International Women's Day Seminar - The impact of technology on work life balance

Dr Melissa Gregg, Gender and Cultural Studies Department, University of Sydney; Dr Kristine Dery, Work and Organisational Studies, University of Sydney Gender and Cultural Studies Department, University of Sydney; Work and Organisational Studies, University of Sydney

8th Mar 2010 12:30pm-2:00pm The Darlington Centre, University of Sydney

Working from home: Online technology and the changing locations of women's labour

Dr Melissa Gregg, Gender and Cultural Studies Department, University of Sydney

This presentation draws on a three-year study of information professionals looking at the way that new media technology affects work and home life. Interviews with workers conducted in both the home and work environment reveal the contradictions in modern workplaces that vocally promote flexibility while taking advantage of extra hours performed outside the office - especially by women working part time to maintain preferred child-care arrangements.

In many cases women are shown to enjoy working from home away from the frustrations of office cultures that consistently fail to respond to their requirements. Yet the extent to which their work is done at times and in locations unmonitored by official channels of recognition contributes to ongoing differences between genders in earnings and other kinds of compensation.

The paper describes the impact of online technology for middle class professionals in terms of "work's intimacy". This perspective notes the dangers of current workplace policies that promote online technology as the solution to organisational failures and place the responsibility for key operational requirements on individual workers. It also shows how online technology's capacity to move the location of work is no cure for long hours cultures - in fact it will be shown to prevent due attention to the psychological consequences of work's unprecedented invasiveness on personal time.

Don't shoot the messenger: a study of Blackberry users

Dr Kristine Dery, Work and Organisational Studies, University of Sydney

It is largely recognized that communication and information technologies (CIT) have deeply changed organizations during the past decade with the generalized use of wireless mobile technology. Practitioners and academic literatures have stressed a major transformation of work, enabled by these technologies, increasing the mobility and flexibility of workers. This is particularly evident in the use of smartphones which bring mobile connectivity into the palm of your hand. However, the impact on work seems paradoxical: on the one hand, the capacity to be contacted anywhere any time imposes new job demands and increased strain because of the abolition of the borders of time and space and yet, on the other hand, stress is reduced as workers embrace the increased autonomy and power associated with the liberating impact of increased mobility. This apparent paradox can be resolved using the model "job demands-control-support" (Van der Doef & Maes, 1999; Karasek & Theorell, 1990, Johnson & Hall, 1988) that emphasizes the interaction of job demands and perceived job control mediated by social support.

The results of an exploratory study involving 19 (add in Citibank) managers in major financial institutions in Australia and France supports the proposition that while the use of BlackBerrys by managers increased job demands it also impacted perceived control. This has consequences for strain and active learning, particularly when the level of social support, from both within and outside the work context, is accounted for. This research provides insights into the paradox surrounding the use of BlackBerrys to inform debates in both the academic and practitioner literatures.