We live in a networked society where we are often more active in cyberspace than in real life. This change has moved into the workforce, where the growth of technology has changed the way many businesses function. M. Gregg describes it as the “always on…wireless world of the contemporary office.” This movement can be described as ‘liquid labour’, that is the flow of information due to the breakdown of networks. Businesses work in a network based arrangement rather than a hierarchical one, allowing fast communication between everyone.
With technology becoming more mobile, you can now carry and access your work almost anywhere. In this sense, liquid labour has allowed workers to be more flexible when and where they work. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1 in 12 workers did more hours at home than any other single location in their main job. For many office workers with family’s, the ability to work from home means they can adapt their work hours to suit their lives better while still maintaining their work duties.
While there are many benefits to technology in the workforce, there are also many negative impacts to consider. As the line between home and work lives are blurring, people are not living balanced lifestyles. Our unlimited access to Internet often gives the impression communication is instant. For many workers, having access to their emails on their smartphones means they are checking them 24/7 because they feel if they don’t, they are not doing their jobs properly. Workers are not switching off, they are attempting to do everything all the time. Whilst discussing the negative affects of multi-tasking through technology, Christine Rosen believes there will be consequences to this change. “When we force ourselves to multi-task we’re driving ourselves to perhaps be less efficient in the long run, even though it sometimes feels like we’re being more efficient” (2008). Similarly M. Gregg highlights the point in his work that with this constant access comes an expectation that employees will put in more hours. In order to compensate, “work takes prominence in daily life to the detriment of the few remaining obstacles, such as holidays, children and sleep.”
While I can see both the strengths and weakness of technology impacting work, I think it is important for people to maintain a balanced lifestyle. The temptations to access work and the Internet will only increase, therefore we must use some self-control to do the unthinkable, and switch off our devices once. After all, there’s a great big world out there, beyond our screens.
Gregg, M. ‘Function Creep: Communication technologies and anticipatory labour in the information workplace’
Rosen, C. (2008). The myth of multitasking. The New Atlantis, 20(Spring), 105-110.