When they leave a job, one of the major factors cited by employees is their need for a better balance between their work and their life. Additional research shows that mobile technology plays a key role in assisting with the search for that work-life balance, though respondents did express mixed feelings regarding its impact upon their personal lives. So with the advent of modern mobility tools, most notably instant messaging and video conferencing provided via smartphones and tablets, can we bring our families a little closer to us when we’re at the workplace? How about when we are traveling on business?
Of course we can. We all certainly strive to find that perfect balance between our personal and work lives. Yet we also value the flexibility that mobile tech gives us to communicate whenever and wherever we want. And the important question is exactly how we use the power of that tool: Do we use it to communicate and work? Do we use it to stay in contact with our families? Or do we let it organize our lives and let it dictate how they should be run?
A Faustian Bargain?
When we think about the use of mobile technology in our lives, it’s difficult to imagine a time when it wasn’t there. Yet it’s a Faustian bargain we’ve made to get it: we’ve gained something important, yet we’ve given up something equally as important to get it. In this case, we’ve gained an enormous amount of networking capability, incredible flexibility, instant access to knowledge … and we can even call people without being attached to a landline, too. And the price we’ve paid for all that is our own instant availability — just the same way we would expect that other people would be, and resources as well. Yet at the same time, we would do well to remember that any disruptive technology will affect our behavior in a plethora of ways that can be, and heretofore have been extremely difficult to foresee.
Technology does indeed help us to be more productive at work, without damaging the all-important work/life balance. Conversely, that same technology allows us to be more available to our families while we are at work. Everyone has already experienced this phenomenon: Let’s say you have a particular task that requires your full concentration. You can’t be disturbed by phone calls, co-workers, or anything else — it’s a very good thing to be able to do that task from home or somewhere outside of your usual workplace. On the flip side of that, who hasn’t been away from their desk, and gotten a call from a family member about some emergency that needs to be attended to right away?
Where are the Savings?
There are savings to be had by encouraging employees to use mobile technology, but for the most part, they are difficult to measure via a dollar sign. It would be easier to measure an employee’s productivity and efficiency if they were working from home and not at the office; or if they were on the road, staying in touch with both their office and their family via mobile technology. Turning the scenario around, the same employee may not need to be on the road quite as often, as they may be able to conduct their business via video conferencing instead of having to actually be in the remote office. This would end up saving the company money in terms of travel costs.
On the employee side especially, more savings can be found in terms of eliminating costs of commuting to the office — and back again — when your presence isn’t directly required at the office. Much of your work can be accomplished at home, through the use of the same tools that you would use to keep in contact with your family: Video conferencing, email, and instant messaging.