Technology is bad for work-life balance, survey finds

Research suggests nearly two thirds of bosses expected staff to check emails outside office hours

Of 450 employees surveyed, 60 per cent access and respond to emails outside office hours

Of 450 employees surveyed, 60 per cent access and respond to emails outside office hours

Tue, Jun 10, 2014, 12:14

Back in the 1930s, economist John Maynard Keynes confidently predicted modern technology would deliver a 15-hour working week, with people choosing more leisure as their material needs were satisfied.

His theory was simple: technological progress increased the output of goods per hour worked, meaning people would have to work less and less to satisfy their needs, until in the end they would hardly have to work at all.

Could any prediction have been more wide of the mark?

According to a survey by Fastnet Recruitment, almost three quarters of Irish working population think that technology has had a negative impact on their work-life balance.

The research found 81 per cent of employers and 68 per cent of employees surveyed admitted to finding it difficult to achieve switch off from work as a result of communications technology.

Of 450 employees surveyed, 60 per cent access and respond to emails outside office hours, while more than half of respondents accessed emails when on annual leave.

Nearly two-thirds of employers (61 per cent) expected their staff to check emails outside office hours, though 82 per cent of employers surveyed do not expect employees to access emails when on annual leave.

“The responses to our latest HR survey indicate that employees and employers experience similar difficulties in managing work and leisure time,” said Niamh O’Driscoll, managing director of Fastnet Recruitment.

“Our survey shows that the increasing use of smartphones means that people are constantly connected, whether in or out of the office and indeed outside office hours. This 24/7 accessibility means that many of us feel obliged to respond to emails and calls outside of work hours” she said.

In France, trade unions have recently imposed restrictions of French employers requiring “disconnection of communication tools” for contract workers in the hi-tech and consulting sectors.

However, Fastnet’s sruvey found Irish workers and employers were not in favour of such measures, with over half of employers (51 per cent ) and almost two thirds (75 per cent) of employees stating their objection to any similar restrictions here.

“Clearly there is a balance to be struck here,” said Ms O’Driscoll.