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The advent of mobile phone technology is a double-edged sword. It has allowed people to communicate more efficiently and at a much faster pace, on one hand. On the other hand, this very ease of communication has rendered work-life boundaries irrelevant, as the phone is a source of establishing both personal and professional connections.
This paper will look into the effects that usage of mobile phones in professional work has on the individual and to what extent it affects the work-life balance of the individual. In doing so, it will try to see if the convenience of mobile work has a positive or a negative impact on modern-day professionals.
The starting point for several bodies of contemporary works of literature stem from concern that the technological advances have made it easier for workers and companies to blur the lines between working during professional and personal hours. Felstead and Henseke (2017) argue that the main issues which arise because of work interference at home is mainly because of three reasons. Firstly, it has become easier for the individual to work beyond their working hours as they can reach home and continue work from their home. Secondly, more technologically-induced access to the worker who is at home may result in the spillover of work stress into home. Thirdly, ease of access through mobile devices may raise expectations towards the workers that they will answer work calls and comply like they do in the office, causing strain at home. Dechen et al (2020) discover that there are serious consequences for not only the workers but also for the company, if mobile working becomes the norm. They discover that workers are more likely to make security related errors and be more lax with regards to company secrets when they are working in the relaxed atmosphere of home. Because their home computing systems may not be as equipped with anti-virus and anti-malware protections as their professional space computers. They could expose their company secrets unwittingly to unauthorised individuals, especially if the worker is working in a public space like a coffee shop or library. When it comes to effects on the individual worker, the workers may suffer from feelings of isolation and feel insignificant in the work environment, when they have to work beyond the office hours through the usage of mobile working technologies.
A similar result is obtained by Adisa et al (2019) who find that while job satisfaction in some mobile workers is higher than workers who work in a traditional fashion, there are several factors which contribute to the reduction of the quality of life of a mobile worker. For example, social life outside work is frequently often misconstrued as only family life. The concept also encompasses spending time with friends, exercising and playing sports, recreational activities like going to museums and movies, going on holidays and so on. However, social life can be construed as spending time with co-workers as well and in research done so far, a very narrow aspect of social life has been considered. Recreational activities are more likely to be participated in when workers are doing mobile work.
Conversely, Adisa et al (2019) discover in their research that the environment and the individual are not two spare entities; they are both shaped by each other for each other’s convenience. The word ‘balance’ has been misconstrued several times by past academics. Balance doesn’t necessarily mean an equitable distribution of time divided between work and social life, it could also mean achieving equal levels of satisfaction in both areas. By that logic, mobile devices like laptops allow the individual to perform better in both personal and professional terms and hence, it contributes positively to a healthy work life balance.
Cousins and Robey (2015), discover that mobile working technology had an important impact in the way workers managed their time. Workers would choose modes of transportation in accordance to their working style; trains could be used to catch up on small duties while larger spaces like airports and waiting rooms could become spaces for productive work when devices like laptops were available to them. From this perspective, workers can spend the few unproductive hours of transportation being productive instead and subsequently have more time for personal work. It has been further discovered that workers who work remotely (through the usage of technologies like tablets and laptops) tend to be more satisfied with their work and are more likely to stay with the same organization for work, even when they are provided with a higher salary. These workers have shown a significantly greater amount of enthusiasm for their work and have greater job satisfaction, as compared to traditional, office-going workers (Henseke and Felstead, 2017).
Derks et al (2015) elucidate that the advantage of working from home is that technology is neutral and doesn’t differentiate between managers and subordinates. Workers can make technological interference in their work impenetrable or penetrable. The interference of work into the private life of an individual is completely dependent on the extent to which an individual manages to balance their work priorities along with their private life. The same is reiterated by Cousins and Robey (2017) who elucidate that well-managed boundaries between work and personal life is often beneficial to professional and personal life instead of being disadvantageous. Hence, mobile working may afford the individuals the chance to improve their work-life balance.
With the advent of COVID, working remotely has become the norm and has afforded individuals to understand the advantages of working from home better. Nakrošienė et al (2019) argue that there are several advantages of teleworking from home, employees are more likely to be productive as they work during their most productive hours. Additionally, they are kept away from co-workers who may take their attention away from work. They discovered that contrary to some research, teleworking allows individuals to take care of their family more and give them more time and attention. Additionally, teleworking financially benefits companies as well, as unwell employees can work from the comfort of their home and also do not need to occupy office space. The physical environment which an individual occupies is essential in the productivity and happiness of the employee. The employee can occupy their own space when they are working and hence will be more comfortable in working from home.
From these arguments, one can conclude that that even though research exists on the relative disadvantages of working in a mobile fashion, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. The disadvantages mainly come from the idea that the lines between personal and professional environments of the individual get blurred. However, when an individual is effectively able to manage their time, they benefit from the opportunity to spend more time at home and being more present in their social circles.
Research has indicated that an individual may feel isolated when they work in a mobile fashion, but that research is contrary to the the findings that an individual spends inadequate time with family if they are teleworking. The advantage of mobile working contemporarily there are several arenas on which co-workers of an office can connect with each other. In this scenario, feelings of isolation can be dissipated between employees and better contacts can be maintained between family members as well. Hence, it is easy for individuals to draw their own social boundaries and be more flexible in their line of work. Construction of boundaries is a purely sociological phenomenon and an individual who is poor at contracting them may be so even if the work that is being done isn’t mobile (Cousins and Robey, 2015).
Adisa, T. A., Gbadamosi, G., Mordi, T., & Mordi, C. (2019). In search of perfect boundaries? Entrepreneurs’ work-life balance. Personnel Review.
Cousins, K., & Robey, D. (2015). Managing work-life boundaries with mobile technologies. Information Technology & People.
The research onion design is useful in understanding the research philosophies, approaches and methods (Saunders, et al., 2012). This design is discussed here.
Felstead, A., & Henseke, G. (2017). Assessing the growth of remote working and its consequences for effort, well‐being and work‐life balance. New Technology, Work and Employment, 32(3), 195-212.
Dechen, T., Wangyal, S., Tanimoto, S., Sato, H., & Kanai, A. (2020). A Preliminary Study of Risk Assessment of Mobile Workers for Improvement of Work-Life Balance. Bulletin of Networking, Computing, Systems, and Software, 9(1), 43-45.
Derks, D., van Duin, D., Tims, M., & Bakker, A. B. (2015). Smartphone use and work–home interference: The moderating role of social norms and employee work engagement. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 88(1), 155-177.
Nakrošienė, A., Bučiūnienė, I., & Goštautaitė, B. (2019). Working from home: characteristics and outcomes of telework. International Journal of Manpower.
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