New Academic Paper Examines Work-Life Imbalance and its Impact on the Psyche of the Mobile Worker
Social media like Facebook offer opportunities for isolated mobile workers to connect with colleagues and friends; yet darker side of mobile work remains
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., December 8, 2011 – At the GigaOm Net:Work Conference today iPass Inc. (NASDAQ: IPAS) published a paper on the ‘Well-being of the Mobile Workforce’ commissioned from the Institute of Work Psychology (IWP) at the University of Sheffield in England. The paper compares key findings from quarterly iPass Mobile Workforce Reports with leading academic research on the subject of employee well-being and the effect of remote and flexible work environments and includes helpful recommendations.
“The responses from the iPass surveys and reports illustrate how keenly the effects of increased mobility and IT consumerization are being felt within businesses,” said Dr. Carolyn Axtell, a leading academic at the Institute of Work Psychology and author of the paper. “Overcoming the challenges of the dark side of mobility is essential for well-being and satisfaction in life and work. People should be careful to mentally detach from work and create strong work-home boundaries while their employers should find ways to enhance employee control, provide support and reduce the expectations on them to work long hours.”
The paper found that mobile technologies and connectivity give employees more flexibility and control over work schedules and enable them to more efficiently use dead time. In fact, a third of mobile employees are able to set their own schedule and work when and where they want. According to the paper, scheduling freedom leads to higher job satisfaction, better psychological well-being, better work life balance and lower intentions to leave the job. At the same time, mobile and remote workers lose out on informal and unplanned corridor conversations, which provide valuable information sharing opportunities for workers to develop shared understanding with their colleagues. However, the paper suggests that social media sites like Facebook may fill this gap for remote and mobile workers by offering a needed virtual ‘water cooler.’
The Darker Side: Attached to Technology and Paying a Personal Price
Many mobile workers are working excessive hours (47 percent of mobile employees work 5-10 extra hours a week and 26 percent work 15-20 extra hours). The paper finds extra time on the job can lead to serious repercussions on work-life balance and employee well-being, such as:
- Worse work-life balance and well-being – Employees working excessive hours are more likely to report difficulty in balancing work and personal commitments. They were also more likely to say that they were more stressed as a result of increased flexibility of when and where they work. This pattern fits with research which has consistently shown that a higher level of demands at work is related to higher stress.
- Pressure from others – 32 percent of those working 15-20 extra hours a week said that they connected to technology during vacation because it was expected by management and co-workers. Such organizational pressure is likely to reduce the amount of control mobile workers feel they have over work, and research consistently shows that low control is related to higher stress.
- Worse Sleep and Recovery – Mobile workers who work an extra 20 hours a week due to flexible work schedules are more likely to work in the middle of the night when they cannot sleep. According to the paper, this suggests that those working extra hours a week are getting poor quality sleep and are not allowing themselves sufficient recovery time.
- Reduced Performance Gains – While those working longer hours still felt that they were being highly productive and efficient, according to the paper, if actual objective performance was measured there might be a leveling off in performance gains at longer hours, or possibly even a drop in performance over time. Research on extended shifts has found decreased reaction times and reduced grammatical reasoning along with increased fatigue and errors after extended periods of working long shifts.
“Technology is transforming the working lives of employees and causing major disruption to traditional notions of job-satisfaction, productivity and work/life balance. Despite several benefits related to mobile work, there are costs and challenges associated with the ability to be contacted anytime or anywhere,” said Barbara Nelson, chief technology officer at iPass. “There are key recommendations included in this paper both for individuals and organizations to overcome the challenges and make the most out of flexible, mobile work.”
About the Paper
The Well-being of the Mobile Workforce paper is based on an analysis of the findings of the last two iPass Mobile Workforce Reports based on over 5,600 survey responses from mobile enterprise employees at 1,100 enterprises worldwide, and leading academic research on the subject. The paper can be found at /mobile-resources-surveys/,
iPass helps enterprises and service providers ensure their employees and customers will be well connected. Founded in 1996, iPass (NASDAQ: IPAS) delivers the world’s largest commercial-grade Wi-Fi network and most trusted connectivity platform. With over 600,000 connection venues, iPass gives its customers always-on, frictionless connectivity anywhere in the world – easily, quickly, securely and cost effectively. Additional information is available at www.iPass.com or on Smarter Connections, the iPass blog.