Technology Kills Eight-Hour Day

Technolagy Kills Karen's Radient AppearencePG 36

It was just before 8am on a hot March morning in Rio de Janeiro when Karen Keegan, the Editor of NewsFour and C.E. Supervisor of Sandymount Community Services woke up and opened her email. Clicking through the bulk of the mail, she quickly passed by items that could be deferred until later, and responded immediately to the mails she considered a priority.

Karen was supposed to be on holiday, but with the advent of new forms of technology, such as iPads, iPhones and laptop computers it had become quite difficult to switch off from work.

“The rise in technology means that you will check your email a lot more than you should, even when you’re outside of your working hours,” says Karen. “When I get up in the morning I will check my work email account before I even get to the office, I’m already working outside my hours by doing that. The temptation is too much when you have a smartphone in your hand,” says Karen.

The rise in Ireland’s smartphone, iPad and WiFi culture means that managers are constantly switched on. The days of allocating time and space to spend with the children on the weekend are gone, replaced by urgent calls and emails, the ding of an incoming text message and endless worries about issues that should be confined to the workplace.

“Being constantly on call and our tendency to look at phones and check emails is a newer development,” says Associate Professor Eileen Drew at the School of Computer Science and Statistics in Trinity College. Professor Drew has worked on a number of research topics concerning technology in the workplace, and contributed to a study on work and family issues amongst small business owners who have children.

“The most extreme example of the encroachment, was in a study of men and women in legal professions – which found one woman answered her mobile phone about a client’s case when she was literally going into the delivery ward to have her baby,” Drew says.
According to a study by Red C and Win Research Group, 71% of the Irish population had a smartphone device in 2012, with 41% of people owning a tablet device. These numbers mean that Ireland is now ahead of the world average of 35% of people who own a smartphone or other technological device. In terms of the working life, managers, employees and corporate staff are constantly connected with some organisations through Gchat, Skype or internal instant messaging devices.

“A lot of the time I have to do work at home which interferes in my own personal life,” says Karen. “I try not to bring the work home, but it’s very difficult, especially coming up to a print deadline. Other times, I have to bring it home just to get it done without distraction because we’re six people working in a very busy, cramped office space.”

For some managers however, the influx of new technologies has meant adapting a new management strategy. But even then technology and working life interfere with personal life.

“I tend not to check emails at home,” says Terry Donahue, the Service Manager of Cara Cheshire House, a residential care centre for adults with physical disabilities. “Occasionally, if there’s something going on I’ll check my emails at the weekend but I like to keep the boundaries separated.”

Donahue tells me that for some people it must be difficult to create a clear separation between work and home life, but for him it’s less difficult because of his avoidance of smartphones, iPads and other forms of technology.

“I think it could be the case that technology could infringe more and more on working lives if that’s how you want to respond to technology,” says Donahue who also tells me that people using smartphones and other forms of technology for both work, and in general use, is becoming a big problem.

For many managers, the constant connection of work and home life can cause certain problems; higher stress levels, depression, lack of motivation and, in extreme cases, dropping out of the workforce altogether.

With constant dings, IMs, and emails it’s harder to disconnect, but that doesn’t mean technology is some monster, it just means we need to find a better way to separate our professional lives from our personal ones.

Pictured: Technology kills Karen’s radiant appearance.

By Liam Cahill