploration of the psychological factors affecting remote e-worker’s job effectiveness, wellbeing and work-life balance (Grant, C.A., Wallace L.M. and Spurgeon P. C., 2013, Employee Relations, 5, 35) found that e-workers use technology most effectively when they have autonomy over their work. E-worker resilience can be trained and e-management competences identified to aid education and training that takes into account individual differences.
Employers can use education and training to help e-workers develop a better awareness of their habits, enabling individuals to understand where they can resolve issues themselves. Recognising that employees may have different working hours or approaches to managing their boundaries means that the best solutions can often come from the individual themselves.
Employers can help by providing the training and resources required to ensure that people do not become addicted to technology. Nonetheless, it needs to be noted that a true addiction relates to only a very small minority who may have compulsive tendencies or personalities.
Dr Christine Grant is an occupational psychologist and senior lecturer at Coventry University