How Digital Platforms Are Influencing Work/Life Balance
By: Andrea Serie
The digital power we hold in our phones has not only changed the way we communicate, date, and shop, but it has also changed our ability to create work/life balance. Between Google Chat, Skype, and smart phones, more and more people are working from home, thus the way we are interacting with our children is shifting.
The number of telecommuting workers has increased 115% in a decade, according to a Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs report. Parents increasingly have the opportunity to pursue their career goals, while being able to drop off their children at school in the morning and be home for dinner.
“Technology allows us to be collaborative without being in the same room,” said Megan Malagoli Patterson, Director of Marketing at Chimes Gourmet. “By working from home, I can fulfill my dreams, while being the parent I want to be.”
The stigma still lingers that working from home is purely for “mom jobs” or lower level positions and this is simply not true. Digital remote work is gender neutral with 52% of work-at-home employees being female. With the rise of collaborative software and chat programs there has been an increase in white collar and managerial telecommuting positions over the past decade.
Meg’s young daughter has specific medical needs thus making hospital stays, doctor appointments and therapies part of her regular routine. With the convenience of a laptop and WiFi, Meg has actually been able to continue working while her daughter is in the hospital.
“Why should there be a choice between work and family?” said Patterson. “Work and parenting can convene in the middle, you just have to find the dividing line. I respect what I do and who I do it with because I am not forced to chose one over the other.”
Employees love flexibility, often rating it high on benefits surveys. Parents in particular say it’s “extremely important,” a Pew survey found.
Many telecommuters find they actually work longer hours because they are always connected with the line between work and home becoming blurred.
“The ability to be able to run your career with the use of a laptop and smartphone makes it easier to do your business anywhere, as long as you have WiFi of course,” said Michael Alson, Northeast Regional Sales Manager for Hubbell Lighting Components. “However, with all of this flexibility you still need to have boundaries. Just because I am working from home doesn’t mean that I am available to play baseball with my son or run errands. Discipline is essential.”
Phylicia Bernard, a personal stylist with Style IngeNEWity, who once had to travel to style out-of-state clients, now utilizes video chat for closet reviews and style sessions to avoid leaving her two-year-old son overnight.
“When on the road for business, being away from my son is always difficult,” said Alson. “It has become easier now that he is almost 4 years old, and able to speak with me on Facetime.”
Training sessions once held in conference rooms are viewed throughout the world via webcast, so parents are continuing to hone their skills from home, while cutting down on commuting time in and out of the office. This saved time is being reallocated to helping with homework, chauffeuring the kids to evening activities or shifted throughout the day to allow attendance at in-school functions or trips.
For those parents who are spending more time in the office, social media is creating a digital window into their days for their children. Work is often showcased in some capacity on social media platforms. Parents can now share photos of co-workers, events or special projects with their children. No longer are “work” and the “office” a place children can only imagine. They can now attach faces to names they hear their parents speaking about and visuals to stories their parents tell them about work. This creates an open conversation surrounding work and makes it more relatable to children.