Network to explore effects of digital age on work-life balance

Anglia Ruskin University�s Dr Rosie Robison, who is heading up the Balance Network.

Anglia Ruskin University�s Dr Rosie Robison, who is heading up the Balance Network. - Credit: Archant

East Anglian academics will be researching the work-life balance challenges we face in the digital age.

Anglia Ruskin University is leading a team of academics from a range of disciplines, including psychology, computing, sociology, education and business who will be looking at the role of digital devices in our everyday lives.

The Balance Network, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is linking academics with business, policy and members of the public interested in the issues raised.

The network, led by Anglia Ruskin University’s Dr Rosie Robison, 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 the festive season was a time when new technologies were explored.

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“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,” she said.

“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.

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“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.”

Among 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 affect 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.

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

“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 June 27 in London, where The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman, who writes about subjects including self-help, productivity and happiness, is the keynote speaker.

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