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Digital Brain Switch – how digital technologies are impacting work-life boundaries

Digital Brain Switch logoDigital technologies – smartphones, tablets and social media – are changing our relationship with work. The traditional clock on at 9am, clock off at 5pm work pattern is disappearing as the internet and our ability to be connected to it 24/7 allows us to work whenever and wherever we want.

Is this a good thing? How are digital technologies affecting our work-life balance? Does always-on connectivity give us the freedom to work at any time and at any location? Or is it stressful because we can never switch off? How are our smartphones and social networks blurring the boundaries between our work and home life.

Today, on Flexible Working Awareness Day, and in a two-part series, Dr Helen Roby, a Research Fellow at The Open University Business School, talks about the Digital Brain Switch research project…

The changing nature of work-life boundaries

The Digital Brain Switch (DBS) project studied the changing nature of work-life balance as a result of digital technologies, looking at how people switch between different work-life roles – parent, spouse, friend, co-worker, manager, employee – and how digital technologies either support this or act as a barrier.

In this digital age, it’s easy to switch between tasks and roles, one minute checking Facebook, answering a work email the next, then hopping onto Twitter for information related to our work and personal interests in a single space.

Transitioning from one role to another

The Digital Brain Switch project examined these rapid switches between roles and tasks over a period of two years, ending last summer. It invited 45 UK-based participants – either social entrepreneurs, office workers or university students – to record video diaries when transitioning from one role to another using technology.

The research was conducted by Helen Roby at The Open University alongside colleagues from Lancaster University, University of Kent and The Royal Holloway, University of London and sponsored by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The data is now being analysed but initial findings highlight the need to be able to switch off. You can find out more in the video below.



To find out about the three key implications of living a digital life, see the second article in our series.

About Author

Robyn is Senior Manager (Social Media Strategy) in Communications. Formerly a newspaper journalist, she is an experienced comms professional now leading the University's multi award-winning Social Media Engagement Team. She likes walking her cocker spaniel, Ralphie, reading crime novels and anything that involves laughing.

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