Technology and ‘hard work pays’ attitude drives world of workaholics: study

Smartphone apps

While technology seemingly makes life easier, it can be an obstacle when trying to strike a work-life balance, new research shows.

Results from a United States 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll showed checking emails at home was just part of the job for most Americans, with more than half surveyed saying it was routine.

It was most prevalent in younger generations as 70 per cent of adults said it was not a problem.

That figure dropped to half for workers above age 30.

If Americans did have some spare time, 30 per cent said they looked for work to occupy themselves.

“Americans are definitely workaholics,” Vanity Fair editor-at-large Cullen Murphy said.

“Maybe the overall message of this poll is that there is a kind of bedrock faith in the idea that working hard pays off.”

That theory rings true with most Americans stating they would prefer an extra $20,000 than four extra weeks of paid vacation.

Technology driving after-hours work

University of Queensland interaction design research leader Doctor Stephen Viller said escaping work after hours was a problem in Australia.

“Australia is at the leading edge of adoption of new technology especially when it comes to mobile,” he told the ABC.

“On that basis I would expect Australia to have big or more of an issue than America.”

He said portable technology was the platform responsible for the infiltration.

Adequate rest time, and adequate non-structured time is essential for mental, emotional and physical health.

Stress management consultant Susan Wanmer

“People have got smartphones in their pockets, handbags … tablets, iPads and so on,” Dr Viller said.

“It becomes easier and easier to access the information.”

Social media also meant there were multiple channels in which people could communicate, he said.

“If someone wants to raise me they can in multiple ways at the same time,” Dr Viller said.

Despite this, technology can also hold the key to better managing the lifestyle you seek.

Dr Viller said apps encouraging physical activity were a good example.

“There are aspects of life we want to manage and technology can support you in doing that,” he said.

Work-life balance about control

Workplace stress management consultant Susan Wanmer told the ABC checking emails outside of work was not an issue if the person felt a sense of control over their time.

“If the person is strongly connected to their work, and feel they have a sense of control over their time, then checking emails ‘out of office hours’ is not an issue,” she said.

“This is assuming people in their personal life are OK with that as well.”

But people needed to be able to relax, Ms Wanmer said.

“The more the mind focuses on emails [and] work, the less able the body is to let down, let go and relax,” she said.

“Adequate rest time, and adequate non-structured time is essential for mental, emotional and physical health.”

Ms Wanmer’s tips for a healthy work-life balance included creating boundaries and having “let down” time each day.

“Ask yourself, what time am I finishing this project … and stick to it,” she said.

“Have a let down time daily if possible, weekly if not. Sit somewhere and let your mind wander.”

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