Marie-Hélène Budworth

Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, specializing in learning, development & motivation.

Marie-Hélène Budworth

Taking a break from work

August 30th, 2010 · No Comments · Uncategorized

I just returned from a week of holidays with my young family.  I brought my laptop, smartphone, and oodles of work related reading with me.  I made it through almost none of it.  My kids are at pretty demanding ages; they needed my attention so I gave it to them.  The result – I slept well, I was calm, focussed, and happy.  We returned home yesterday to a pile of mail and dozens of voice messages.  Last night I slept in my bed for the first time in 7 nights.  I tossed and turned until about 2 am.

My colleague Souha Ezzedeen does work on the psychological preoccupation with work while in other domains.  Work life balance is not simply about disconnecting physically from one’s work commitments.  It is also about disconnecting mentally.  Being in the moment with family, friends, or other passions in life.  In my case, my children are a beautiful and welcome distraction.  They need me so completely that there is often not room for distraction.  When I am at home I find that I often check email or outline a paper in my head while playing with my little ones.  But on vacation, with a limited internet connection, I found that I was able to completely disengage with work and focus on them.

There is a growing debate in practical and scholarly press about the role of technology in work life balance.  The access of the individual worker through email, cell phones, and text messages extends the reach of the employer from the 9-5 hours into personal time.  I used to argue that my smartphone allowed me to take care of small issues before they become significant problems, but my week in the country has made me reconsider.  I would be interested in exploring how people who live a large portion of their lives through technology (e.g., people entering the workplace today) feel about the connection/disconnection from work.


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