Work, it seems, just won't let people be. Office goers these days have converted even their bedrooms, lounges and the rare kids' outing as into virtual work spaces, thanks to laptops and smart phones letting emails follow them wherever they go.
Some people are checking emails around the clock - to the detriment of their private lives - and never feel they have left the virtual office, suggests the research.
AdvertisementMelissa Gregg, of Sydney University's department of gender and cultural studies, conducted interviews with 26 employees in information industries who did at least some work from home.
"This study was designed to pick up all that extra work that goes on outside the office, which is generally sold to us as this new freedom to be in touch with work when it suits us," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Gregg as saying.
The participants believed checking and sending emails from home did not constitute work.
But, emails were constantly invading evenings and weekends, potentially affecting family relationships.
The study showed that workers were checking email at night in bed and as early as 6am before children woke so they could focus on "real work" in office hours.
"The most troubling thing was that people were trying to hide from their partner and kids to spend time checking emails," said Gregg.
Part-time workers also checked emails on non-work days to "keep things moving".
People who worked entirely from home felt enormous pressure to be diligent by answering emails immediately, to prove they were not "at the coffee shop".
Gregg said that the stress these workers were under indicated a need for structural change in information-based workplaces.
"It's a huge new burden on employees that hasn't really been factored into workloads," she said.
Barbara Pocock, of the centre for work and life at the University of South Australia, said smartphones had blurred the boundaries between home and office even further, where you could be "sorting out your work issues at the footy or while you're with the kids".
"The iPhone extends the BlackBerry phenomenon. It's a double-edged sword, because it really quickens the pace of work and extends the length of the work day," said Pocock.
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