Time to rethink work-life balance ahead of 2016?

Published: 21 December 2015 at 15:54

Work-life balance

Research network, led by Anglia Ruskin, investigates challenges of the digital age

Whether you’re expecting to receive a new tech toy for Christmas or are already tooled up with the latest gadgets, the role of digital devices, and the blurring of home and work life, is becoming an increasingly important issue. 

Now a team of academics from a range of disciplines, including psychology, computing, sociology, education and business, have come together to tackle the challenge head on.  

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Balance Network links academics with business, policy and members of the public interested in the work-life balance issues we face in the digital age.

Led by Anglia Ruskin University’s Dr Rosie Robison, the Balance Network is funding and co-hosting a series of workshops and activities in early 2016 which will open up discussion about the meaning of work-life balance for modern workers.

Dr Robison, a Senior Research Fellow at Anglia Ruskin’s Global Sustainability Institute, said: 

“Many people know first-hand that balancing work and home life is not easy, and our increasing dependence on digital technologies brings its own challenges. 

“Lots of new pieces of technology will be unwrapped across the UK on Christmas Day, and New Year is a time when people make resolutions for the year ahead.

“It is an interesting time to experiment with our technology use.  Maybe try a digital-free family weekend or talk with colleagues about email etiquette and expectations.”

Amongst the upcoming events is a University of Warwick seminar exploring how crowdsourcing, where large numbers of people work together over the internet, is potentially enabling older people to remain part of the labour force. 

Bournemouth University is holding a one-day workshop looking at technology and holidays, and asking “What happens if ‘going off the grid’ is no longer an option?” and Coventry University and the University of Bedfordshire will co-host a conference on ‘e-resilience’ examining how technology can impact on our well-being.

Beverly Leeds, Founding Principal Investigator of the Balance Network, believes it is critical for organisations to be more focused on the integration of home and office lives.  She said: 

“Managers need to recognise that digital technologies have altered our lives and consider what is best for their workforce and the organisation. 

“There can be benefits for both if the worker is in control of the place and time of the work task but there needs to be a balance between work and other life activities.” 

Each of the workshops and activities will feed in to the “Beyond Balance” event on 27 June in London, where The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman, who writes about subjects including self-help, productivity and happiness, is the keynote speaker.