Is technology doing more harm than good for our work-life balance?

More than 40pc of Irish professionals claim that new smart working practices are negatively impacting their work-life , a new survey suggests.

Smart in the workplace has come on massively over the last number of years. The advancements have enabled employees to easily connect with global colleagues, work from virtually anywhere and created a whole new way of agile working.

This new way of working has been heralded as the saviour for those who need a more flexible work schedule or for those whose commute takes its toll. But while many people say that tech-enabled remote working would give them a better work-life balance, a new survey has suggested this is not the case.

Walters People Ireland surveyed 2,000 Irish professionals and discovered that while 80pc had hoped technology would improve their work-life balance with greater flexibility, 42pc stated that workplace tech has had a negative impact.

How workplace tech helps

There’s no denying that new apps, tools and technologies have helped improve productivity, flexibility and collaboration among employees. According to the survey, 85pc of employees agreed their productivity is enhanced by technology, with a further 80pc claiming working for a tech-savvy company boosts their morale.

Almost 80pc also agree that tech helps enhance coordination between departments. Walters People Ireland director Sarah Owen said advances in technology have already changed the way companies and employees work.

“With teams more dispersed and covering more time zones, working with others via phone, virtual meetings and video has become a norm,” she said. “Adopting a digital workplace has also helped companies streamline operations and enhance speed of communication, as well as accessing the information in a much more effective way.”

The effect on work-life balance

The positive reasons behind a digital workplace are clear and, as the saying goes, ‘work smarter, not harder’. With so much smart technology at our fingertips, this motto should be easier than ever to practise.

But technology that gives employees the ability to work anywhere at any time also leaves them contactable by their employers anywhere at any time. Even if they are not strictly ‘on call’, there is a sense of urgency that comes with constant notifications and incoming emails.

The Walters People Ireland survey suggests that 42pc of Irish professionals believe tech negatively impacts their work-life balance and doesn’t allow them an opportunity to switch off.

While the freedom to work more flexibly and even work from the comfort of your own home can give you a sense of control of your work-balance, it can actually blur the lines between work and home life, making it difficult to switch your brain off.

Additionally, when your working hours blend together with your home hours, employees can often ignore the fact that they haven’t had a proper break from work. High achievers in particular can struggle with switching off and this can lead to overwork and burnout.

New technology can cause conflict

Aside from the need to respond to every work notification, newer tools and technologies could also cause conflict among different generations.

According to the survey, 60pc of older workers fear the introduction of new technologies, while 35pc stated that they are yet to get a full grasp of current technologies used in the workplace.

This is in stark contrast to millennials, of whom 34pc state that older workers not understanding new technology is the chief cause of conflict in the workplace.

Millennial professionals are also distinct from their older colleagues in their attitudes towards social media. The survey claims that almost 40pc of millennials felt that employers should actively encourage workers to incorporate social media into their work, compared to 24pc of Generation X and just 10pc of Baby Boomers.

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