Defining Work-Life Balance in the Digital World

    Defining Work-Life Balance in the Digital World

    • 21/03/16
    • 2020 Vistas
    • 13
    Professional life

    Defining Work-Life Balance in the Digital World. An article by beBee‘s contributor David B. Grinberg.


    How do YOU define “work-life balance” in today’s fast evolving Information Age?


    Is striking an appropriate balance between working versus leisure time and family responsibilities even possible anymore due to the explosion of mobile, digital and virtual technology worldwide?



    The 21st century proliferation of high-tech work tools is having a profound impact on the global workplace and swiftly redefining the traditional balance between work and personal time in fundamental ways.


    As any employee knows by now, we are increasingly dependent on new technology to get our jobs done. Old-school ways of working are slowly, but surely, being eclipsed by the virtual workplace — including telecommuting and other flexible work arrangement.


    Some futurists even predict the robots and artificial intelligence will take over most jobs by the next century.


    “These days when you leave the office — if you go to an office at all — it’s easy to take the office with you on mobile devices. Maybe too easy,” reports USA-based Marketplace Radio. “A survey by the software company Good Technology says more than 80 percent of us keep checking emails and taking calls. On average, we put in an extra seven hours a week.”


    Although seven hours extra work per week may not sound like much, remember that’s just the median. Therefore, for every full-time employee who abides by the traditional 40-hour work week in the USA, there is another worker who clocks 54 hours or more every week.


    That’s an extra 14 hours or more of unpaid work on average.




    This dynamic change in contemporary work poses unique challenges outside the work environment. It’s a conspicuous fact that as new technology evolves and becomes further embedded in our culture, there will be major ramifications in the employment arena. Today, we are just witnessing the proverbial tip of the iceberg.


    Add to this fluid situation the fact that more Millennials (Generation Y) are entering workforce, soon to be followed by the younger Generation Z. This also alters the equation of how, when and where works gets done. Such rapid change is further blurring traditional lines which have defined work parameters for decades.



    In short, we are undergoing a tectonic shift, the likes of which are similar in scope to the transition from an agricultural world to the Industrial Revolution a century ago. Thus, the 21st century definition of what constitutes the appropriate work-life balance can be considered good or bad, depending upon whom you ask.




    The good news is that we are working smarter, faster and more productively via the virtual workplace. The bad news is that we don’t know where and when to draw the line between work time and personal time.


    Failure to disconnect from high-tech work tools only serves to further decimate the distinction between working and private life, generally. On one hand, some of us can’t seem to break away from obsessively checking our work emails and texts – and responding. The downside is that this may land us in quicksand if we all become addicted to new technology that governs our daily lives.


    It makes sense that we don’t want to miss anything while working, even after regular business hours. But constant connectivity to a job may take a toll not only on one’s health, but also damage personal and family relationships.


    According to the esteemed Mayo Clinic, an influential medical facility in the USA: “When your work life and personal life are out of balance, your stress level is likely to soar” — this can lead to a number of serious physical and mental health risks.”


    That’s why we all should become more vigilant in recognizing when we eviscerate time-honored boundaries separating work from family and leisure. The more we violate these boundaries, the more such behavior becomes embedded into the work culture and society.




    While the time-honored 40-hour work week may still make some sense in theory, at least in the USA, it no longer makes sense in practicality. Many countries in Europe have known this for decades and have put at least an equal emphasis on personal time versus work time. However, the USA has failed to follow the good example of our friends in Europe. The result is that America is an over-worked nation.



    Thus, if new rules and standards are not clearly communicated and followed, then the lines separating work land private life will permanently vanish. This obfuscation of work and personal time has the potential to collectively impact employees in other negative ways.


    For example, some managers may unwittingly make false assumptions about one’s work hours. Your boss could think that working remotely carries an implicit or explicit responsibility to always be available at a moment’s notice. Therefore, if you become too reliant on new technology for work, your boss might rightly assume that you’re available 24/7 — and manage you accordingly.




    For those of us who want to maintain some semblance of work-life balance and normality, we must make conscious decisions to ditch work-related mobile, digital and virtual communication during non-work hours.


    Granted that it’s not easy for workaholics to disconnect from technology, we should nevertheless exercise more self-restraint, self-awareness and self-discipline. This is because a healthy work-life balance is one which produces positive and mutually beneficial results for the employer and employee alike.


    The problem for many workers, however, is that smartphones and tablets have already become virtual extensions of the individual.


    In essence, too many of us are already addicted to new work-related technologies which consumes a significant amount our lives — arguably too much. Moreover, addictions are tough to break.


    Yet, ultimately, the choice is ours to make. We can attempt to define and control the new rules of the high-tech work environment, or we can let evolving technology define and control us.


    This all leads back to the vexing question: How do YOU define work-life balance in today’s fast evolving digital, mobile and virtual world? Please share your important insights below.


    Check out David’s article on Richard Branson’s Galactic PR Problem & Lessons For CEOs and follow him on beBee to know more about him.



    David B. GrinbergDavid B. Grinberg is an independent writer and strategic communications advisor based in the Washington, DC-area, with over 20 years of work experience — including high-level jobs in the White House, U.S. Congress, and national news media.
    Comentarios (13)
    1. Donna-Luisa Eversley
      WOW.. This is great David Grinberg! Yes I am a work technology addict!
      1. David B. Grinberg
        Many thanks for your kind word, as always, Donna-Luisa. I think everyone has become addicted to high-tech communications tools, at least to some extent, in today's fast-evolving mobile, digital and virtual Information Age. The question is, how much is too much? When should we disconnect? And for how long? Vexing questions...
    2. Franci Hoffman
      How true this is David Grinberg. A very well written and timely article.
      1. David B. Grinberg
        I appreciate your positive social engagement, Franci. Thanks for taking the time to read this and share your valuable feedback!
    3. Sarah Elkins
      Good one, David. When I finally broke down to get a smart phone a few years ago, I set certain limits for myself. I saw family & friends become so addicted to checking their devices that they missed all kinds of opportunities to connect. I have yet to set up email on my smart phone. Text? Phone? Twitter? Yes, but not the tether of email.
      1. David B. Grinberg
        Thanks for sharing your important insights, Sarah, and kudos to you for being in control of your tech devices-- rather than having them control you. It's hard but necessary to impose limits on use of smart tech. Moreover, it's healthy to disconnect for a while. The questions is, when and for long? It seems like no one wants to miss anything.
    4. Frederick Pilot (@LastRushHour)
      As with all activities, the key is moderation. Now that knowledge work has been disintermediated from the confines of set time and place, it will be defined as more project-based with project outputs the key metric rather than inputs (being present for the standard Industrial Age 8/40 work schedule). There will be times when we have to put in long hours to complete an important project on time but those should be the exception and not the rule. One major quality of life benefit of being able to work anywhere and anytime is avoiding the daily commute, which can amount to much of a full work day each week and promotes stress and "hurry sickness." This frees up a significant amount of time for health and balance promoting activities such as prolonged exercise, sufficient sleep, heathier diet and social time. Fred Pilot Author, Last Rush Hour: The Decentralization of Knowledge Work in the Twenty-First Century
      1. David B. Grinberg
        Thanks so much for your exemplary comments, Frederick, you raise several good points. The most important one being moderation is the key. However, that's easier said than done sometimes. Again, I really appreciate your important insights!
    5. Teagan Geneviene
      Excellent, David Grinberg. So many good points. You're absolutely right that a lot of managers could (and do) "think that working remotely carries an implicit or explicit responsibility to always be available at a moment’s notice." That work-life balance is part of living on moderation mountain. Cheers and buzz-on!
      1. David B. Grinberg
        Always a pleasure to hear from you, Teagan, and receive your valuable feedback. I hope to see you at the top of Moderation Mountain. I'm still hiking to reach the summit!
    6. Lisa Gallagher
      Great topic David Grinberg! I have been out to dinner with some people who are constantly looking at their phones or texting. I find it very rude to have a phone out during a 'social' dinner. I put my phone away when I'm with others. I do have all the social apps on my phone but I access them when I'm alone. I even told everyone in my immediate family I will not dine out with them if they are going to have their phone on the table. I understand there are times one must but warn the person. I love technology but I LOVE social interaction IN PERSON much more so!
    7. Lawrence
      Nice post David - thanks! We publish weekly podcasts with some of the world's most prominent thinkers on exactly this topic of Tech-Life Balance. The ability to manage our cognitive load, particularly in the digitised workplace, will be one of the most important skills of the 21st century - but we don't train for it!
    8. Lawrence
      Sorry! Check out the site - Digital Mindfulness