It seems every other day a new study, opinion, or analysis tells the world how much technology has either helped or hurt the flex work movement. One day, technology is creating new possibilities for workers to break outside traditional confines of work. The next, technology is leaving flex workers struggling for boundaries to reestablish work-life balance.
What is the tech-flex link: hero or nemesis?
Hero: How Techies Are Leading the Charge
In October, Glassdoor released the 25 Best Jobs for Work-Life Balance, based on work-life balance ratings and reviews of popular job titles on the site. What do these top jobs have in common?
As VentureBeat pointed out, 10 of the best jobs listed are in the tech industry. That’s a huge, 40-percent chunk of jobs on the list.
It’s not a total surprise, considering that career fields like computer and IT fall at the top of industries with remote jobs, according to a 2015 FlexJobs analysis. After all, between the high demand for top talent and relatively small talent pools to choose from, tech giants and startups alike want to entice applicants from near and far with competitive benefits like telecommuting. PGi’s very own vice president of global IT, John Perkins, predicts that many great IT teams of the future will be remote.
It’s also not unexpected considering how Silicon Valley has led the charge in designing office spaces and offering benefits that promote work-life balance and flexibility. Real estate developers are meeting demands not just by offering square footage but also by including rooftop decks, bike racks and sport courts. Radical work benefits like unlimited time off are hallmarks of tech companies.
Between in-demand jobs and the advantage of innovative cultures, the tech industry is in a perfect place to break all the rules and drive work-life balance and flexibility.
Of course, you can’t ignore the impact of the tools themselves that come out of the tech industry. Technology (like web conferencing software and online collaboration) and flex work trends have simultaneously helped each other evolve and will continue to do so. In fact, aside from many being in the tech industry, what all of the jobs on Glassdoor’s list have in common is that they’re performed from behind a computer and capable of being done from anywhere using today’s digital workplace tools.
The digital revolution seems to be very much a flex work revolution.
Nemesis: Technology Eats Work-Life Balance for Breakfast
On the other hand, technology’s darker side increasingly creates challenges to achieving work-life balance and making flexibility work. Though it makes us mobile and capable of being more productive, technology also lengthens workdays, consumes our attention, and handicaps our focus.
According to Glassdoor, overall work-life balance satisfaction has decreased during the past several years, down from 3.5 in 2009 to 3.2 in 2015. Considering many of the technologies making the digital workplace possible really just bloomed over the last several years, technology could very well be the culprit for this downturn.
The pressure to work 24/7 didn’t even exist as we know it today before it was possible to check email before going to bed or have an online meeting while on vacation. Between long hours of sitting, staring at screens, multitasking and automation, the very nature of technology-centric work could be shortening lifespans and crippling the human mind.
The Answer: Neither
One possible explanation for the decrease in work-life balance: we’ve made peace with the reality that we’ll never achieve it and, instead, are embracing a fusion of work and life.
Technology isn’t the only thing that’s changed over the past several years. The very concept of work-life balance has evolved. Now, workers embrace the integration of the two, content with work bleeding into after-hours because that means personal priorities get more time during the workday, too.
Regardless, technology is neither hero nor nemesis to work-life balance and flexibility. Technology is simply a tool, not the problem. Businesses and employees are the actual force behind the tools and have the choice to wield them in any direction they choose.
It’s up to people to use technology in a way that maximizes work-life balance and minimizes the side effects.
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