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Technology Supports A Healthy Work-Life Balance – Right?

11/06/2014

The world of HR and recruitment has been revolutionised since I first started on this career path nearly twenty years ago! – The rate of change over that period has been really phenomenal. At the risk of stating the obvious, technology has probably been the single biggest driver of change over this period and it has of course had many positive influences. Logically, it would seem to follow that technology facilitates flexibility and therefore promotes a healthier work-life balance but does it really?….

We regularly conduct market research to ensure that we are in touch with client and candidate needs and trends.  As HR professionals, understanding how people work and engage in the workplace is always a priority, and this year’s survey unveiled some interesting insights into how technology impacts our working lives. It certainly challenges Economist John Maynard Keynes’ theory when in 1930 he predicted that modern technology would give workers more leisure time.

500 + Fastnet customers (both employees and employers) participated in the recent survey. 60% of employees surveyed access and respond to emails outside office hours, while more than half of respondents access emails when on annual leave. 61% of employers expected their staff to check emails outside office hours, although 82% of employers surveyed do not expect employees to access emails when on annual leave. An overwhelming majority of employees (81%) surveyed think that remote email access has contributed to longer working hours. The responses to our survey clearly indicate that employees and employers experience similar difficulties in managing work and leisure time. 24/7 accessibility means that many of us feel obliged to respond to emails and calls outside of work hours.

In France, trade unions recently imposed restrictions of French employers requiring “disconnection of communication tools”. However, Irish workers and employers were not in favour of such measures, with over half of employers (51%) and almost two thirds (75%) of employees stating their objection to any similar restrictions in Ireland.

Clearly there is a balance to be struck here. Ireland is lucky enough to be home to a large number of highly successful multinational firms and there is no doubt that the flexibility of our workforce and ease of doing business here has consistently influenced positive FDI decisions. We consistently punch well above our weight in many areas including flexibility & adaptability of our workforce and attitudes to globalisation. These are our trump cards and we won’t be switching off our smartphones anytime soon! What we do need to focus on however is working ‘smarter’. We don’t necessarily need to take that call in the middle of a restaurant when out with friends on a Saturday night, we don’t typically need to check our e-mail when we wake up in the middle of the night, we don’t need to respond to every electronic communication we receive when on annual leave! Are we really that indispensable?

It’s when we have become slaves to technology that we lose the plot entirely and technology’s influence on flexibility can actually undermine our quest for a work-life balance. It’s all down to common sense I guess which isn’t necessarily as common as it used to be……

The recent Fastnet Recruitment survey has received widespread pick up in the Irish media, as a leading HR survey of the marketplace.

For samples of the print, broadcast, online and social media coverage, please visit the links below: 



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