As most appreciate, technology enables a 24/7/365 connection to friends, news, sports, and yes, work.
But rather than being a perpetual work appendage, new research suggests emerging mobile technology can be used to help us better manage home-work boundaries.
The University of Cincinnati study shows that full-time working employees can engage in several technology strategies to manage work-home boundaries.
- collocation, which occurs when an individual reports being physically present in one domain while cognitively and behaviorally engaged in both domains. This may include multi-tasking both work and personal tasks while at home, e.g., doing laundry in the midst of a work project or responding to a work-related e-mail while attending a child’s sports event;
- distancing, which occurs when an individual either turns off the technology or changes the setting to make oneself unavailable;
- crossing, which connotes when an individual uses technology as an aid in moving from one domain to another. As an example, an individual may use mobile communications technology to bridge between work and home domains by accessing work e-mails via a laptop or smartphone near the end of the workday to respond to a request or complete a task before becoming fully engaged in home activities.
According to Dr. Stacie Furst-Holloway, a University of Cincinnati associate professor of psychology, “These strategies were often perceived as a help in navigating work-home boundaries.
“For instance, with collocation, an employee might be in the same physical space as a spouse, being present when needed for the personal relationship, but alternating that with work completion.
“It allows for greater perceived control of work flow and information required to be better prepared upon returning to the office.”
She added that “crossing” was perceived as being similarly helpful, providing a bridge for smooth travel between domains and making passages between one domain and another easier.
However, technology was also perceived as a hindrance to being fully present in either domain due to its addictive potential.
In the study, researchers performed in-depth, qualitative interviews of 33 working professionals. Just over half of these were full-time employees of a Cincinnati regional healthcare facility, while the rest were full-time employees (working for a variety of firms) enrolled in a part-time MBA program at the university.
All were interviewed relative to their use of technology as well as their perceptions, preferences, and experiences in regard to work-home boundaries.
Researchers next plan to perform a quantitative survey of approximately 500 full-time employees regarding self-perceived outcomes of using the above strategies.
Investigators will also assess the frequency with which employees use the above strategies, the impact of these strategies on work and life outcomes, and how others, such as supervisors, co-workers, and even significant others perceive an employee’s use of mobile communications technology.
Source: University of Cincinnati