ResearchPDF Available

ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE: Working parents’ use of business and personal technology during private hours, and the impact of e-communication overload on stress and anxiety, and perceived burnout.

Authors:

Abstract

How working parents used personal and work-based technology during Lockdown 1.0, in spring and early summer of 2020, while simultaneously juggling home and childcare responsibilities.
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE:
Working parents’ use of business and personal technology during private hours,
and the impact of e-communication overload on stress and anxiety, and
perceived burnout.
Carolyn Freeman
ID: 1908145
Thesis submitted for the degree of Master of Science
to the School of Psychology
in the University of Buckingham
1 July 2021
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
ii
Abstract
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) use experienced a turning-point during the second
quarter of 2020. Overnight, remote working moved from a ‘profession-and-rank privilege’ to a
normalised version of business operations for most knowledge workers and professionals within the
UK. For those who had children still living in the household, the sudden disruption caused by closures
of both office and education facilities on 23 March 2020 (Lockdown 1.0) resulted in the juggling of
multiple roles and responsibilities for working parents. Using a combination of work-based and
personal technology to manage home and work life created a blurring of personal and work
boundaries with little regard for the maintenance of any previously established segmentation
strategies. Previous studies have suggested that middle-aged workers are more likely to experience
higher levels of stress than other knowledge workers, with the antecedents of this stress suspected
to be the juggling of multiple life-roles and concerns around career progression. This study aimed to:
(i) understand the extent to which work and home-related ICT use during private time impeded the
ability of UK parents to manage work and home tasks and maintain a positive work-life balance; (ii)
ascertain if there was a correlation between use of home and work ICT in private hours and stress and
anxiety, as well as burnout; (iii) understand if family life stage impacted on parents’ ability to manage
their work-life balance; and (iv) investigate the extent to which autonomy, computer self-efficacy and
psychological detachment strategies influenced parents’ ability to manage their work-life balance. A
quantitative study using a cross-sectional online survey design was conducted to measure ICT use in
private time, levels of computer self-efficacy, job control, work-life balance, boundary blurring,
segmentation strategies, self-efficacy, stress and anxiety, and burnout. Recruitment of participants via
social media resulted in 97 useable responses (56.7% female; age range: 30 59 years-old; 79.4% with
children under 12 years of age and 59.1% in middle or senior management roles).
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
iii
The overall results showed that (i) higher boundary blurring, lower job control and being male
predicted work spill-over into private time, and (ii) lower job control and being male was more likely
to lead to burnout. Additionally, (iii) lower job control, presence of younger children, higher
professional ICT use in private time and lower managerial level were predictors of stress and anxiety,
and (iv) parents with young children were more likely to be stressed than those with older children.
The study also showed that (v) the layering of personal and professional ICT use during private time
was not correlated with stress and anxiety, although the use of professional ICT did indicate some
connection to stress and anxiety. Moreover (vi) those in higher managerial levels were more likely to
engage in role blurring and more likely to feel work negatively affecting work-life balance. Another
key finding from the study was (vii) higher levels of job control and autonomy were linked to lower
levels of stress and anxiety, and total burnout. Finally, (viii) males were more likely to use personal
ICT during private time and have higher computer self-efficacy, while females were more likely to
engage in boundary blurring behaviour along with (ix) traditional segmentation strategies seemingly
being abandoned by both males and females during Lockdown 1.0, and (x) a third of participants
feeling that their computer self-efficacy had improved due to forced remote working.
The findings in this study are novel and present important new insights which hold implications for
future research around ICT use within the workplace. This study proposes a Tri-Factor (+ Covid-19)
Remote Working Model that incorporates the antecedents that may, to varying degrees, impact
remote worker stress and anxiety, and burnout. The Covid-19 pandemic has shifted several of the
antecedent workplace norms, narratives, working arrangements and expectations previously
researched amongst businesses and knowledge workers. Research around the impact of ICT practices
within the workplace needs a greater level of attention going forward. With hybrid and remote
working becoming more normative, organisations and workers need greater levels of insight to help
inform effective management of ICT within hybrid and remote working practices.
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
iv
Acknowledgements
To my supervisors, I cannot expend enough enthusiastic thanks for not flinching in their unending
support and feedback, despite their own set of extenuating teaching and marking challenges
throughout the 2020/2021 pandemic. They both provided a consistently strong and sturdy academic
platform for me to build on.
Additionally, a massive thank you to the Covid-19 virus for handing me an ideal and unique
opportunity to study an unprecedented technological phenomenon, without which I would have just
been another CyberPsychology student researching another nuance within psychology and
technology in business.
Lastly, and without a doubt, my eternal gratitude goes to my husband, who patiently and unswervingly
endured beyond the remit of the vows he had signed up to.
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
v
Declaration
I hereby declare that my dissertation entitled Always On, Always Available: Working parents’ use of
business and personal technology during private hours, and the impact of e-communication overload
on stress and anxiety, and perceived burnout, is the result of my own work and includes nothing which
is the outcome of work done in collaboration except as declared and specified in the text, and is not
substantially the same as any that I have submitted, or, is concurrently submitted for a degree or
diploma or any other qualification at the University of Buckingham or any other University or similar
institution except as declared and specified in the text. I further state that no substantial part of my
thesis has already been submitted, or is concurrently submitted for any such degree, diploma or any
other qualification at the University of Buckingham or any other University or similar institution except
as declared or specified in the text.
Signature: C J Freeman Date: 1 July 2021
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
vi
Table of Contents
Abstract ...................................................................................................................................... ii
Acknowledgements ................................................................................................................... iv
Declaration ................................................................................................................................. v
List of Figures .......................................................................................................................... viii
List of Tables.............................................................................................................................. ix
Chapter 1: Introduction .............................................................................................................. 1
Chapter 2: Literature Review ..................................................................................................... 4
2.1. Telework and Workplace ICT Use.................................................................................................4
2.1.1. Advantages of Telework .......................................................................................................................6
2.1.2. Disadvantages of Telework ..................................................................................................................7
2.1.3. The Right to Disconnect........................................................................................................................8
2.2. Workplace Norms ...................................................................................................................... 10
2.2.1. The Work Commitment Narrative and Behavioural Norms .............................................................. 11
2.2.2. Face-to-Face Time Bias, Flexibility Bias, and the Gender Narrative.................................................. 12
2.2.3. Busyness in the Workplace................................................................................................................ 16
2.2.4. Supervisor and Co-Worker Support .................................................................................................. 18
2.2.5. Job Autonomy and Schedule Control ................................................................................................ 18
2.3. Individual Differences in Work-based ICT use during Private Time .......................................... 20
2.3.1. Workplace Telepressure .................................................................................................................... 20
2.3.2. Gender Differences in Preferences and Perceptions ........................................................................ 22
2.3.3. Self-Evaluation Traits: Generalised and Computer Self-Efficacy ....................................................... 24
2.3.4. Age, Life-stage, Family Status and Generational Impact................................................................... 27
2.3.5 Personality Traits ................................................................................................................................ 28
2.4. Permeable Boundaries and the Blurring of Work-Life Realms ................................................. 29
2.4.1. Boundary Theory and Boundary Blurring Behaviour ........................................................................ 29
2.4.2. Boundary Management Behaviours .................................................................................................. 31
2.4.3. Psychological Detachment and Segmentation Strategies ................................................................. 33
2.5. Private Time ICT Use .................................................................................................................. 35
2.5.1. Technology use at Home during Private Time .................................................................................. 36
2.5.2. Technology use at Home for Work Purposes .................................................................................... 37
2.5.3. ICT Layering and Multiple Device Use ............................................................................................... 38
2.6. Impact of ICT use in Private Time on the Worker, the Family, and the Organisation .............. 39
2.7. Covid-19, Lockdown 1.0 and the Remote Working Mandate ................................................... 48
2.8. Summary of Key Literature and Proposed Tri-Factor (+ Covid-19) Remote Working Model ... 52
2.9. Study Rationale, Research Questions and Hypotheses............................................................. 56
Chapter 3: Methodology .......................................................................................................... 60
3.1. Research Design and Study Variables ....................................................................................... 60
3.2. Participants ................................................................................................................................ 60
3.3. Data Collection and Procedure ................................................................................................. 62
3.4. Measures ................................................................................................................................... 65
3.4.1. Demographics .................................................................................................................................... 66
3.4.2. Private and work-based technology and software used in private time .......................................... 66
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
vii
3.4.3. Computer Self-Efficacy ...................................................................................................................... 67
3.4.4. Schedule Control during Covid-19 Remote Working ........................................................................ 69
3.4.5. Job Autonomy .................................................................................................................................... 69
3.4.6. Spill-Over / Work-Life Balance (WLB) ................................................................................................ 70
3.4.7. Boundary Blurring .............................................................................................................................. 70
3.4.8. Segmentation Strategy ...................................................................................................................... 71
3.4.9. Self-Efficacy........................................................................................................................................ 71
3.4.10. Stress and Anxiety ........................................................................................................................... 72
3.4.11. Perceived Burnout (Personal and Work-Based Burnout)................................................................ 72
3.5. Data Analysis ............................................................................................................................. 73
3.6. Ethics ......................................................................................................................................... 74
3.6.1. Introduction and Consent.................................................................................................................. 74
3.6.2. Debrief and Final Page ....................................................................................................................... 75
Chapter 4: Results .................................................................................................................... 76
4.1. Preliminary Analysis .................................................................................................................. 76
4.1.1. ICT use During Private Time and ‘ICT Layering’ ................................................................................. 76
4.2. Primary Analysis ........................................................................................................................ 79
4.2.1. Correlational Analysis ........................................................................................................................ 79
4.2.2. Hierarchical Multiple Regression Analysis......................................................................................... 81
4.2.3. Summary of Main Findings ................................................................................................................ 90
4.3. Additional Exploratory Analysis................................................................................................. 91
4.3.1. Gender ............................................................................................................................................... 91
4.3.2. Segmentation / Detachment Strategy............................................................................................... 92
4.3.3. Computer Self-efficacy and ICT Use in Private Time ......................................................................... 93
4.3.4. Autonomy and Job Control ................................................................................................................ 95
4.3.5. Stress and Anxiety, and Perceived Burnout ...................................................................................... 96
Chapter 5: Discussion ............................................................................................................... 98
5.1. Working Parents’ Balancing of Remote Working and Childcare ............................................... 99
5.2. Disengaging from Work and Segmentation Strategies ........................................................... 102
5.3. Personal and Professional ICT Use in Private Time ................................................................. 105
5.4. Nuances in Autonomy and Job Control ................................................................................... 109
5.5. Strengths, Limitations and Future Research Directions .......................................................... 111
Chapter 6: Conclusions ........................................................................................................... 116
References .............................................................................................................................. 119
Appendices ............................................................................................................................. 140
Appendix A: UK 2020 Lockdown 1.0 Timeline................................................................................ 140
Appendix B: Recruitment Video Script and Video Link .................................................................. 144
Appendix C: Information and Debrief Pages .................................................................................. 145
Appendix D: Study Scales ............................................................................................................... 148
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
viii
List of Figures
Figure 1: ICT Impact on Work-Life Balance: Proposed Tri-Factor (+ Covid-19) Remote Working Model
.............................................................................................................................................................. 54
Figure 2: Everyday Use of Technology for Personal and Work Use During Private Hours .................. 77
Figure 3: Frequency of Computer / Laptop and Smartphone Use for Personal ICT............................. 77
Figure 4: Frequency of Computer / Laptop and Smartphone Use for Work ICT .................................. 78
Figure 5: Everyday Use of Applications for Personal and Work during Private Hours ......................... 79
Figure 6: Change in Computer Self-Efficacy (IT Confidence) Levels During Lockdown 1.0 .................. 95
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
ix
List of Tables
Table 1: Participant Demographic Information .................................................................................... 62
Table 2: Summary of Variables and Survey Scales Used ...................................................................... 65
Table 3: Descriptive Statistics and Correlations of Main Study Variables ............................................ 80
Table 4: Hierarchical Multiple Regression Analysis for WLB ................................................................ 84
Table 5: Hierarchical Multiple Regression Analysis for Stress and Anxiety .......................................... 87
Table 6: Hierarchical Multiple Regression Analysis for Burnout .......................................................... 88
Table 7: Summary of Hypotheses and Findings.................................................................................... 90
Table 8: Independent Sample T-Test: Gender Differences .................................................................. 91
Table 9: Independent Sample T-Test: Segmentation Strategy ............................................................. 92
Table 10: Correlations for ICT Use and Computer Self-Efficacy ........................................................... 93
Table 11: Significant Correlations with Autonomy and Job Control .................................................... 95
Table 12: Significant Correlations with Stress and Anxiety, and Perceived Burnout ........................... 96
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
1
Chapter 1: Introduction
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is technology that provides access to electronic
information through portals such as wireless networks, mobile phones, tablets, laptops and other
electronic devices (Clark, 2017; Schlachter et al., 2018). It also includes the use of electronic
communication tools such as email, social media, and an ever-broadening range of platforms and
applications that are used for both home and work life. At home, 95% of UK households have internet
access (Digital Economy and Society Statistics, 2019). Of those aged 16 - 75 who engage with
technology on a daily basis, 95% use a smartphone, 67% use a laptop, 64% use a desktop and 61% use
a large tablet (D. Adams et al., 2019). At work, professionals, managers, technicians and clerks are
those most likely to use ICT, with at least 37% of them using ICT at work at a high intensity (Parent-
Thirion et al., 2017). A total of 38% of UK workers have work-based mobile phones, 39% have laptops,
12% have tablets and 39% have videoconferencing facilities (Steelcase Report, 2016). Twice as many
workers use fixed line technology, such as desktop computers and landline phones, than do workers
who use mobile work-based technology (Steelcase Report, 2016).
Commonly known as the 4th Industrial Revolution, technology and innovations in ICT are continuously
changing the way humans work and play, bringing dynamic changes into the working environment for
knowledge workers (Colbert et al., 2016). Knowledge workers are highly educated employees who
work jointly with both their own and their co-workers knowledge to produce intellectual
organisational assets through the use of ICT at work (Scarbrough, 1999; Viñas-Bardolet et al., 2020).
Ongoing technologisation of work, big data and the plethora of online communication platforms, has
brought with it a complexity of data use and communication options and higher levels of information
density (i.e. the amount of information available to employees) and complexity around work
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
2
(Schwarzmüller et al., 2018). Essentially ICT has become an integral part of how knowledge workers
fulfil their work-based roles.
This ubiquitous use of work-based ICT has resulted in greater job flexibility (Dittes et al., 2019) and
autonomy for knowledge workers (Mazmanian et al., 2013). It has allowed workers, and parents in
particular, to more effectively manage their professional workload and projects around other life
commitments (Colbert et al., 2016; Leung & Zhang, 2017). This same work-based flexibility, however,
has allowed knowledge workers to engage in work tasks during hours historically reserved for private
and family time, thereby redrawing and blurring the boundaries between these two previously distinct
life realms (Becker et al., 2018; Colbert et al., 2016). Individual factors can play a role in determining
the extent and impact of this boundary blurring behaviour (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015; Grawitch et al.,
2018). Many studies have indicated that the impact of work-related ICT use in private time becomes
evident in depleted energy levels, decreased productivity and strained family relations, leading to
excessive stress and, in some cases, burnout (Derks et al., 2015; Hu et al., 2019; Sonnentag & Fritz,
2007; Van Laethem et al., 2018). Those most affected by ICT stress seem to be middle-aged workers
(Berg-Beckhoff et al., 2017). The antecedent for higher stress levels amongst these workers is
assumed to be their need to juggle the managing of a young family and the higher level of career
related concern they have in this life-stage, especially regarding the professional progression of their
career (Berg-Beckhoff et al., 2017).
Much research has already been conducted across a number of disciplines (Allen et al., 2015;
Schlachter et al., 2018) on various aspects of work-life balance (Powell et al., 2019) and work-related
ICT use during working and private hours, and the resulting impact on working parents and family life
(Cijan et al., 2019; Ciolfi & Lockley, 2018). A gap, however, exists in understanding how the life stage
of working parents (i.e. whether the age of children and the resultant levels of one-to-one
engagement needed) can impact stress levels when regularly engaging in work-related ICT during
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
3
private hours (Allen & Finkelstein, 2014; Berg-Beckhoff et al., 2017). Research studies have historically
tended to focus only on work specific ICT use. For example, Schmoll (2019) points to how studies in
this area tend not to focus on antecedents of work-related ICT use in private time. Ciolfi and Lockley
(2018) point out how research to date focusses on the role technology plays and the boundary
management behaviour between work and private time. As far as the researcher is aware, no
research to date considers the multiple personal and professional roles and identities that working
parents manage, and how home-related and work-related ICT use during private hours may jointly
feed into overall ICT-related stress.
The aim of this research was to investigate how the frequency of using both work-related and home-
related ICT during private time, and the resulting ‘layering of ICT’ (i.e. the use of both work and
personal ICT to simultaneously fulfil both work and home-based obligations during private hours)
impacts on stress and anxiety, and perceived burn-out levels amongst working parents. This research
considered the degree to which work autonomy, which is the freedom employees have to regulate
their work schedule (Mazmanian et al., 2013; Nevin & Schieman, 2020), psychological detachment
strategies, which includes “mentally refraining from work-related tasks” (Hu et al., 2019, p. 10) and
computer self-efficacy i.e. the “individuals’ beliefs about their abilities to competently use computers”
(Compeau & Higgins, 1995, p. 189) can influence working parents’ overall stress levels.
This study was conducted during the ‘work from home if you can’ mandate initiated during the Covid-
19 lockdown beginning on 23rd March and running into the early-summer of 2020 (referred to
throughout as Lockdown 1.0).
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
4
Chapter 2: Literature Review
2.1. Telework and Workplace ICT Use
With technology enabling knowledge workers to work whenever and wherever they want, a number
of companies needed to redesign ways of working and taking a new approach to how some employees
organised their work (Demerouti et al., 2014). On 30 June 2014, the UK government introduced the
Flexible Working Regulations (Evans & Adam, 2019). These regulations allowed all workers, not just
those with caring responsibilities, to apply for a variation in their work contract, giving them the option
to conduct their work in a flexible manner (Acas, 2014). This legislation made it easier for any
employee to negotiate when, where and how they fulfil their work obligations (Demerouti et al.,
2014). However, this regulation still allowed employers the ability to refuse any requests and, in
general, they tended to continue operating as they had prior to the legislation coming into effect
(Evans & Adam, 2019). This form of flexible working is known as telework.
The European Framework Agreement on Telework (2002) defines telework broadly as “a form of
organising and/or performing work, using information technology, in the context of an employment
contract/relationship, where work, which could also be performed at the employer’s premises, is
carried out away from those premises on a regular basis” (para. 2). Previous studies have used a
myriad of differing terms to describe telework(ers), such as teleworking, telecommuting, digital
nomads, digital nomadic work, e-nomads, new ways of working, remote work, networking, flexi-place
networking, work extending technologies and e-work (Allen et al., 2015; Beno, 2019; Messenger,
2019). Within all of these terms ‘telework’ (‘tele’ being the Greek prefix for ‘far’) is more reflective of
remote or mobile working using ICT - where work is conducted purely outside of the physical location
of the organisation (Allen et al., 2015; Messenger, 2019). Telework can be divided into occasional
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
5
telework, which is unpaid supplementary work that involves responding to supervisors and colleagues
during private time, and partial telework (sometimes referred to as flexi-place) which is paid work
done at home during contracted working hours (Messenger, 2019). As this study was conducted
during the height of Lockdown 1.0 in the UK, and to collapse all similar terms used in previous research
into the remit of this unique period, ‘telework(er)’ and ‘remote work(er)’ are used contextually and
interchangeably to describe the knowledge worker and the employment-based work they conduct at
home during both paid and private hours.
Telework has evolved through three main stages from the 1970’s to present (Messenger, 2019). The
first stage, or the “Home Office”, began in the 1970’s and continued through to the early 1990’s
(Messenger, 2019, p. 3). It involved performing office-based tasks at a stationary (often home-based)
location using information-based technology (i.e. relatively immobile desktop computer) alongside
landline-based, fixed communication technology (Messenger, 2019). The second stage, the “Mobile
Office” transformed static work into mobile work up until the early 2000’s - where information-based
technology, such as the more mobile laptop computer, was used alongside mobile phone-based
communication technology, either at home or on the move (Messenger, 2019, p. 3). These first two
stages of work-based ICT evolution, Messenger (2019) refers to as “Old ICT” (p. 14). Most research to
date around ICT use at work has been focussed on these first two evolutionary stages. “New ICT” or
the “Virtual Office” is the third stage of the ICT revolution (Messenger, 2019, p. 14). This stage started
with the launch of smartphones and tablets in the second half of the 2000’s and refers to the merging
of both information and communication technologies into one device (Messenger, 2019). These
mobile devices coincided with the advent of powerful technology that connects any mobile device
instantaneously to work via cloud-based systems (Messenger, 2019). Additionally, this technology
does not require work-based information to be physically stored on the device itself in order for work-
based activities to be completed and to communicate with others (Messenger, 2019). These advances
in technology have empowered specific knowledge workers to be able to engage in remote working.
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
6
In the 1980’s remote working was rare, with only 1.5% of those employed in the UK working from
home (Felstead & Reuschke, 2020). By 2016, 9% of UK workers worked remotely every day, 38% of
workers worked remotely sometimes and 52%
1
never worked remotely (Steelcase Report, 2016). This
figure remained relatively stable until early April 2020, when those working from home rose to 43.1%
(Felstead & Reuschke, 2020). Prior to Lockdown 1.0, most teleworkers were more likely to occupy
senior rather than junior roles (Steelcase Report, 2016), were more likely to be professionals or
managers within knowledge-based industries (Beno, 2019) and were more likely to perform tasks that
can be done remotely such as finance, information systems, services or insurance (Allen et al., 2015).
The need for flexibility around working hours can be beneficial for some, but not for everyone (Bergen
& Bressler, 2019). The positive and negative aspects to telework for employers, workers and their
families will be explored in more detail below.
2.1.1. Advantages of Telework
There are many advantages of teleworking, for both the employee and for the company. For the
employee, telework allows for greater autonomy and control over working hours and location, helping
to better manage work, family commitments and childcare responsibilities (Demerouti et al., 2010;
Mazmanian et al., 2013; Messenger, 2019). The portability of ICT tools allows workers the flexibility
and control to consider how, when and where to respond to work-based requests (Towers et al.,
2006). Although flexibility has limited impact for women with low caring responsibilities and greater
benefit for those with high caring responsibilities (Shockley & Allen, 2007), flexibility does allows
workers to take responsibility for allocating their own work and family time to suit their individual
obligations (Allen et al., 2015; Demerouti et al., 2014). It also allows workers the option of being
located some geographic distance from their employer, thereby potentially reducing living costs,
1
Percentages do not total 100% due to rounding.
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
7
foregoing regular lengthy and stressful commute times, and giving working parents more time to
spend on leisure or family-based activities (Hill et al., 2001). Additionally, it allows parents the
opportunity to reduce childcare costs, if they are able to coordination pick-up and drop-off times for
school through the juggling of their workday around home-based responsibilities (Hill et al., 2001).
They are also able to work early mornings, prior to children getting up or in the evenings after bedtime,
allowing for key periods such as mealtimes, playtime and bedtime to be spent with children (Hill et
al., 2001). In this way parents are able to spend more time working, without feeling that it is impinging
on their ability to sustain a suitable work-life balance (Hill et al., 2001). They also have more flexibility
to care for or arrange for the care of a sick child if necessary, and still conduct some work at home -
rather than the alternative of having to take a sick day themselves and getting no work done (Hill et
al., 2001).
For the company, flexible working practices can help increase productivity (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015),
improve efficiency and make work processes more cost effective (Demerouti et al., 2014). It is also
found to increase job satisfaction, lower absenteeism (Baltes et al., 1999) and increase responsiveness
and availability of workers (Demerouti et al., 2014). Having a positive family-friendly work
environment, and a respect for family life, can feel more supportive for workers than flexible work
arrangements alone (ten Brummelhuis & van der Lippe, 2010). Help from supervisors was more likely
to produce higher work performance, greater job motivation and dedication to the company,
especially for those with substantial caring responsibilities (ten Brummelhuis & van der Lippe, 2010).
2.1.2. Disadvantages of Telework
As advantageous as telework can be for both the company and employee, it can be a “double-edge
sword” (Marcum et al., 2018, p. 51). Boundaries between work and private time can become blurred
(Messenger, 2019). Blurred boundaries, particularly through smartphone use, could make it more
difficult for workers to distinguish between “perceived and used workplace flexibility” (Messenger,
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
8
2019, p. 19). Blurred boundaries can also facilitate longer working hours (Bergen & Bressler, 2019).
This may result in role ambiguity, where the obligations of both home and work roles can lead to
uncertainty in the ability to fulfil each role successfully, increasing the potential for fatigue and risk of
burnout (Messenger, 2019). Role ambiguity cannot be counterbalanced by reduced working time or
lowered stress levels within the role (Messenger, 2019).
Working remotely, away from the office, can potentially lead to workers feeling professionally isolated
and experiencing a lower-quality relationship with co-workers (Allen et al., 2015). It may also result
in higher stress levels and decreased productivity (Bergen & Bressler, 2019). Teleworkers can also
experience feeling work connectivity pressure, i.e., the need to be constantly connected, potentially
negating the benefits received from flexible working (Schmoll, 2019). Connectivity pressure comes
from the perceived need to reciprocate for the privilege of working remotely, to demonstrate support
towards their colleagues in the office and avoid long-term negative team mood (Schmoll, 2019).
Negative co-worker satisfaction from those who remain in the office can also be an issue, as those in
the office feel the need to engage in a greater level and scope of work versus those who telework
(Schmoll, 2019). It is important to note that Schmoll (2019) found that only telework during paid hours
was subjective to these particular subjective norms. To help manage these norms and expectations,
it is important for supervisors to be clear in what they expect regarding employee availability and use
of ICT during and outside of paid working hours (Derks et al., 2015).
2.1.3. The Right to Disconnect
Research on New ICT and its relationship to work-based tasks, behaviour and impact, is still in its
infancy (Messenger, 2019), as are the insights and research around the ‘dark side’ of this new work-
form that involves ICT use at work, at home and on the move (Mattern, 2020). Since 2002, European
governments have acknowledged the potential impact of ICT as part of work-extending behaviours,
taking some steps towards implementing guidelines and frameworks to give workers and employees
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
9
rights around the ability to disconnect from work during their private time (Mattern, 2020). A number
of these European governments and companies have implemented either specific or general
legislation around ICT use during private hours to help support a better work-life balance. Such
legislation has been implemented in countries such as in France and Germany as well as within specific
companies such as VW, Daimler, BMW and Porsche (Bergen & Bressler, 2019; Eurofound, 2020;
Mattern, 2020). In France, workers have a ‘right to disconnect’ both after hours or on private days,
with regulations being implemented specifically on company owned digital devices (Eurofound, 2020;
Mattern, 2020; Nevin & Schieman, 2020). In 2013 Germany set in place guidelines for restricting email
and phone contact for government employees outside of office hours (Bergen & Bressler, 2019; Nevin
& Schieman, 2020), allowing companies to self-regulate by introducing their own measures to allow
workers to disconnect (Bergen & Bressler, 2019; Mattern, 2020). In 2011, Volkswagen set out clear
guidelines banning work emails to company devices and setting all work mobiles to off-service during
private time (Bergen & Bressler, 2019; Mattern, 2020; ‘Volkswagen Turns off Blackberry Email after
Work Hours’, 2012). Porsche enacted similar regulations and Daimler employees have software that
automatically deletes emails received after work hours or while on holiday (Bergen & Bressler, 2019;
Mattern, 2020). In contrast, outside of the 2014 right to flexible working (Evans & Adam, 2019), the
UK has no formal policies around ICT use outside of working hours, or any legislation around remote
working practices (Eurofound, 2020). The 2014 Flexible Working Regulations makes provision for
employees around flexibility but does not provide any stipulations to protect employees from
exploitation while working within this capacity.
For those companies who have written policies around ICT use both during working and private hours,
Barber and Santuzzi (2015) found that employees are more likely to have lower stress levels and better
work-life balance. Braukmann et al. (2018), however, suggest that although availability norms need
addressing, and work-based ICT use in private time should be limited, it is important to not be too
restrictive with limitation measures. For some employees, technology access may be perceived as a
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
leash, whereas for others it is an important source of flexibility (Bergen & Bressler, 2019). Strict
measures can reduce feelings of autonomy and increase feelings of external control (Braukmann et
al., 2018) and can cause stress and anxiety in some who are concerned with unfinished work or
experience the fear of missing out. They suggest that rather than implementing company-wide
measures, team leaders and teams should negotiate their own norms around response times and
availability during private time (Braukmann et al., 2018). In trying to help employees by banning an
always on, always available’ culture, employers may just be restricting workers to the traditionally
rigid 9-to-5 structure (Bergen & Bressler, 2019). Striking a balance between regulating work during
private time and helping to strengthen the boundaries between work and life, while allowing for
individual worker and industry nuances is difficult (Bergen & Bressler, 2019). Despite most employees
struggling to balance the demands of work and family, it may be in the best interests of workers
themselves to allow them the right to decide when it is right to disconnect in private time (Bergen &
Bressler, 2019). This is not always possible, considering the number of socio-cultural influences and
perceived norms that abound within the workplace.
2.2. Workplace Norms
With the marketplace becoming increasingly more global, workers often need to liaise, consult or
work on projects with colleagues, customers and suppliers across different time zones (Bergen &
Bressler, 2019). Many companies now offer 24/7 availability, as an integral part of their service, in
order to remain competitive (Mattern, 2020). This constant requirement for non-stop servicing of
colleagues and clients is creating a culture of always on, always available’ connectivity (Bergen &
Bressler, 2019). Additionally, employers often use long working hours as a substitute for employee
commitment and productivity (Jauch, 2020). Many workers tend to put in long hours to meet
employer expectations so as to be considered for a promotion or to reduce the chance of being
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
included in the next round of resizing measures (Jauch, 2020). Individual engagement in ICT during
private hours can thus be driven by the need to conform with intrinsic work-based behaviour norms
and expectations (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015; Derks et al., 2015). The perception of required actions,
and implied norms, can have more influence over worker actions than the behavioural norms of others
(Barber & Santuzzi, 2015). An example of this is the inclusion of an apology for the delay in responding
to an email, which can suggest a strong implied norm of quick response rates (Barber & Santuzzi,
2015). Workplace norms around long work hours are influenced by several factors.
2.2.1. The Work Commitment Narrative and Behavioural Norms
The revolution in computing and communication has facilitated a trend in a globalised capitalist
culture of competitiveness, where companies are frequently restructuring, downsizing and resizing,
creating an environment of insecure employment whilst simultaneously requiring employees to show
a continued commitment to their work and employers (Padavic et al., 2020; Rao & Tobias Neely, 2019).
The concept of the ‘work devotion schema’, was initially introduced by Blair-Loy and Jacobs (2003),
and reflected the concept of the ideal worker, who had a single-minded commitment and loyalty to
their work, manifested through the prioritisation of work commitments over family responsibilities
(Blair-Loy & Jacobs, 2003; Epstein & Kalleberg, 2004). This physical commitment to work has now
been replaced by the ‘passion schema’, which requires workers to demonstrate their work
commitment through an “intense drive, enthusiasm or even infatuation” with their work (Rao &
Tobias Neely, 2019, p. 3). Unlike the work devotion schema, requiring worker loyalty to the company,
the passion schema encompasses the idea and belief that workers need to find their work
“meaningful, fulfilling and stimulating”, showcasing both a work specific and general life passion (Rao
& Tobias Neely, 2019, p. 2).
Included in this schema, is a subconscious precedent around reliability and the expectation of 24/7
availability, especially amongst professionals and white collar workers (Padavic et al., 2020). ICT that
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
allows workers to connect anytime and anywhere, means work is no longer contained with the four
walls of an office, or within a 9-to-5 role, geographically located away from home (Bergen & Bressler,
2019). It is now located “wherever the individuals take[s] their smartphone, pager, laptop or
smartwatch” (p. 51), whether that is at the office, at home, in transit or on vacation (Bergen & Bressler,
2019). The convenience of this level of connectivity has given workers the ability to be flexible about
where and when they work, but also means that they have the availability to work well beyond the
traditional workday (Bergen & Bressler, 2019).
2.2.2. Face-to-Face Time Bias, Flexibility Bias, and the Gender Narrative
2.2.2.1. Flexibility & Face-to-Face Time Bias
It is not just ICT availability and response times that are subject to workplace norms. Very little
research exists around some work-based norms such as workplace flexibility bias and its impact on
behaviours and health of workers who engage in flexibility versus those who do not (Cech & O’Connor,
2017). Elsbach et al. (2010) noted that there are two types of face-to-face time “dynamic face time”
where workers are engaging in face-to-face interaction in the office and “passive face time” (p. 736)
where workers are seen spending non-interactive time in the office being observed by others ‘doing
work’. Passive face time is often subconsciously used by managers as shorthand to infer personality
traits such as employee responsibility, dependability and dedication (Cristea & Leonardi, 2019; Elsbach
et al., 2010).
Possenriede et al. (2014) noted that face-time bias has a significant impact on those who spend large
amounts of working time working away from the office, but has a limited effect on those who engage
in occasional flexible or remote working. However, those who do engage in part-time or remote work
are subject to a workplace schema that affects their promotability and perceived abilities. This
includes perceived lack of character, discipline, tenacity (Williams et al., 2013) and devotion to the
company (Padavic et al., 2020), and these workers are often considered unworthy of promotion (Blair-
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
Loy & Jacobs, 2003). This has the potential to negatively affect, and cause anxiety among, those who
engage in flexible or remote working (Elsbach et al., 2010) as these employees are less likely to receive
better work projects or enjoy career progression compared to those who spend more physical time in
the office and at specific work events (Cristea & Leonardi, 2019). Another element of face-time bias
manifests amongst those employees without childcare responsibilities who are ‘left in the office’,
feeling that they carry more of the workload and are more committed to work than parents who use
flexible benefits or spent less face-time in the workplace (Bian & Wang, 2019; Kossek et al., 2011).
Those who spend the majority of their time away from the office, or are located remotely, feel that
the only way to directly compete with those able to do extensive in-office face-time is by engaging in
extreme behaviours that continually signal their commitment and dependability to others, especially
superiors (Cristea & Leonardi, 2019). This signalling behaviour includes working longer hours,
attending all meetings and being on all calls, amending schedules on a whim and taking on last minute
projects (Cristea & Leonardi, 2019). The effort required to do this type of signalling over the long term
requires extensive and costly personal sacrifices (Cristea & Leonardi, 2019). This can lead to feelings
of frustration and being ineffective, which can result in feelings of physical exhaustion (Cristea &
Leonardi, 2019). Although there are similarities by gender, the perceptions associated with
teleworkers does differ (Possenriede et al., 2014). These differences will be discussed below.
2.2.2.2. Gender-Bias Perceptions
While more workplaces have embraced greater flexibility around telework for parents (Bianchi &
Milkie, 2010), there are gender differences around work-based expectations, especially regarding
working hours and work commitment (Padavic et al., 2020). Historically organisations have allowed
more flexible benefits for mothers to give them the opportunity to re-enter the workforce (Bian &
Wang, 2019). Mothers who wish to do so, however, are often faced with flexibility stigma and
devotion bias (Bian & Wang, 2019). They are less likely to be promoted (Possenriede et al., 2014) and
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
are more likely to be subject to a belief that they struggle with work-family conflict (WFC) (Hoobler et
al., 2009; Padavic et al., 2020). In relation to this, managers generally perceive that family
commitment and childcare responsibilities are more of a struggle for women than for men, and
women are therefore more likely to experience WFC (Hoobler et al., 2009; Shockley et al., 2017). A
European Working Conditions Survey, however, found that more men (20%) said their work
commitments were incompatible with personal or family commitments compared to 16% of women
found that the two conflicted (Parent-Thirion et al., 2017).
On the matter of productivity, assumptions are often made by both female and male managers that
married women and/or mothers are less productive within the workplace (Hoobler et al., 2009). In
direct contrast to this perception, Shockley et al. (2017) found that women tend to create stronger
boundaries than men between work and family life. They surmised that these stronger boundaries
indicated that women were more “psychologically present in the domain where they physically are
located, regardless of which domain it is” (Shockley et al., 2017, p. 1613). In confirmation of this,
Dumas and Perry-Smith (2018) found that working mothers and/or married women are more
absorbed in their work while in the office due to their obligation to fulfil work tasks within office hours,
whilst anticipating their need to fulfil private commitments and obligations within their private hours.
In addition to the perceived inability to be focussed on and committed to their jobs, mothers are less
likely to be promoted and more likely to hit a ‘glass ceiling’ than single, childless women, as managers
are more likely to view women as incompatible with higher level management positions within the
company (Hoobler et al., 2009). In general females are stereotyped as being emotional, nurturing,
relationship oriented and less committed to their work (Beno, 2019). If mothers, however, do choose
to focus more on work, it signals to others that are they not emotionally absorbed in motherhood and
parenting, and are thereby opening themselves up to being sanctioned as bad mothers (Padavic et al.,
2020). Mothers are therefore often torn between the work-devotion and family-devotion schemas
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
(Padavic et al., 2020), and if they do participate in flexible working practices, they are also potentially
subject to career derailment as a result of reduced face-time in the office.
In a similar way to women, men who engage in flexible working practices, are less likely to receive a
promotion or be allowed employer-paid training (Possenriede et al., 2014). Although both men and
women tend to feel similar levels of distress over long work hours and work-family conflict,
organisations do not recognise the distress and conflict that men can experience (Padavic et al., 2020).
In contrast to women, men are subjected to a different form of work-devotion schema an
expectation to demonstrate family devotion (i.e. being a good husband and father) by being a good
worker and “put[ting] in long hours at work” (Padavic et al., 2020, p. 65). This includes being available
and accessible in the workplace at all times (Ewald et al., 2020). Conflict arises for men due to western
socio-cultural expectations having shifted for fathers, from that of being solely a breadwinner, to
being more actively involved in child rearing (Ewald et al., 2020). From an organisational perspective,
however, any show of the desire for greater involvement in homelife, including demonstrations of
frustration that long working hours may be impinging on family time, invokes its own level of penalties
(Padavic et al., 2020). These penalties include being viewed as gender deviants and not sufficiently
masculine (Berdahl & Moon, 2013). This often means that men set aside their identity and nurturing
needs as a father so they can better fulfil their identity as the ideal worker (Ewald et al., 2020). The
general stereotype of men being competitive, rational and more committed to their careers (Beno,
2019) has an impact on whether or not men take up the option of flexible work, in their attempt to
create a better work-life balance and/or to engage in child-care responsibilities (Ewald et al., 2020).
When men do seek and engage in flexible working practices it is usually assumed to be for reasons of
career advancement rather than for family and childcare responsibilities, reinforcing assumed gender-
based stereotypes (Vandello et al., 2013).
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
In considering genders and flexible working, Vandello et al. (2013) found that women and men placed
equal value on flexible working practices and, excluding financial benefits, valued this above all other
organisational compensation. Even promotional opportunities and the ability to be autonomous
within their roles were not as highly valued as flexible working practices and work-life balance
(Vandello et al., 2013). However, employees who do engage in company programmes or allowances
that help manage the family-work roles, may fear they are signalling to the company that they have
family demands that require outside help, which may influence managers’ perceptions of their
performance (Hoobler et al., 2009) and may lead to being stigmatised as being less dedicated and
having a lower work ethic (Cech & O’Connor, 2017). Additionally, Vandello et al. (2013) found that
men were less likely to seek out work flexibility benefits due to being perceived as less masculine.
Women were more likely to seek these flexibility benefits due to being perceived as less feminine than
if they continued with traditional working hours after the birth of a child (Vandello et al., 2013).
Flexible-work bias not only affects those who directly engage in flexitime, but also those who never
make use of this flexitime, due to cultural assumptions that any time taken to manage personal
responsibilities will have a negative career repercussion (Cech & O’Connor, 2017). Workplace
flexitime bias can lead to overall worker health problems, greater use of sick days, lower sleep quality,
higher depression symptoms and negative work-family spill over (Cech & O’Connor, 2017). This
impacts everyone in the company (Cech & O’Connor, 2017).
2.2.3. Busyness in the Workplace
Another aspect of the work commitment narrative discussed in 2.1.1 above, is that of being seen to
be busy within the workplace. This stems from a subtle undercurrent of workplace expectations that
are prevalent within western culture (Lashewicz et al., 2020) and the notion that “busyness, and not
leisure has become the ‘badge of honor’” (Gershuny, 2005, p. 312). Relatively long working hours are
characteristic of those who are most privileged and placed higher up in society (Gershuny, 2005).
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
Socio-cultural codes have evolved to imply that the fast-paced working life, driven and empowered
by technology, are both positive and expected norms of successful paid employment, especially for
men whose role is still mainly seen as an employee and provider (Lashewicz et al., 2020).
As increased workloads shoehorn time into becoming a scarce and valuable resource, workers no
longer use leisure activities and possessions alone as an indicator of status but now include levels of
busyness as a visible status symbol suggestive of the level of perceived social mobility and success a
worker has achieved (Bellezza et al., 2016). Where workers compete for roles based on the
‘knowledge value’ they bring to an organisation, busyness can be used as a way to signal their scarcity
as a resource (Bellezza et al., 2016). This can help set apart their human-capital value, competence,
productivity and work engagement within a ‘knowledge intensive’ marketplace (Bellezza et al., 2016).
This busyness status is showcased through the amount of time spent doing work versus the time
engaged in leisure activities, how productive and efficient a worker is and the level of satisfaction they
receive from their work (Bellezza et al., 2016).
These workplace norms, synonymous with expectations of greater commitment to work, result in
employees feeling pressurised to work harder to manage work commitments (Landers et al., 1996).
This includes spending more hours at work (Jauch, 2020), staying constantly connected to technology
(Nevin & Schieman, 2020) and responding to ICT at any time (Lashewicz et al., 2020) and from
anywhere (Barber et al., 2019). It results in blurred work-family boundaries through working at home,
skipping meals and quality family time and having to cut back on sleep and personal activities in order
to get the work done (Landers et al., 1996). It also includes giving up personal commitments in order
to manage organisational requirements (Higgins & Duxbury, 2005) such as travelling on weekends to
make early Monday morning or late Friday afternoon meetings (Higgins & Duxbury, 2005).
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
2.2.4. Supervisor and Co-Worker Support
These perceived social pressures and subjective workplace norms to work harder and stay connected
for longer, are strongly influenced by the framing of narratives and actions within organisations. These
may influence working parents’ drive and desire to put in additional hours in private time to fill any
productivity gaps that are perceived around their contribution to team-based activities and overall
productivity levels (Derks et al., 2015; Kossek et al., 2011; Schmoll, 2019). Although colleagues have
a strong influence on the norms and expectations around engaging with work-based communication
after hours, supervisors who are perceived as role models regarding the behavioural expectations of
a team, are particularly likely to influence and set the tone for workplace norms (Derks et al., 2015).
Prescriptive norms have a great influence on workers descriptive norms (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015). It
is important, therefore, for employers and supervisors to set in place policies and work ethics that
encourage better boundary setting practices, thereby giving employees the opportunity to manage
their own work-life balance preferences (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015). Despite these policies being a
good start to help employees monitor ICT during private time it is, however, still supervisor and co-
workers normative behaviour and expectations which play a bigger role in ICT monitoring activities
after hours (Becker et al., 2018).
2.2.5. Job Autonomy and Schedule Control
Workplace norms and the pace of work demands have meant that workers now feel “technologically
tethered” to their workplace at all times (Nevin & Schieman, 2020, p. 2). This inability to disconnect
reduces workers’ autonomy and increases their overall job stress (Nevin & Schieman, 2020).
Autonomy in the workplace is the ability and freedom a worker has to make independent, job related
decisions and to choose how and when the job related tasks gets completed (Allen et al., 2015).
Essentially, it is the ability to have a choice in one’s behaviour rather than having to act contrary to
what one would want to do (Olafsen et al., 2017). In organisations, workers often need to either earn
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
or be endowed with autonomy, whether through seniority, experience or through their professional
capacity (Mazmanian et al., 2013). This autonomy gives workers the ability to have a degree of control
over the decisions or judgements they make in addition to when, where and how they perform their
professional obligations (Mazmanian et al., 2013). Worker autonomy tends to carry with it the weight
and the associated social identity of seniority, encouraging workers to feel indispensable to others,
and with an obligation to meet professional commitments to colleagues, clients and supervisors
(Mazmanian et al., 2013). The seniority and social status synonymous with autonomy can create an
expectation of keeping an eye on project related communications, ensuring the projects are kept
moving forward and subordinates are given continuous guidance and answers (Mazmanian et al.,
2013).
Mazmanian et al.’s (2013) study of professionals found that employees who were given the autonomy
to decide when and where they worked, and how often they monitored email communication, spent
more time using professional ICT in their private time. They would justify these extra hours of unpaid
work by positively rationalising the perceived expectation that others had of them (Mazmanian et al.,
2013). The resulting workplace norms raised expectations and reinforced shared assumptions of
being continuously available, thereby creating a feeling of continuous stress regarding workplace
commitments (Mazmanian et al., 2013). Although Schieman and Young (2013) found that autonomy
and schedule control can help manage worker distress and work family conflict, Mazmanian et al.
(2013) found that autonomy-triggered continuous engagement with email messages amongst
supervisors, team members and subordinates tended to create a shared assumption of normative
behaviour, across multiple levels within a company, implying that employees are potentially reachable
anytime (Mazmanian et al., 2013). Referred to as “The Autonomy Paradox” (p.1), the very flexibility
and freedom granted to workers allowing them the ability to work and engage in professional ICT
anytime and anywhere, can be the very thing that binds workers to the company, their colleagues and
clients every waking hour (Mazmanian et al., 2013).
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
2.3. Individual Differences in Work-based ICT use during Private Time
The use of home-based ICT at work and the adoption of, and engagement with, work-based ICT in
private time (including the subsequent impact this has on the worker and their family) is unique for
everyone. Park and Jex (2011) suggest that work interference into family life is three times more likely
to be due to individual factors than it is for family interference into the workplace. This may be
accounted for by greater external influences such as company policies, workplace norms and worker
boundary management strategies that may influence workers to engage in work-based ICT during
private time (Park & Jex, 2011). There are, however, some common characteristics amongst workers
most likely to use work-based ICT during private time. These are explored below.
2.3.1. Workplace Telepressure
Workplace telepressure is a construct developed by Barber and Santuzzi (2015). It is defined as “the
combination of a strong urge to be responsive to people at work through message-based ICTs with a
preoccupation with quick response times” (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015, p. 172). The concept is based on
the worker’s perception that ICT messages are a synchronous form of communication that needs
responding to immediately, both during business hours and private time (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015).
They suggest, as do Grawitch et al. (2018), that these preoccupations with e-communication response
times are driven by both external and internal factors.
Barber et al. (2019) suggest that workplace telepressure originates mostly from external sources, such
as techno-overload and prescriptive norms where employees interpret expectations of business
norms around response times (Barber et al., 2019) rather than from internal forces such as public self-
consciousness (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015; Oaklander, 2014). External drivers, such as subjective
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
workplace norms, whether explicitly or implicitly communicated, can be influenced by the framing of
narratives and the behaviour of supervisors and colleagues in the workplace, relating specifically to
email response times and after-work availability (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015). Oaklander (2014) has also
observed that although workers do not like being tele-pressured, they do like to telepressure others,
as doing so ensures that others help them to achieve their work objectives faster.
In contrast, Grawitch et al. (2018) found that the internal drivers of “neuroticism, workaholism and
self-control” (p. 317) contributed almost twice the amount of telepressure than external work
demands. Workaholism’s strong association with workplace telepressure is linked to perceived
personal availability, the innate desire to work excessively hard and complete work tasks, suggesting
that this pressure is self-, rather than other-imposed (Grawitch et al., 2018).
Barber and Santuzzi (2015) originally developed the workplace telepressure concept to showcase ICT
response during both work and private time. At the time, it was assumed to influence ICT
responsiveness to the same degree across these two distinct realms (Grawitch et al., 2018). Grawitch
et al. (2018), however, found that workplace telepressure was only associated with email behaviour
during paid working hours, with little evidence of the behaviour occurring during private hours. The
exception to this was where individual differences such as workaholism was present (Grawitch et al.,
2018) and where excessive ICT use during private hours has been directly linked to workaholism
(Schlachter et al., 2018). Subsequent work by others therefore focussed on workplace telepressure
as a behaviour occurring only during working hours (Hu et al., 2019).
A strong correlation, however, was found between workplace telepressure and the inability of
workers to psychologically detach from work after hours, resulting in workers engaging in boundary
crossing behaviours, such as responding to work-related text-messages during private time (Barber et
al., 2019; Barber & Santuzzi, 2015; Hu et al., 2019; Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007, 2015). Linked to this,
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
Sonnentag and Fritz (2007) also found that increased workload and time pressure, both actual and
perceived, made it difficult for employees to psychologically detach and switch off from work and ICT
related workplace demands during private hours. Grawitch et al. (2018) concurred, but found no
direct correlation between workplace telepressure and work-life balance, but instead found that
individual differences and job demands were more strongly associated with boundary crossing and
work-life balance.
2.3.2. Gender Differences in Preferences and Perceptions
The perceived gender roles of men and women in dual income households has evolved substantially
since the turn of the century (Bianchi & Milkie, 2010). Within the first decade, family dynamics
diverged more away from the two parent, two child families (Bianchi & Milkie, 2010). More women
were entering the workforce who had either child or elder care responsibilities (Bergen & Bressler,
2019). More dual-earner and single parent households have resulted in more adults being employed
with less flexibility to fulfil home demands and child care requirements (Bianchi & Milkie, 2010; Kim
et al., 2020). Despite the rising trend of working fathers helping out in childcare and household
responsibilities in the past few decades, the majority of childcare and unpaid work in the home still
falls to the mother (A. Adams & Golsch, 2020; Bianchi & Milkie, 2010; Lyonette & Crompton, 2015).
Having taken on greater financial responsibilities women have, however, tended to reduce the
number of domestic duties they perform (Bianchi & Milkie, 2010). Although men have increased their
household and childcare responsibilities by an extra 6 hours a week, this does not compensate for the
reduced female hours (Bianchi & Milkie, 2010). The remaining household and childcare requirements
have had to be outsourced to professionals or are not being done at all (Craig, 2006).
Even though men have taken on more childcare and domestic responsibilities in recent decades, the
time and level of engagement required to fulfil of these responsibilities differs across genders (A.
Adams & Golsch, 2020; Craig, 2006; Lyonette & Crompton, 2015). Mothers still engage in more
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
domestic and childcare work than men (A. Adams & Golsch, 2020; Lyonette & Crompton, 2015),
spending two to three times longer with their children than fathers do (Craig, 2006). They tend to
shoulder the burden of managing the absolute and physical responsibilities around childcare, which
are often rigid and timebound elements such as meals, bath times, bedtimes, transport to and from
school and extra-curricular activities (Craig, 2006). According to Craig (2006), “mothering involves
more double-activity, more physical labour, a more rigid timetable, and even more overall
responsibility than fathering” (p. 276). Fathers spend more time in passive childcare involving play
and chatter with their children, making paternal care a lot more fun, more ‘time-discretionary’ and
less like work than maternal care (Craig, 2006). They are also more likely to participate in the more
visible household tasks such as cooking and shopping (Lyonette & Crompton, 2015). Although in
general women carry out more housework than men, Lyonette and Crompton (2015) found that for
those households where the female partner was either earning more or working longer hours, the
male partner tended to carry out more domestic duties and take up additional household
responsibilities.
Both female and male genders have found that telework in private time increases stress and fatigue,
as higher job demands often requires extended work beyond normal working hours (Kim et al., 2020).
Berkowsky (2013) found that there was no difference in gender when considering the negative spill-
over of work into home life, and Schmoll (2019) found no gender difference in workers’ intentions to
use ICT during private hours. However, Kim et al. (2020) reported that females experienced more
stress and WFC when they engaged in remote or after hours telework, even though they also reported
greater job satisfaction from flexible working practices. Hammer et al. (2005) also found this and
surmised that it was due to flexible work arrangements allowing women from dual-earner households
to take on more caregiving and household chores, rather than them using flexitime as an opportunity
to catch-up on sleep or engage in more leisure time. Nevin and Schieman (2020) and Shockley et al.
(2017) also found that women experienced higher levels of WFC (due to occupying two distinct roles)
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
and higher levels of guilt and distress when working during private hours, whatever their age or
generational category. This does not seem to be the case with men, even though men did report a
slightly higher time-based WFC (Shockley et al., 2017) and those who do not conform to traditional
norms also feel guilt for not spending enough time with their children (A. Adams & Golsch, 2020).
Shockley et al. (2017) conclude that there is little evidence for any substantial difference between
gender and WFC and that, theoretically, men should experience greater levels of WFC due to their
longer working hours and weaker family boundaries than women. They surmise that the rationale for
the perceptions around gender specific WFC perceptions is that traditionally men and women
occupied one specific role; men as financial provider, women as nurturer (Shockley et al., 2017).
2.3.3. Self-Evaluation Traits: Generalised and Computer Self-Efficacy
Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their own ability to perform successfully in any situation whilst
dealing with, and solving, life’s difficult problems (Cobb-Clark, 2015; Pejtersen et al., 2010). Self-
efficacy, self-esteem (the appraisal of self-worth) and emotional stability (the propensity to remain
calm) together form the basis of Self-Evaluation Theory (Galvin et al., 2018; Johnson et al., 2015). Self-
Evaluation Theory suggests that people tend to act in a way that expresses how they evaluate
themselves, and in turn, how they evaluate and compare their own actions versus those of people
they spend a lot of time with (Tesser, 1985). It also posits that individuals are relatively consistent in
how they evaluate their own abilities, their experiences and their work environment, whether that
view is positive or negative (Galvin et al., 2018). These core self-evaluation traits are considered to
be “the most basic evaluations that people hold, which spill over to influence all other beliefs and
evaluations” (Johnson et al., 2015, p. 1569).
These three core self-evaluation traits are closely tied to the individual trait of locus of control
(Bandura, 1982). Two of these traits, self-efficacy and locus of control (the perceived ability to control
external environmental factors), together constitute a person’s perceived behavioural control (Ajzen,
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
2002; Cobb-Clark, 2015), which forms part of the Theory of Planned Behaviour (Ajzen, 2002). The
Theory of Planned Behaviour has three distinct elements - the belief around the consequences of
behaviour, the belief in the normative expectations of others and the belief in the existence of
elements that either diminish or improve behaviour or ability to perform (Ajzen, 2002). Perceived
behavioural control is based on the perceived ability to control these elements or factors, thereby
giving a person some ability to manage performance and outcomes (Ajzen, 2002). Self-efficacy is
related to the internal ability to control factors or situations and locus of control the perceived ability
to control external environmental factors (Ajzen, 2002; Cobb-Clark, 2015). Those who have an internal
locus of control perceive that they have the ability to control their own future, whereas those with an
external locus of control believe that external, environmental forces are the elements that directly
impact on their future (Galvin et al., 2018; Spector, 1988). Cobb-Clark (2015) makes the additional
point that the combination of these two traits has a direct impact on a person’s ability to apply self-
control and solve behaviour problems when considering the trade-off between short-term actions and
long-term consequences.
Those with a strong internal locus of control, who have high core self-evaluation traits, are more likely
to perceive they have autonomy and control within their role within a work environment (Johnson et
al., 2015; Spector, 1988). They have greater ability to manage their personal resources (Meier et al.,
2008) and are more likely to say ‘no’ to workplace telepressure (Higgins & Duxbury, 2005), having
stronger perceived control over their ability to resist external pressure (Schmoll, 2019). This can help
them manage overall workplace related stress (Schmoll, 2019). These workers are less likely to report
being stressed (Galvin et al., 2018) and more likely to experience high job satisfaction (Johnson et al.,
2015). This could be due to the problem-focussed, behavioural coping strategies that those with
strong internal locus of control are more likely to adopt when handling stress (Galvin et al., 2018).
Conversely, those with a strong external locus of control are more likely to see themselves as victims
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
of current and future circumstances, playing a passive role in future events and the outcomes they
will achieve (Galvin et al., 2018).
Those who are high in the self-efficacy trait, are more optimistic about their ability to cope with and
manage life’s many stressors (Schwarzer et al., 1999). The beliefs people hold around their own self-
efficacy are “developed based on four sources of information: previous experience, observation of
other’s experiences, verbal persuasion, and affective arousal” (p. 3) and are related directly to their
previous behaviour and how well they have performed in the past (Barbeite & Weiss, 2004). Self-
efficacy has also been shown to have a strong link to detachment strategies. Clauss et al. (2020) found
that workers with higher self-efficacy are more likely to psychologically detachment from, and less
likely to worry about, work during private hours. For those that did monitor emails during private
hours, Becker et al. (2018) found that doing so affected their work self-efficacy through their
overinvestment of attention in ICT and inability to therefore adequately fulfil private roles - which
facilitated negative thoughts, leading to stress and anxiety.
Computer self-efficacy, a specific type of self-efficacy, is a worker’s belief in their own capabilities in
computers, that has a “significant influence on individual’s expectation of the outcomes of using
computers, their emotional reaction to computers (affect and anxiety), as well as their actual
computer use” (Compeau & Higgins, 1995, p. 189). ICT is a rapidly evolving medium, requiring
constant adaptation to and familiarisation with new innovation, technology, platforms and software
upgrades (Mesquita et al., 2020; Schlachter et al., 2018). Along with these innovations, many
companies often embrace new technologies and software so as to streamline and optimise
productivity, capacity and team functioning. Email is no longer the only form of computer mediated
communication that can impact on employee stress, as there is often a need to use multiple media
channels, that can be both distracting and have an impact on overall concentration levels (Braukmann
et al., 2018). These multimedia channels can also include instant messaging and audio-visual
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
conferencing (Stich et al., 2017). This compounded innovation and digitisation require those working
with, and alongside, technology to engage in continual personal and technological competency
development, adapting working practices to embrace and engage with ongoing innovations and
improvements.
Those with limited confidence in their computational ability may experience low performance on
computer-based tasks (Barbeite & Weiss, 2004). Not having the digital competencies required to
perform a job function can become a barrier for those already in the marketplace, not just for those
hoping to enter it (Mesquita et al., 2020). Inappropriate levels of technical and IT resource support
can also lead to a worker experiencing low levels of job satisfaction (Allen et al., 2015). Even for those
employees familiar with ICT, having to use media that is not appropriate to the task when
communicating with others, or having to use technology that their co-worker prefers to use or that
they are reluctant to use can lead to heightened feelings of frustration (Stich et al., 2017).
2.3.4. Age, Life-stage, Family Status and Generational Impact
Those seemingly most affected by ICT related stress, burnout and mental health issues are middle-
aged employees between 35-45 years old (Berg-Beckhoff et al., 2017). As stress tends to dissipate in
older age ranges, the assumption is made that stress is often due to the middle-aged group being most
likely to be juggling both a young family and career progression concerns (Berg-Beckhoff et al., 2017).
This middle-aged lifespan, however, falls across two theoretical generations: Millennials, currently
aged 20-40 years old and Generation-X, currently aged 40-55 years old (Clark, 2017) and does not
consider the variances in responsibilities and commitments required by working parents with children
of different ages. Allen and Finkelstein (2014) found that the greatest level of work interference with
family life, amongst dual income households, occurs for families with children under the age of 5 and
only starts declining when the youngest child is between 6-12 years old. They also point out that older
workers are less likely to encounter negative work spill-over into family life, and surmised that this
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
was due to their changes in temperament and becoming less swayed by work stressors as they age
(Allen & Finkelstein, 2014).
Although women are more likely to juggle work around the demands of their family, the extent to
which they do so varies across family stage (Allen & Finkelstein, 2014). Both male and female genders
tend to engage with, and are motivated by, work at different life stages, depending on their family
responsibilities (Allen & Finkelstein, 2014). With the ebb and flow of family life and variance in
children’s ages, peak periods of work interference for men and women differ based on family
responsibility across the family life span (Allen & Finkelstein, 2014). For example, during teen years
fathers are more likely to feel greater interference as children become more independent,
autonomous and require greater involvement from parents in ferrying them from one activity to
another (Allen & Finkelstein, 2014).
2.3.5 Personality Traits
Although personality factors are only moderately correlated to workplace telepressure, there are
some nuances in personality factors associated with telepressure and telework (Barber & Santuzzi,
2015). Those higher in public self-consciousness and low in self-control were more likely to experience
workplace telepressure whereas those higher in extroversion and conscientiousness are less likely to
experience telepressure (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015). Workers who lack internal self-control and self-
discipline also find it difficult to segment their work and life realms (Köffer et al., 2015).
Those who are more conscientious, being more disciplined and more able to stick to a work schedule,
are more likely to work more efficiently in engaging with homebased telework (Demerouti et al.,
2010). Openness to new experiences, including adapting to new ways of working such as telework,
can translate into these workers being more engaged and better able to adapt to any changes in
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
working practices (Demerouti et al., 2010). Those high in neuroticism find the use of work-based ICT
in private time to be a predictor of emotional exhaustion (Thörel et al., 2020).
When it comes to ICT use, extroverts are more likely to engage in writing and receiving text messages
(Ünal et al., 2016). They spend more time making and receiving calls and spend more time using
applications related to office use, their calendar, finance, social networking, music, video and games
(Ünal et al., 2016). Extroversion was found to be negatively related to productivity (Ünal et al., 2016).
Extroverts are more likely to feel burdened by workplace telepressure - having to respond quickly to
both private and work-based ICT (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015). They may also find remote work to be
more stressful, as they are more likely to miss having face-to-face contact with colleagues (Demerouti
et al., 2010) which by implication would be much better suited to introverts.
From the literature discussed above, it can be surmised that several bespoke individual characteristics
can play a part in how workers engage with both professional and personal ICT. These individual
characteristics, in combination with current and evolving workplace norms, will determine the
segmentation strategies the worker chooses to adopt and the boundary blurring behaviour they
engage in. These segmentation strategies and boundary blurring behaviour are discussed below.
2.4. Permeable Boundaries and the Blurring of Work-Life Realms
2.4.1. Boundary Theory and Boundary Blurring Behaviour
As previously discussed in Section 2.1., flexible working practices and the ubiquity of ICT has
completely changed the way knowledge-based work is conducted. It has resulted in the traditional
boundaries between work and home becoming a lot less fixed (Towers et al., 2006). Work now exists
whenever and wherever mobile devices are used for work purposes, permitting work to gradually
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
encroach into workers’ private lives (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015; Tonet, 2019). Even though these flexible
working practices can be presented as a company benefit, the “always-on” culture can turn the
“flexible work boundaries” into “work without boundaries” (Becker et al., 2018, p. 3) leaving workers
with an inability to escape from work (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015).
Creating and maintaining these boundaries are a socially constructed part of human behaviour (Allen
et al., 2015; Yang et al., 2019). The concept of boundary theory, developed by Ashforth et al. (2000),
is the extent to which individuals choose to psychologically transition between distinctive domains or
life roles that have a particular meaning for an individual, such as work (e.g. worker, supervisor) and
home (e.g. parent, spouse). Boundaries can be “physical, temporal, emotional, cognitive and / or
relational limits that define entities as separate from one another” (Ashforth et al., 2000, p. 474).
Boundary blurring behaviour has both positive and negative effects. These effects can differ,
depending on the worker’s willingness and desire to either segment or integrate their work and
private domains (Ashforth et al., 2000; Köffer et al., 2015). High segmentation and high integration
each have costs and benefits around the development, maintenance and blurring of the roles
associated with each boundary (Ashforth et al., 2000). Yet, neither is viewed by Köffer et al. (2015) as
better or worse than the other. Conflict may arise if there is a mismatch between organisational
norms and individual preference to segment or integrate work and life (Köffer et al., 2015).
For those who do wish to segment their work and private lives, Tonet (2019) found that intermittent
ICT use in private time, and the expectation of availability by superiors, can lead to short-term stress,
but not to longer term exhaustion and reduced professional efficacy synonymous with burnout. Hu
et al. (2019), however, found that for those who would rather segment work and private life, engaging
with ICT based work during private time correlates with negative physical and psychological outcomes,
including lack of recovery time from work and work-family conflict. Thörel et al. (2020) also found
that, for those with high segmentation preferences, the use of ICT for work purposes during private
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
time is a predictor of emotional exhaustion. These workers can struggle to juggle the individual roles
they take on for each domain (Shockley & Allen, 2007). This can lead workers to feel they are unable
to adequately fulfil both work and personal roles, resulting in a lack of rest, recovery and some mental
health issues (Messenger, 2019).
Those who prefer the integration of their work and private lives are significantly less likely to feel
emotional exhaustion when using work-related ICT during private hours (Köffer et al., 2015). They
view ICT as the ability to engage in a better work-life balance, as they can address work-based issues
when it does not interfere with family time (Duxbury et al., 2014). Integrators are also less likely to
experience work-to-family conflict (Yang et al., 2019). Integration preferences are individualistic and
can be either strong or weak, with many recognising that they need to put some boundary
management strategies in place to ensure a good work-life balance (Köffer et al., 2015).
2.4.2. Boundary Management Behaviours
Boundary management strategies, which can be either physical or mental borders, are a worker’s way
of organising their roles into distinct work and private realms (Kossek et al., 2006). Although each
worker has an individual preference for the level of synthesis or delineation that the demands and
expectations of differing life roles have on them (Kossek et al., 2006), ICT use in private time is not
fully autonomous, conscious or voluntary (Schmoll, 2019). It is socio-culturally constructed and an
individually developed, maintain0ed and evolving ideal of work-life integration (Hunter et al., 2019).
Boundary management behaviours combine individual habits, intentions and attitudes towards ICT
use in private time with the perceived pressure from both supervisors and colleagues within the
workplace (Schmoll, 2019). These segmentation preferences shape attitudes towards work
connectivity behaviour outside of work, which in turn influences behavioural intention (Schmoll,
2019). Intention is directly affected by habit strength, and attitude is directly related to segmentation
preferences when it comes to ICT use in private time (Schmoll, 2019).
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
For both segmenters and integrators, the ability to self-regulate with regard to maintaining boundary
control, and the ability to set work limits, is an important competency within knowledge-intensive,
flexible working environments (Mellner et al., 2015). Employees who are able to implement good
boundary management strategies i.e., being able to effectively segment or integrate their roles, will
affect to what extent flexible or remote work is able to enhance productivity and work-life balance
(Demerouti et al., 2014). Giving employees the autonomy and flexibility to customise their own work
schedules and location of work, can empower workers with the ability to better juggle both work and
family commitments (Leung & Zhang, 2017). Given too much autonomy, however, employees are
likely to spend more time on work-based activities during private hours, thereby reducing the amount
of time spent with family (Mazmanian et al., 2013). Wajcman et al. (2008) also inferred that flexible
working does not help with being able to better juggle family responsibilities, but in fact makes it more
difficult for families to synchronise their schedules.
For those workers who engage in remote work at home, the more practical demarcation between
work and home such as drive-time, the physical distance of work from home and the presence of work
colleagues are removed (Allen et al., 2015). Having undefined beginning and end timings to work
domains, and having a much more fluid workday, means that workers feel that work never stops,
leading to longer working hours and allowing for a greater risk of boundary blurring behaviour (Allen
et al., 2015; Beno, 2019; Demerouti et al., 2010, 2014). These overstretched working hours are
facilitated by ICT connectivity and the checking of emails after working hours (Allen et al., 2015). This
is especially the case for employees who experience higher levels of workplace telepressure during
working hours, as they are more likely to give in to urges and engage in frequent email responding
behaviours in private hours (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015).
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
The same ICT that gives workers freedom and autonomy to manage conflicting domains, has also
added pressure to those who find themselves juggling numerous roles, and being liable to
interruptions by family and friends during allocated work hours (Demerouti et al., 2014). Those who
work from home are more likely to encounter inter-role conflict through distractions and interruptions
as they regularly switch between their work and home roles (Allen et al., 2015). Employees with
higher integration strategies tend to have greater family to work conflict (Kossek et al., 2006), whereas
having a clear delineation between work and home can help to aid recovery from the energy required
to fulfil work responsibilities and manage the uncontrolled interruptions synonymous with ICT
(Demerouti et al., 2014).
2.4.3. Psychological Detachment and Segmentation Strategies
Psychological detachment strategies, a concept introduced by Sonnentag and Fritz (2007), refers to
the process of not thinking about, or disengaging from, work or work-related activities or issues during
private hours. This detaching process allows the cognitive functioning systems, engaged during the
working day, time to rest and recover (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007, 2015). Constantly thinking about work
during private time, ruminating on negative experiences during the day and working during private
time to prepare for the following day, keeps the strain level of the worker elevated, which can even
continue until the following day when the worker starts work again (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2015). The
inability to psychologically detach, or stop thinking about work, after hours means that employees are
not able to escape from paid work during private time (Barber et al., 2019). In contrast, higher levels
of psychological detachment during evenings and weekends helps to mitigate the impact of work-
based job stessors on the worker (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2015). This mental break from work stress
reduces any negative impact of the worker’s role - such as anxiety, psychosomatic complaints and
poor wellbeing (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2015).
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
Ironically however, job stresses, and workload in particular, are a strong predictor of low detachment
which in turn, is an antecedent of strain, lack of job recovery, low work engagement, low life
satisfaction, emotional exhaustion and poor health (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2015). After hours work emails
seem to be the biggest offender at reducing psychological detachment and are associated with higher
levels of work rumination (Braukmann et al., 2018). Employees tend to be mentally preoccupied with
potential incoming messages, and therefore feel pressure to stay online (Van Laethem et al., 2018).
Directly linked to work email checking, work-related smartphone use during private hours can also
hamper the ability to psychologically detach from work, irrespective of the amount of workplace
telepressure experienced during the course of a working day (Van Laethem et al., 2018).
For those knowledge workers who work remotely, some may find telework isolating (Demerouti et
al., 2014). These workers can feel motivated to ruminate about work, and engage with ICT during
private hours as a way of engaging with colleagues and feeling a sense of accomplishment regarding
the work itself (Barber et al., 2019). Lower detachment from work, however, leads to role blurring
(Braukmann et al., 2018). This has a direct impact on the time spent recovering from physical,
emotional and cognitive exhaustion (Barber et al., 2019). It also has the most detrimental impact in
terms of WFC (Braukmann et al., 2018). Additionally low detachment results in poor sleep quality and
exhaustion in the longer-term (Barber et al., 2019; Braukmann et al., 2018; Hu et al., 2019). This can
have a negative effect on employees’ overall impaired wellbeing and physical health, leading to issues
with burnout (Barber et al., 2019; Hu et al., 2019).
Generally, employees default to not putting segmentation and detachment strategies in place, unless
they realise that they need to so (Kossek & Lautsch, 2008). Those that do come to this realisation, can
find it difficult to implement these strategies (Sonnentag, 2011) in addition to struggling to maintain
them (Kossek & Lautsch, 2008). Some strategies and coping mechanisms that workers use to manage
their stressors and responsibilities can be negative such as working harder, reducing activities
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
outside of their personal and workplace domains and reducing the amount of sleep they get (Higgins
& Duxbury, 2005). Alternative, more positive, strategies include better time management (Higgins &
Duxbury, 2005), relaxation, and skills mastery experiences and control (Demerouti et al., 2010;
Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007) and employing professionals to do the household chores (Higgins & Duxbury,
2005; Meier et al., 2008). Relaxation can differ across individuals and include reading, listening to
music, and generally engaging in activities that require limited social demands and limited physical or
cognitive challenges (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007). Mastery experiences such as learning a new language
or skill that is not overly cognitively taxing, or the playing of a sport, can build new internal resources
and skills, and increase positive mood (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007). Lack of control during leisure time,
is negatively associated with depression in women and depression and anxiety in men (Sonnentag &
Fritz, 2007). Personal control over leisure time, however, is directly associated with positive feelings,
improved self-efficacy and feelings of competency (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007).
2.5. Private Time ICT Use
Leisure time autonomy (Demerouti et al., 2010) and improved management of personal resource
allocation can help workers make better choices about how they may spend their time and energy
during work and private time (Grawitch et al., 2010). Leisure activities and home-based commitments
can, however, be both labour intensive and highly demanding, requiring almost professional project
management skillsets and strategies (Ciolfi & Lockley, 2018). Most people occupy many roles within
their lives that are both personal and professional (Higgins & Duxbury, 2005). Parents in particular
take on multiple personal roles, responsibilities and pursuits that sometimes require complex and
regular communication commitments that are integral to being parents, partners, children, siblings
and friends (Dumas & Perry-Smith, 2018). In contemporary society, “being a good community and
family member is increasingly linked to one’s ICT use to stay frequently connected and informed of
what is happening in your personal life, and continually updating others” (Major & Burke, 2013, p.
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
254). Included in this is a family’s ability to ‘micro-coordinate’ their lives to allow for family events
and activities to be spontaneously arranged, and for families and friends to maintain intimacy and
contact while not being physically present (Wajcman et al., 2008). Finding time to manage these
relationships is especially challenging when children are present within the household (A. Adams &
Golsch, 2020). Besides family responsibilities and commitments, and despite having limited leisure
time, working parents may also have pursuits outside of their work and families (Dumas & Perry-
Smith, 2018) such as hobbies and club membership, also requiring regular forms of communication.
2.5.1. Technology use at Home during Private Time
The management of private time activities, and communication amongst all their relationships, is
mostly achieved by parents through the use of ICT (Ciolfi & Lockley, 2018; Taylor et al., 2018). In 2018,
95% of UK households owned a smartphone (O’Dea, 2019), up from 80% mobile phone ownership in
2007 (the year Apple launched its first iPhone) and 44% mobile ownership at the turn of the century
(O’Dea, 2019). Although 25% of users say technology has made them feel overloaded and made their
life more complicated (Connell, 2012), parents often use technology to make their lives easier
(Connell, 2012). They manage their work, home-life and leisure activities in complex ways that span
their various domains, with technology being perceived as ‘lifelines’ in helping them keep on top of
workloads and commitments (Ciolfi & Lockley, 2018). Digital media has become an integral part of
family life that is often intertwined and interspersed with numerous leisure and task driven activities
(Taylor et al., 2018). These include cooking, reading, shopping, engaging in hobbies, organising
holidays, coordinating family activities (Taylor et al., 2018), sending and receiving emails (95%),
engaging with news (72.5%), using online tools such as banking (59.7%), sending and receiving text
messages (58.9%) and reading e-newsletters (41.4%) (Connell, 2012).
For parents with adolescents, family-based smartphone use regularly involves communication with
one another via smartphones (Ortner & Holly, 2019). Although the applications used to communicate
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
differs by family, technology is used to exchange basic practical information, keep track of each other’s
whereabouts and arrange family matters such as dinner times and arrival times back home (Ortner &
Holly, 2019). This constant communication, for both parents and children, strengthens the feelings of
safety, connection, intimacy and commitment (Ortner & Holly, 2019). For mothers, this constant
connectivity is perceived as part of their responsibility to be permanently available for their children,
in case of emergency or if they need help as a way of compensating for the physical separation
occurring during the day (Ortner & Holly, 2019) and is considered a form of intimacy when the ability
to physical connect is limited (Wajcman et al., 2008).
For parents with children still in education, teacher and school communication is an additional source
of regular technology-based communication. Many schools are now encouraging a continuous
connection and engagement between teachers and parents through technology use (Olmstead, 2013;
Patrikakou, 2015), moving away from letter based, slower communication to a more efficient system
via school websites, text messages (Melo, 2018) and social media platforms (Addi-Raccah & Yemini,
2018). It is suggested by Tyson (2020) that parental non-engagement with children’s schooling has an
adverse impact on children’s academic performance showcasing that regular parent-teacher ICT
engagement via text message, FaceTime and email was an effective way of engaging and monitoring
their child’s academic performance.
2.5.2. Technology use at Home for Work Purposes
Almost every employee in western society has the ability to access work-based emails via a
smartphone (Van Laethem et al., 2018). According to Smith (2012), almost half of those who own a
smartphone are constantly checking their emails, even if they have not received a notification, and
sleep with their phone next to their bed so they do not miss any calls or updates. This constant pre-
occupation with checking incoming messages during waking hours, in addition to the use of ICTs for
unpaid work in the evenings and on weekends (Messenger, 2019), is done in order for the worker to
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
feel that they are coping (Collins et al., 2015; Thornton et al., 2014). This means that employees are
always available (Mesquita et al., 2020), and have greater opportunity to become distracted by social
media and news feeds (Schwarzmüller et al., 2018). Even when remote workers understand the
potential disadvantages of flexible telework, they choose to engage in it anyway due to the benefits
it provides and the lifestyle choices it allows (Messenger, 2019).
Workers who are supplied with work-based devices are more likely to engage with work after hours,
than are those who use personal devices to access work-based ICT during private time (Richardson &
Benbunan-Fich, 2011). This is due to the implied workplace norm signalling around the need to
conform to a subjective norm, and an obligation to work from home during private time (Richardson
& Benbunan-Fich, 2011). Company supplied laptops and mobiles are used in slightly different ways.
Mobiles are likely to be used more often than laptops, as mobiles allow workers to rapidly review and
respond to communications and are primarily used for calls, emails and text-based message
communication (Richardson & Benbunan-Fich, 2011). Laptops are more likely to be used for a wider
range of activities including engaging with documents, answering emails, replying to instant messages
and internet browsing (Richardson & Benbunan-Fich, 2011). Regardless of the technology used, most
monitoring of emails and work-based communication takes place during traditional downtime, such
as commuting, travelling and waiting, rather than during more active periods such as dinner with
friends and while with their family (Richardson & Benbunan-Fich, 2011).
2.5.3. ICT Layering and Multiple Device Use
Prior to the widespread availability and use of smartphones, Wajcman et al. (2008) reported that the
majority of mobile phone use in private time was not work-based. Only around 30-40% of workers
made between 1 to 3 work calls during private time, in contrast to 90% of workers who engaged with
their mobile for private communication use (Wajcman et al., 2008). Improvements in technology and
the rise of the smartphone has allowed more people to use ICT for work-purposes during private time
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
(Collins et al., 2015). Workers tend to use differing strategies with technology to separate out home
and work ICT use (Rudnicka et al., 2020). This includes shutting down work-based software or using
different devices for work and private use, such as a laptop for work and a laptop for home, in order
to create a delineation between the two realms (Rudnicka et al., 2020). In his work on Digital Nomads,
Cook (2020) noted that workers use their laptop mostly for work-based tasks, as a form of delineation
between work and private activity. The mobile phone, however, is mostly associated with private
related activities such as “sociality, leisure, family, friends and distraction” (Cook, 2020, p. 369).
Whatever technology is used for work-based ICT in private time, it will still have some impact on the
worker, their family, and the organisation they work for.
2.6. Impact of ICT use in Private Time on the Worker, the Family, and the
Organisation
In the mid 2000’s, Kossek et al. (2006) lamented that for many professionals the workplace had been
moved into the home for at least part of the working week. Workers, managers and their families had
not, however, developed “new social, cultural and structural systems to delineate roles and effective
coping strategies, supports, and expectations” (Kossek et al., 2006, p. 364). The integration and
segmentation strategies that workers develop play a part in the degree to which work engagement in
private time affects them (Kreiner, 2006). How work-based ICT use by the worker during private time
can negatively impact them, their family, and the organisation they work for is explored below.
2.6.1. Strategies for Segmentation and Detachment
The blurring of boundaries between work and private time does not affect workers and their families
in the same way and to the same degree (Derks et al., 2016). What is most important for workers’
wellbeing, is their ability to implement their preferred segmentation style, thereby controlling the
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
flexibility and integration of work and private time (Kossek et al., 2006). The level of control they are
allowed, tends to significantly moderate the relationship between work-related ICT use, levels of WFC
and health related outcomes such as depression (Kossek et al., 2006; Thörel et al., 2020).
Segmenters who would prefer a strong delineation between work and private life are more likely to
experience work-related conflict when work-related ICT infiltrates their family time (Derks et al., 2016;
Thörel et al., 2020). Integrators who choose to have a more permeable boundary by integrating work
and private time, do so in order to improve their family life (Derks et al., 2016). Rather than having to
work late in the office, employees work at home during the evenings, allowing them to spend more
time at home and be physically available for their family and fulfil home-based responsibilities (Derks
et al., 2016). Accessing work-based emails on smartphones, for those who preferred a work-life
integration strategy, therefore, helps increase feelings of coping (Collins et al., 2015).
Either way, creating boundaries between work and home can facilitate perceptions of control of work-
home interruptions, viewing actual boundary crossing as more of a resource for optimising workload
rather than a demand on private time (Barber & Jenkins, 2014). This can be because those with high
psychological detachment who structure their ICT use during specific, allocated times during private
hours, experience less negative impact of working during private hours (Barber & Jenkins, 2014).
2.6.2. Impact of Boundary Blurring on the Family
Most workers struggle to create a good balance between work and private hours, each experiencing
this balance in a different way and to a greater or lesser degree (Derks et al., 2015). Work-family
balance is “the degree to which an individual is able to simultaneously balance the temporal,
emotional and behavioural demands of both paid work and family responsibilities” (Hill et al., 2001,
p. 49). In contrast, work-family conflict (WFC) is defined by Greenhaus and Beutell (1985) as “a form
of inter-role conflict in which the role pressures from the work and family domains are mutually
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
incompatible in some respect” (p. 77). This conflict can be time or strain based, or it can be based on
behavioural demands between the work and family domains that are incompatible (Ghislieri et al.,
2017). Employees who prefer an integrated approach to boundary blurring, and those who work in
environments where integration norms are low are more likely to have reduced WFC (Gadeyne et al.,
2018). Those workers who have a more permeable boundary between home and work tend to
experience greater WFC as a result (Derks et al., 2015).
With quality time and attention being one of the most cherished elements of good relationships,
constant email monitoring means workers are faced with an attention-allocation dilemma (Becker et
al., 2018). Both parents and children use their smartphone during times together, regularly engaging
with their phone to look something up, reply to a message, call or take a call from someone (Ortner &
Holly, 2019). However, the use of a smartphone during family time by either, has negative
consequences such as being mentally absent, demonstrating a lack of attention and having lower
levels of responsiveness and respect for others in the room (Ortner & Holly, 2019). Endeavouring to
simultaneously juggle work and life through voluntarily engaging in work-based ICT in private time,
thereby giving only partial attention to family members, is noticed and reproached by the family
(Schlachter et al., 2018). The reduced amount of quality time spent on relationships, not only directly
impacts on the e-anxiety (electronic communication-related anxiety) levels of workers themselves,
but also has a negative impact on the anxiety levels of their significant others and can contribute
towards conflict (Becker et al., 2018).
Using ICT for work in private time not only negates the spending of quality time with the family (Leung
& Zhang, 2017; Schlachter et al., 2018), but also reduces the ability to meet obligations at home,
leading to anxiety and stress (Bergen & Bressler, 2019). It can also hamper the ability of workers to
pursue other life interests, which can lead to tension and strain amongst employees (Bergen &
Bressler, 2019). Barber and Santuzzi (2015) also found that workplace emails received during private
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
hours, tended to trigger anxiety, which negatively affected the health and relationship quality of
workers and their significant others. Work-life conflict is related to marriage stress, relationship
difficulties between children and parents, and child developmental problems (Bergen & Bressler,
2019). The issues around the impact of boundary blurring on the worker will be explored further in
Section 2.6.3. below.
2.6.3. Impact of Boundary Blurring on Worker Wellbeing
2.6.3.1. After Hours Workload, Cognitive Overload and Resources Recovery
The increases in information available to modern employees, both within the work area and at home,
means that workers are constantly exposed to higher levels of psychological demands and cognitive
functioning (Hakanen & Bakker, 2017; Olafsen et al., 2017). Intense smartphone users, who continue
to engage with work during private hours, drain energy resources during, what should be, recovery
hours (Demerouti et al., 2010). Mobile contact with work in the evenings and weekends creates a
constant state of cognitive activation, connectivity and availability that does not allow workers enough
time to recover from the effects of work, and can lead to greater levels of depression, fatigue and
burnout (Messenger, 2019). Additionally, interruptions from notifications create ‘open windows’
requiring competing attention resources, which can impact on employees’ physical and mental state
(Becker et al., 2018). Not allowing enough time to mentally recover during private time leads to an
acceleration of the process of physical fatigue, through an accumulation of lost energy that increases
risk factors associated with cognitive fatigue and burnout (Demerouti et al., 2010; Hakanen & Bakker,
2017).
The Job Demands-Resource model is a balance between an employee’s resources available to do the
job and the resources demanded to fulfil the role (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007). This model suggest
that prolonged engagement with work leads to a reduced capacity to emotionally, cognitively and
physically recover from the effort extended during the working day (Barber et al., 2019). Long hours
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
are part of these job-demands, as is the ability to voluntarily control ICT use and psychologically detach
from work during private hours (Schlachter et al., 2018). Even occasional remote working creates a
perceived increase in workload for the employee which has a negative impact on individual
performance (Messenger, 2019). Additionally, only a small amount of contact with work in private
time, especially if it is irregular contact with supervisors, can lead to issues related to psychological
detachment including emotional exhaustion, fatigue, burnout and absence from work (Messenger,
2019; Thörel et al., 2020).
The process of not psychologically detaching from work in private time and not allowing sufficient
time to restore depleted energy levels is referred to as the Effort Recovery Model (Hu et al., 2019;
Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007). The premise behind the Effort Recovery Model is that substantial effort is
required at work to get a job done, which increases cognitive functioning associated with stress during
working hours and a return to pre-stress levels in private hours (Demerouti et al., 2010). If full
recovery does not happen, the worker may start the following day in a suboptimal condition and need
to invest additional effort to compensate for lower levels of performance (Demerouti et al., 2010).
This translates into “higher levels of emotional exhaustion, turnover attention and absenteeism over
time” (Olafsen et al., 2017, p. 282).
In line with this, the Stressor-Detachment Model suggests that a lack of psychological detachment
leads to lower health and well-being (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2015). This is due to stresses that were
experienced during the working day continuing to be ruminated upon during private hours, even
causing some workers to continue to work in private time, thereby maintaining high strain levels
(Sonnentag & Fritz, 2015). Workers with high job stress are those most in need of post work recovery
(Sonnentag & Fritz, 2015). High levels of strain can cause fatigue, anxiety and impact on sleep,
resulting in the worker being unable to recover from both physical and psychological stresses
(Sonnentag & Fritz, 2015). This strain may even continue well into the morning with the worker
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
starting the next working day with elevated stress levels and a heightened sympathetic nervous
system, which can lead to heightened allostatic load and increased fatigue (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015;
Sonnentag & Fritz, 2015).
2.6.3.2. Boundary Blurring Behaviour and Segmentation Preferences
The ubiquitous pervasiveness of ICT means that workers are contactable at any time by their
colleagues (Berkowsky, 2013). Additionally, organisational expectations around email monitoring
during private time allows for these micro-transactions with work, keeping workers in a work-based
mindset, making them feel infinitely tethered to the company and ‘stuck’ in their work-based domain
role (Becker et al., 2018). The constant checking of work-based ICT can be implicit in boundary blurring
behaviour and can impact on negative spill-over between the two areas (Berkowsky, 2013). Although
employees have the ability to switch off their device, filter their emails and let calls go to voicemail
(Derks et al., 2015), just short of a fifth of workers actually turn their phone off during private time
(Wajcman et al., 2008), thereby not creating the boundaries that are necessary for managing a positive
balance between work and family life activities (Derks et al., 2015).
Issues around boundary blurring are exacerbated when job pressure is high, but minimised when
workers are given more autonomy and control over scheduling their workload (Schieman & Young,
2013). Schieman and Young (2013) speculate that schedule control and autonomy in work may reduce
post-work rumination and, therefore, sleep issues. For those workers who have limited autonomy
and are unable to act on their own discretion around voluntary after-hours ICT use and unpredictable
work contact, can feel as though they are always on-call (Schlachter et al., 2018). This perceived
expectation of needing to be ‘always on’ is associated with higher stress levels and a reduced ability
to recover from work, leading to fatigue (Schlachter et al., 2018).
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
It is, therefore, critical for workers to be able to mentally detach from work during leisure time, to
avoid becoming fatigued and experiencing other negative health symptoms (Sonnentag, 2011). It is
in the creation of strong boundaries between work and home, and therefore the ability to
psychologically detach from work, that has the greatest impact on sleep quality, quantity and
consistency for the worker (Barber & Jenkins, 2014). Even those workers who do integrate work and
home activities through remote working and flexi-time are not negatively affected by sleep
disturbances if they are able to create strong boundaries between the work and home domain, and
psychologically detach from work-related activities during private time (Barber & Jenkins, 2014). How
integrators and segmenters manage their detachments strategies can influence their mental recovery
process (Park et al., 2011). This can significantly predict the level of fatigue, both at bedtime
(Sonnentag & Bayer, 2005) and the next morning (Sonnentag et al., 2008). It can also help workers
manage positive emotional resources, and can help prevent long-term psychological strain and
burnout (Nasharudin et al., 2020).
2.6.4. The Effects of Stress and Burnout on the Individual Worker
As has been discussed in section 2.6.3, workers need time to recover during private hours, in order to
reverse the impact of daily work demands and stress, so that they are able to be productive and
engaged each day (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015). Employee stress is an integral part of modern workplaces
in the West (Grawitch et al., 2010), as a result of increases in work-pace, interruptions and
multitasking behaviour directly associated with ICT use (Chesley, 2014). This can culminate in
employees, who engage in repeated workplace smartphones use on a regular basis during private
hours, being exposed to long-term work-related stress (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015). They are not able
to experience the recovery that they need and struggle to adopt necessary re-energisation strategies
(Demerouti et al., 2010). This continued exposure to work-related stress results in a build-up of health-
related outcomes (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015) and higher levels of somatic symptoms such as
unaccountable physical illness, headaches, chest pain and abdominal pain and can result in emotional
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
exhaustion, absenteeism (Olafsen et al., 2017), cynicism and reduced professional efficacy (Hakanen
& Bakker, 2017). There are not many things that stress people out as much as work does, especially
when it denies workers the time and availability to spend on other life activities they enjoy doing
(Bergen & Bressler, 2019). Having an imbalance between work and life can also lead to negative health
outcomes such as a poorer quality of life and decreased life satisfaction, psychological strain,
depression, anxiety, and alcohol abuse (Bergen & Bressler, 2019).
Workplace burnout is an explicit state of physical or emotional exhaustion that involves a sense of
reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity (Wayne et al., 2019). A large proportion of our
workforce may be suffering from this type of emotional and physical distress as a result of increasing
imbalance between job demands and employee resources (Wayne et al., 2019). Becker et al. (2018)
point out that employees are not always aware that they are heading toward burnout, but over time
indications are that the e-anxiety resulting from excessive email monitoring in private hours can have
detrimental effects on the worker, their significant other and their family. In their analysis of a number
of studies on burnout, Hakanen and Bakker (2017) link burnout with slowly increased workplace job
demands and negative private life events. They suggest that the “first visible signs of burnout may
actually emerge in one’s private life, because of the lack of energy to respond to the needs of close
ones and lack of recovery during nonworking time” (Hakanen & Bakker, 2017, p. 358). This means
that those workers who were most burned out, first experienced stress in their private lives as a result
of reduced time spent with the family, which then exacerbates depleted energy reserves from both
their work and their private lives (Hakanen & Bakker, 2017). Allen et al. (2000) also noted that not
being able to effectively manage work-life balance increases the conflict between work and family life,
which has a negative impact on physical and mental health and on psychological stress and burnout.
When looking at stress and burnout in the workplace, Freedy and Hobfoll (1994) found that social
support, both at home and at work, was a “basic building block for mastering environmental
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
demands” (p. 322). This was especially the case for workers, particularly women, who have significant
responsibilities both at work and at home (Freedy & Hobfoll, 1994). They found that those most
vulnerable to the negative impact of stress were those low in personal resources and positive social
input (Freedy & Hobfoll, 1994). This is confirmed by Hakanen and Bakker (2017) who suggested that
stress-related burnout is not just a consequence of work-related factors and life events, but depends
on “levels of resource losses and gains depending on age, generation and life stage” (p. 361). They
also found that work and family conflict was positively associated with burnout and that there are
often problems at both work and in the home (Hakanen & Bakker, 2017).
2.6.5. The Impact on the Organisation
Faced with greater challenges to manage and organise available information, increased workload
demands and higher role expectations, employee stress levels have been on the increase
(Schwarzmüller et al., 2018). Technology use for work purposes during private time means that
employees are less likely to detach psychologically from work, relax and recover from the effort they
put in during the working day. Lower recovery levels lowers productivity during the workday and
increases workplace telepressure (Hu et al., 2019). Workplace telepressure and the subsequent use
of workplace technology within a private domain, leads to a continuous lack of recovery from work
stressors and lower sleep quality over time, which has the potential to lead to burnout in the long-run
(Derks et al., 2015; Hu et al., 2019). Lack of recovery from work can also lead to poor job performance,
increased levels of sickness and health related absenteeism (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015; Hakanen &
Bakker, 2017). It can also lead to presenteeism, which involves workers being physically present in
the organisation, but being either physically or mentally unwell and can be a direct consequence of
workplace burnout (Wayne et al., 2019). Workers need restorative sleep in order to reduce work
fatigue and engage in optimal cognitive functioning during the working day (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015).
In the UK in 2013, the cost of stress, anxiety and depression-related presenteeism was estimated to
be £737 per employee per year (Hassard et al., 2014). NHS Scotland predicts that between a third and
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
two thirds of absenteeism from work is stress related (Hassard et al., 2014). An official government
survey found that one in three absences at work were stress and anxiety related (Hope, 2013). These
organisational impacts were evident before the mandatory working from home order that was
introduced in March of 2020.
2.7. Covid-19, Lockdown 1.0 and the Remote Working Mandate
On the 11th March 2020, the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a global pandemic (WHO,
2020). On the 23rd of March 2020, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced to the UK public that
they were to stay home. The Covid-19 enforced lockdowns of 23 March 2020 required every
knowledge worker to work from home until early August 2020 (see Appendix A: UK Lockdown 1.0
Timeline). This resulted in a mandatory shift of all knowledge workers, who were not furloughed, to
move to a home-based remote teleworking environment (Kniffin et al., 2020). This mandate fast-
tracked the growing trend of remote working (O’Dwyer, 2020). In 2019, only 5% of the workforce said
that they mainly worked from home and less than 30% had ever worked from home (Office for
National Statistics, n.d.). In April 2020, those working from home had risen to just over 43% (Felstead
& Reuschke, 2020) and seems to have worked so well that is has created a shift in norms and
perceptions around remote working amongst UK knowledge workers. So much so that UK workers
had the lowest percentage of those planning on returning to work after the mandate was lifted during
late summer of 2020, with only 1 in 3 physically returning to work during these months (Mikhailova,
2020). Some research reported that 88% of UK workers who engaged in remote working during
Lockdown 1.0 wanted to work from home to some degree in the future (Felstead & Reuschke, 2020).
YouGov (2020) found this to be a much smaller percentage (57%) of workers wanting to continue to
work from home either all or some of the time, with only 39% wanting to work in the office all the
time. Initial indications suggest that some businesses are planning on moving to a hybrid team model,
with more employees having the opportunity to work from home going forward (Farrer, 2020).
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
2.7.1. The Unequalled Division of Additional Home Labour
During Lockdown 1.0, parents who were not key workers were faced with the closure of all nurseries,
schools, colleges, and universities. This resulted in working parents juggling childcare and schoolwork
requirements in addition to continued work commitments. Parents therefore needed to divide their
day between work, home, and childcare responsibilities. Despite fathers almost doubling the amount
of both passive and active childcare during lockdown, the division of childcare and housework
between mothers and fathers still asymmetrical in nature (Sevilla et al., 2020). Mothers spent 47% of
their day, versus 30% of the father’s day, juggling paid work and childcare (Sevilla et al., 2020).
Mothers were also interrupted 50% more than fathers (Sevilla et al., 2020). Regardless of whether or
not either had lost their job, mothers were most affected by the shift to mandatory telework (Adams-
Prassl et al., 2020; Manzo & Minello, 2020). Having to spend significantly more time than men on
childcare and home schooling (Adams-Prassl et al., 2020), they also shouldered a greater burden for
household chores (Sevilla et al., 2020). Reports on the averages of hours spent on childcare, home
schooling and household chores differs across reports. Sevilla et al. (2020) suggest that mothers took
on over 2 hours more active and passive childcare than fathers, whereas Adams-Prassl et al. (2020)
suggest that women averaged over 3.5 hours on childcare and just under 2.5 hours on home schooling,
whereas men averaged just under 2.5 hours on childcare and just under 2 hours on home schooling.
The ‘male-breadwinner’ model mostly prevailed during Lockdown 1.0, with mothers carrying the
greatest burden of managing childcare and home care whilst juggling work calls and trying to meet
work deadlines (Manzo & Minello, 2020). Mothers with young children worked primarily while their
children were asleep, before they woke, during their afternoon nap and at night (Manzo & Minello,
2020).
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
2.7.2. Disparities in Ability to Work from Home
Highlighted by the UK work from home if you can’ mandate were the differences in the ability to work
from home by gender during the spring and summer of 2020. On average 41% of women had been
able to work from home compared to 46% of men (Adams-Prassl et al., 2020). Although education
levels played no part in the ability of workers to work from home (Adams-Prassl et al., 2020), those
who were most highly paid, had higher skills and living in London and the South East were more likely
to be remote working at home (Felstead & Reuschke, 2020) indicating that the percentage of work
that can be done from home is the main indicator of the ability to do so (Adams-Prassl et al., 2020). In
a case study analysis of the impact of digital information during China’s lockdown period, Pan et al.
(2020) found that those who were young and middle aged were easily able to learn and adapt to
working online using collaborative office software. The challenge for the younger respondents was
around the distractions synonymous with apps and online content (Pan et al., 2020).
Research conducted in 2020 by the USA company Slack (the team collaboration based online tool)
found that knowledge workers new to remote working struggled to adapt to remote working, which
potentially exacerbated issues relating to workers’ sense of belonging and satisfaction with their work
overall (Slack, 2020). New remote workers were twice as likely to struggle with the amount of
communication needed to coordinate with others and find the information they need to do their jobs
(Slack, 2020). They were also more likely to be distracted and less productive than experienced
remote workers (Slack, 2020). Evidence also suggests that remote video meetings were more
exhausting for employees than face-to-face meetings (Slack, 2020). Not all knowledge workers were
able to work remotely such as if their role required them to be physically present in the workplace to
do their work or if they did not have the proper tools and technology at home to complete their work.
This was also the case if the company did not provide them with the right equipment or the ability to
connect to the workplace (Slack, 2020). They also struggled if they were unable to take company
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
equipment home and therefore had to use their own technology without the levels of support needed
to do so (Rudnicka et al., 2020).
2.7.3. Setting of Boundaries and Identities in the Home Working Environment
During Lockdown 1.0 workers have needed to reconfigure their concept of ‘work-place’ and how they
operate and negotiate social relationships between colleagues, supervisors and those living in their
home (Ciolfi et al., 2020). Workplaces differ by worker, with some having been able to adapt an
already comfortable, well-connected environment, while others have needed to juggle a makeshift
and uncomfortable environment within the home alongside unreliable technology and connectivity
(Ciolfi et al., 2020). Overall, remote working that was synonymous with Covid-19 came with a number
of unique challenges for workers, including steep learning curves, techno-stress, an overuse of
technology, excessive screen-time, difficulty disengaging from work at the end of the day (Herath &
Herath, 2020), sharing a home-office space with partners and children and difficulty sticking to work
routines (Richter, 2020). The boundaries between work and home-life became a lot thinner due to
parents needing to simultaneously juggle home and work responsibilities (Richter, 2020), making it
more difficult to manage a good work-life balance (Herath & Herath, 2020).
2.7.4. Impact of Lockdown 1.0 on Remote Working
Although Lockdown 1.0 in 2020 was a historically unique experience in the form of a global pandemic,
where all workplaces except essential front-line services were closed, the forced ‘work from home if
you can’ mandate seems to have forever changed the perceptions around remote working for hiring
managers, managerial mindsets on productivity and employee collaboration of remote workers and
hybrid teams (Ozimek, 2020; Richter, 2020). Workers have become more adaptive at using digital
technology and new ways of connecting and working (such as video conferencing) and are able to
embrace more flexible working practices (Richter, 2020). However, not being physically seen by
managers in the workplace has meant workers feel they need to demonstrate their physical presence,
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
and improved productivity, by spending more time online and communicating more with colleagues
and supervisors (Richter, 2020). A third of managers found that productivity amongst workers
increased and, overall, the remote working ‘experiment’ has gone much better than expected
(Ozimek, 2020).
It is likely that post the Covid-19 pandemic, with many socio-cultural and technological barriers around
remote working having been removed, that the number of those remote working will be much higher
than in the pre-Covid-19 era (Eurofound, 2020). There are benefits for many, such as improved
productivity and work-life balance (Felstead & Reuschke, 2020), but there may also be negative
implications, such as mental health issues and work impinging detrimentally on private time,
especially when no physical boundaries exist between the two realms (Eurofound, 2020). With over
a year of national lockdowns and working from home, expectations and behaviours will have shifted.
How this has shifted, and to what extent, is yet to be investigated.
2.8. Summary of Key Literature and Proposed Tri-Factor (+ Covid-19) Remote
Working Model
An analysis of previous literature revealed that research conducted in the area of work engagement
in private time focussed on disparate, yet interlocking, themes that sought to understand the
antecedents or impact of ICT use amongst full-time knowledge workers (Allen et al., 2015; Cijan et al.,
2019; Ciolfi & Lockley, 2018; Powell et al., 2019; Schlachter et al., 2018). These themes are
represented in a proposed Tri-Factor Remote Working Model, which was developed for the current
study, by drawing together these key areas of available literature. The Tri-Factor Remote Working
Model showcases how each research theme discussed in the literature review above may contribute
to understanding the overall impact that remote working may have on an individual, full-time,
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
knowledge worker and their family. It is important to note that although each worker may be
impacted by some or all the antecedent elements, to some degree or another, the level of impact will
be individualistic and in line with their bespoke work, personal and life circumstances.
Research in this area, however, had historically focussed on the minority of knowledge workers and
professionals in the UK who were engaged in remote and flexible working prior to Covid-19 (Felstead
& Reuschke, 2020). The ‘work from home if you can’ mandate of 23 March 2020 (that coincided with
Lockdown 1.0) dramatically changed how and where most knowledge workers fulfilled their job
functions. This may have shifted how the antecedent and negative factors of remote working
contributed to levels of stress, anxiety and burnout for remote workers. To represent the potential
impact of the mandate across the three main themes of the Tri-Factor Remote Working Model, ‘Covid-
19 and Lockdown 1.0’ (including remote working, childcare and home-schooling) was overlayed onto
the model. This resulted in the proposed Tri-Factor (+ Covid-19) Remote Working Model (see Figure
1 below). This model represents a way in which to examine the complex factors that interact with
each other and showcases how each research theme may contribute to understanding the overall
impact that remote working may have on an individual, full-time, knowledge worker and their family.
Some aspects of this model will be the core focus of the current study.
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
Figure 1: ICT Impact on Work-Life Balance: Proposed Tri-Factor (+ Covid-19) Remote Working
Model
Summarised below are key elements of the overlapping themes discussed in the Literature Review
and represented in the Tri-Factor (+ Covid-19) Remote Working Model (Tri-Factor Model) above,
including suggestions on how each element and theme interlinks.
Three main factors influence a worker that engages in work related ICT use during private time. The
first of these is the pervasive and ubiquitous use of technology and ICT amongst knowledge workers
over the past two decades, which allows workers to effectively conduct their work anywhere, anytime
(Messenger, 2019) (see section 2.1). ICT has allowed this shift in how knowledge work is conducted,
both within the workplace and at home in the form of remote work during both paid and private time
(Felstead & Reuschke, 2020; Messenger, 2019). The ICT tools and applications used by knowledge
workers within each company differs, however, and the underlying cultural norms and expectations
that permeate work-based ICT use during paid and private hours seems to be consistent across the
literature, suggesting an ingrained universal business culture around ICT use (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015;
Derks et al., 2015) (see section 2.2). These ICT-based norms overlap with more traditional cultural
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
norms and expectations, especially for working parents (Bianchi & Milkie, 2010; Padavic et al., 2020).
Both genders, for example, face their own set of biases and expected norms within the workplace and
around remote working; mothers are expected to be more committed to their family (Beno, 2019;
Bian & Wang, 2019) and fathers more committed to their work (Ewald et al., 2020; Padavic et al.,
2020). The level of autonomy and job control an employee has over when and where they work can
impact on the ability to manage both personal and professional life in a more balanced way but can
also, paradoxically, raise expectations by others of continuous availability for work (Mazmanian et al.,
2013).
The second main factor is the individual characteristics and differences of the knowledge worker and
the bespoke circumstances that make up their environment (see section 2.3). The combination of
individual differences is unique to each knowledge worker (Park & Jex, 2011). A few of these individual
differences are explored within this study including family life-stage (Allen & Finkelstein, 2014; Berg-
Beckhoff et al., 2017), level of self-efficacy (Becker et al., 2018; Clauss et al., 2020) and level of
computer self-efficacy (Compeau & Higgins, 1995). Also explored as part of workers individual
differences is the type of detachment strategy that the individual worker has developed to separate
their working life (both psychologically and physically) from their home life (Barber et al., 2019;
Sonnentag & Fritz, 2015). Since Lockdown 1.0, this has become a particularly important element
within a worker’s ability to recover from the working day and allow enough time for individual and
family pursuits and responsibilities (Dumas & Perry-Smith, 2018; Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007) (see section
2.4). The level and type of boundary blurring that a worker engages in (i.e. the amount and frequency
of work-based ICT use during private time) that contradicts the workers preferred segmentation
strategy, has a direct positive or negative impact on the worker and their family (Barber et al., 2019;
Braukmann et al., 2018).
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
The third main factor is the amount and frequency of the technology and applications use that the
remote worker engages with for both private (Ciolfi & Lockley, 2018; Major & Burke, 2013) and work-
based tasks during their private time (Messenger, 2019) (see section 2.5). This includes how
technology and applications are used to manage the work-based and home-based relationships and
fulfil the tasks and obligations that are inherent for each role the working parent occupies (Rudnicka
et al., 2020) and how that directly impacts on the worker and their family (see section 2.6) (Bergen &
Bressler, 2019). The move to remote working during Lockdown 1.0 created a new dimension to the
use of ICT and how parents juggled their work and home life around housework, childcare, and paid
work obligations (Sevilla et al., 2020) (see section 2.7). The use of ICT for work and home relationship
management and task completion during Lockdown 1.0 was an integral part of this study, as the ‘work
from home if you can’ mandate completely changed the dynamics of the workplace overnight (Adams-
Prassl et al., 2020). This change potentially had the greatest impact on knowledge working parents,
who needed to manage work and personal ICT use (including their own levels of self-efficacy and
computer self-efficacy), underlying workplace norms and biases, their own individual differences
(including their own personal segmentation strategy and the boundary blurring activities they were
engaging in) and the implications of work time spilling over into their private lives during Lockdown
1.0.
2.9. Study Rationale, Research Questions and Hypotheses
Research around the use of technology and ICT in the case of natural disasters such as floods, tsunamis
and earthquakes has typically focussed on the use of technology to facilitate the flow of information
surrounding the disaster (Pan et al., 2020). Research on the use of technology and information flow
during a health crisis such as a global pandemic is scarce (Pan et al., 2020). Research has not yet
considered the extent to which either natural disasters or health crises impact directly on knowledge
workers and remote work. Additionally, the unprecedented event of UK education facilities being
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
closed for extended periods of time, such as that which occurred during Lockdown 1.0, and the result
this had on working parents’ ability to simultaneously manage work and home-related responsibilities
in exceptional circumstances had not been researched.
Studies on ICT use outside of working hours are dispersed across a number of semi-related disciplines
and focus on different aspects of ICT use including motivations and impacts (Schlachter et al., 2018).
Research around stress and burnout in the workplace itself has investigated a number of antecedents
relating to ICT use amongst knowledge workers. Stress and burnout is often considered to be one of
the main fall-outs of a high-stress, cut-throat business environment (Wayne et al., 2019). Parents,
especially mothers’ ability to successfully manage their work and home responsibilities depends on
the level of family responsibilities (Allen & Finkelstein, 2014) and how they manage their work and
personal ICT usage during private time (Messenger, 2019).
Within the literature review, section 2.8 draws together research outlining some of the key aspects
around ICT use amongst knowledge workers that have been linked to stress and burnout, especially
amongst working parents. Section 2.5 outlines parents extensive use of ICT both for personal and
work-based use during private time. Considering this, it is important to examine the context of Covid-
19 and the resultant ‘work from home if you can’ mandate associated with Lockdown 1.0. In addition,
it is important to understand the effect this would have had on ICT use and the potential impact on
parents’ stress levels. In particular:
Research Question 1: To what extent does parents’ frequent use of work-related and home-related
technology and tools in managing work and home tasks during private time impact on their work-life
balance and stress levels?
Hypothesis 1: Parents who frequently use both home and work-related technology during private
hours are more likely to feel an imbalance between their work and home life.
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
Hypothesis 2: Parents who frequently use home and work-related technology during private hours
are more likely to have higher stress levels.
More needs to be understood about the nuances around the use of ICT, and how that contributes to
stress and burnout amongst knowledge workers, especially amongst middle-aged parents who are
shown to experience higher levels of stress than younger or older workers (Berg-Beckhoff et al., 2017).
Berg-Beckhoff et al. (2017) assumed that higher stress levels amongst middle-aged workers were due
to needing to manage burgeoning careers and home-based responsibilities, but suggested this needed
future research. Although the objective of this study does not strive to compare generations or age-
groups, it does strive to understand what impact ICT may have on stress and burnout within middle-
aged knowledge workers with children in various developmental stages (as discussed in section 2.3.4).
The two developmental stages included in this study are ‘Childhood’ (children aged 0 – 12 years old)
and ‘Adolescence’ (children aged 13 18 years old). Therefore, the following research question and
hypotheses are proposed:
Research Question 2: Does the developmental stage of the child play a role in working parents’ ability
to manage work life balance and stress and perceived burnout?
Hypothesis 3: Parents of younger children will be less able to manage a positive work-life balance.
Hypothesis 4a: Parents of younger children are more likely to experience higher levels of stress.
Hypothesis 4b: Parents of younger children are more likely to experience higher levels of perceived
burnout.
Levels of autonomy, computer self-efficacy and psychological detachment strategies are important
mitigators in a worker’s ability to manage their productivity and levels of stress and anxiety, especially
when working remotely (Mazmanian et al., 2013; Mesquita et al., 2020; Sonnentag & Fritz, 2015).
Although research has been conducted around these mitigating factors and the knowledge worker in
general (see section 2.2), no research has been conducted around working parents and how these
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
factors impact on their ability to manage their work-life balance and overall stress levels. Therefore,
the following research question and hypotheses are proposed:
Research Question 3: To what extent can work autonomy, computer self-efficacy and psychological
detachment strategies influence parents’ ability to manage their work life balance?
Hypothesis 5: The greater the level of work autonomy, the more a working parent is able to manage
a positive work-life balance.
Hypothesis 6: The higher the level of computer self-efficacy a working parent has, the more likely they
are to be able to manage a positive work like balance.
Hypothesis 7: Working parents who try to employ psychological detachment strategies are more likely
to manage a positive work life balance.
The overarching aim of this research is to add to the current body of literature, within the field of
Cyberpsychology, on the use of work and home-based ICT and technology during private time, and
how this may impact on work-life balance, stress, anxiety and burnout amongst knowledge worker
parents.
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
Chapter 3: Methodology
3.1. Research Design and Study Variables
The study addressed workplace and personal ICT use during private hours and the impact thereof on
work-life balance, stress and anxiety, and burnout. To address the objectives of the study, a
quantitative, cross-sectional survey was designed and conducted via the online survey platform Jisc.
This study covered the initial UK COVID-19 lockdown period (Lockdown 1.0), which began in the UK
on 23 March 2020 and continued into the summer school holidays with the easing of some restrictions
over the summer period. The study ended just prior to the start of the tighter restrictions imposed
during the second lock-down period which began in the Autumn of 2020.
With the Research Questions and Hypotheses presented in section 2.9.1 above, the Dependent
Variables of the study are: Spill-over/Work-life Balance, Stress and Anxiety, and Total Burnout. The
Independent Variables are: Participant Gender, Participant Age, Life Stage (i.e. the developmental
stage of children within the household), Self-Efficacy, Computer Self-Efficacy, Personal ICT Use in
Private Time, Work-based ICT Use in Private Time, Job Autonomy, Job Control, Segmentation Strategy
and Boundary Blurring. The main aim of this correlation study was to explore the extent to which the
independent variables predicted the dependent variables (described further in section 4.2).
3.2. Participants
To ensure firmer conclusions can be drawn from the data, key inclusion criteria were developed for
the study. Participants were required to be married or cohabiting in order to be comparable to
previous studies that included cohabiting parents who are full-time knowledge workers parents
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
(Borgh et al., 2018; Daipuria & Kakar, 2013). At least one child within the household needed to be
under the age of 18 years old - either still at school or pre-school. This is because the study was
specifically interested in working parents and previous research has shown that children in the
household seems to be an antecedent to stress and anxiety at this life stage (Berg-Beckhoff et al.,
2017). Participants were also required to be working full-time to ensure a consistent marker for the
amount of time available in private hours to manage home and childcare responsibilities. Participants
needed to be in a role where they used ICT as a large part of their job, to ascertain what impact ICT
use in private time had on levels of stress and anxiety, and perceived burnout. Finally, participants
were required to be residing in the UK as Covid-19 Lockdown 1.0 regulations differed by country,
depending on the geographic spread of the virus and number of cases.
A total of 101 working parents, based in the UK and who used ICT on a regular basis, both for work
and personal use, completed the survey. Four participants were removed from the dataset. Three
participants were removed due to not meeting the inclusion criteria (one participant was a single
parent; one participant worked part-time; one participant did not have any children under the age of
18) and one did not provide full consent for participating in the survey. An a-priori G*Power
calculation for the main analyses of the multiple regression with 6 variables at the lower end and 12
at the higher end (effect size .15, alpha .05, power .8) indicated that a sample size of between 98-127
participants was required. A total of 97 participants were included in the final data analysis. While
this is slightly below the required sample size to achieve power and the results should be interpreted
with caution, the study is exploratory and involved stringent inclusion criteria. Therefore, the findings
are still valuable in shedding light on the topic of interest for a specific sub-set of working parents in
the context of the COVID-19 Lockdown 1.0.
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
Participants (see Table 1) were relatively evenly distributed between males and females with most
being married and in full-time employment. The mean age of participants was 43.7 (SD = 5.86). Further
demographic details are available in Table 1.
Table 1: Participant Demographic Information
Female
Male
Total
Participants
n = 55 (56.7%)
n = 42 (43.3%)
n = 97
Age
30 - 39
n = 18 (18.6%)
n = 8 (8.2%)
n = 26 (26.8%)
40 49
n = 31 (32.0%)
n = 24 (24.7%)
n = 55 (56.7%)
50 59
n = 6 (6.2%)
n = 10 (10.3%)
n = 16 (16.4%)
Marital status
Married
n = 45 (46.3%)
n = 38 (39.2%)
n = 83 (85.6%)
Cohabiting
n = 10 (10.3%)
n = 4 (4.1%)
n = 14 (14.3%)
Family Life Stage
Childhood
n = 45 (46.3%)
n = 32 (33.0%)
n = 77 (79.4%)
Adolescence
n = 10 (10.3%)
n = 10 (10.3%)
n = 20 (20.6%)
Working Status
Employed Full Time
n = 54 (55.7%)
n = 38 (39.2%)
n = 92 (93.9%)
Self-Employed
n = 3 (3.1%)
n = 4 (4.1%)
n = 7 (7.2%)
Managerial Level
Senior Manager
n = 13 (13.4%)
n = 9 (9.3%)
n = 22 (22%)
Middle Manager
n = 14 (14.4%)
n = 22 (22.7%)
n = 36 (37.1%)
First Level Manager
n = 13 (13.4%)
n = 5 (5.2%)
n = 18 (18.6%)
Non-Managerial
n = 15 (15.4%)
n = 6 (6.2%)
n = 21 (21.6%)
3.3. Data Collection and Procedure
All data was collected between Friday 19th of June 2020 and Friday 9th of October 2020. A combination
of convenience sampling and snowball sampling was used to reach as many of the participant target
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
population as possible. Some personal contacts were emailed or messaged directly and social media
posts advertising the study were shared by both business and personal connections.
A one-minute talking-heads video was developed. The video included the researcher introducing the
survey, informing participants of the inclusion criteria, assuring them of their anonymity in completing
the survey and highlighting their right to withdraw at any time (see Appendix B for a link to the video
and video script). The video was developed for the sole purpose of advertising the study and was
therefore uploaded onto YouTube to make it easy to distribute via social media. The use of a short
video potentially made it more efficient for relevant participants to access initial information about
survey aims and participation criteria. Participants were all recruited through a social media post
uploaded onto the researcher’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter social media accounts.
The social media post advertising the study included an embedded link to the YouTube video and a
link that redirected the participant directly to the online survey. When the participant clicked on the
link to the survey, they were taken to an information sheet. They were then required to indicate their
consent to participate in the survey by ticking several consent-related statements before they were
directed to the beginning of the survey.
None of the questions within the survey were compulsory, giving participants agency over their level
of engagement and participation. The survey was divided into four sections. The first section collected
demographic data including the number and age of children within the household. The second section
collected information about the level and scope of both personal and work-based ICT use after hours
in addition to their perceived computer self-efficacy. The third section established the participants’
level of boundary blurring activity. The fourth section measured the levels of stress and burnout the
participant felt during the previous month. All quantitative items were measured using Likert scales
(see section 3.4 below). At the end of the survey, participants were taken to a debrief page, where
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
they were given a full debrief of the survey and links to mind.org.uk and psychologytoday.com
websites if they felt affected by any of the issues raised in the research (see Appendix C for more
details).
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
3.4. Measures
In addition to relevant demographic information, a summary of the main scales of the survey can be
found in Table 2 below. The measures are discussed in full in the subsequent section.
Table 2: Summary of Variables and Survey Scales Used
Variable Used
Original Scale Name and Source
Private and work-based technology and software
used in private time
Developed by the researcher
Computer Self-Efficacy (an individual’s belief in
their own capability with computers)
Computer Self-Efficacy Measure (Compeau &
Higgins, 1995)
Schedule Control during Covid-19 Remote
Working
Based on the Schedule Control scale (Schieman &
Young, 2013)
Job Autonomy (general freedom to decide when
and how job gets done)
Job Autonomy (Nevin & Schieman, 2020)
Spill-Over/ Work-Life Balance (level of
engagement with work during private time, to
the detriment of time spent with the family and
on home-based responsibilities)
Work-Life and Technology Use survey regarding
spill-over (Berkowsky, 2013)
Boundary Blurring (the extent of active
engagement in ICT in private time)
Work-Family Role Blurring (Schieman & Glavin,
2016)
Segmentation Strategy (personal segmentation
vs integration strategy)
Boundary Management Strategy (Kossek et al.,
2006)
Self-Efficacy (ability to solve problems and handle
unexpected events)
Health and Wellbeing: Self-Efficacy (Pejtersen et
al., 2010)
Stress and Anxiety
Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen et al., 1983)
Perceived Burnout (personal and work-based
burnout)
Copenhagen Burnout Inventory: Personal Burnout
and Work-Related Burnout (Kristensen et al.,
2005)
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
3.4.1. Demographics
Data was collected to determine key demographics of participants. These included gender, age and
marital status. They were also asked to indicate the number of children and the age of the children
within their household i.e. their family life stage. This was to ensure family stage was not used to
assume the age of the participant or vice versa, as Allen and Finkelstein (2014) pointed out, “family
stage is not simply a proxy for age” (p. 376). Additional occupational demographic information
collected included working status, current occupation, the number of employees in their organisation
and their managerial level.
3.4.2. Private and work-based technology and software used in private time
Frequency and type of home-based and work-based ICT use during a working week were included as
previous research does not, to the researcher’s knowledge, include the wide range of technology
platforms and communication tools that are currently available. Additionally, no research was found
to date that separates out and establishes which platforms and tools are used among working parents,
who are knowledge workers, and the extent to which they use ICT tools and technology for both
personal and work communication during private time.
Two identical sets of questions were asked regarding participants home-based ICT use and their work-
based ICT use. The home-based ICT use question was, ‘How frequently do you use each of the
following for home-based activities and communication during non-working hours?’ An identical
question was asked for work-based ICT use, i.e. ‘How frequently do you use each of the following for
work-based activities and communication during non-working hours?’ Response options for both
included ‘Not applicable’ (0), ‘At least once a month’ (1), ‘Less often than once a week’ (2), ‘At least
once a week’ (3), ‘Most days’ (4) ‘At least every day’ (5).
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
The range of platforms and tools listed for both home-based ICT use (first set of questions) and work-
based ICT use (second set of questions) were identical. The difference between the two sets of
questions was that the word ‘Work’, replaced the word ‘Personal’ in all applicable instances within
the second set of work-based ICT related questions. This is illustrated here with the work-based
questions (from the second set of questions) being included in brackets. ‘Personal Computer or
Laptop’ (‘Work Computer or Laptop’), ‘Personal Smart Phone’ (‘Work Smart Phone’), ‘Personal Tablet’
(‘Work Tablet’), ‘Email’, ‘Social Media’, ‘Search Engines’, ‘Video Conferencing’, ‘Messaging’, ‘News
Feeds’, ‘Word and Data Processing’, ‘Image Processing’, ‘Project Management’, ‘Blogging/Websites’.
This scale was included as it investigates the range and intensity of ICT use for both work and home
during private time. The scores for home-based ICT use in private time and the scores for work-based
ICT use in private time were added up to indicate a total score. The higher the score for each, the
higher the use of technology for home and work during private time. Some items within the scales
were sourced from current literature on ICT use e.g. emails (Braun et al., 2019) and video conferencing
(Richter, 2020). The majority of the items used within this measure were based on the technology
and applications used by the researcher and associates within the researcher’s knowledge worker-
based business networks.
3.4.3. Computer Self-Efficacy
In measuring computer self-efficacy, the aim was to understand how confident a person felt in relation
to computer and related software use. Compeau and Higgins’ (1995) Computer Self-Efficacy Measure
was developed and validated amongst Canadian managers and professionals who operated as
knowledge workers. The scale validation study included 1,020 responders who were mostly male
(83%) with an average age of 41 years. The original scale included an initial question asking the
participant if they could complete a job using a software package if there was someone giving them
step by step instructions. They were to answer either yes or no to this question. This initial item was
excluded from the current study. The assumption was made, in this study, that the participant would
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
be answering this part of the question, by implication, through the choice within the following
question, i.e. how confident they were in using IT. The Likert scale used to measure the level of
participants’ confidence in their use of ICT ranged from ‘not confident’ (1) to ‘moderately confident’
(5) to ‘totally confident’(10). All 10 items from this part of the original scale were included. An
example of an item is ‘I could complete the job using the software package if there was no one around
to tell me what to do as I go’. Responses were summed to indicate the strength of computer self-
efficacy. The original and current Cronbach’s Alpha for this measure were both .95.
An open-ended question was included to ascertain whether participants’ confidence in IT had changed
during the Lockdown 1.0 period. The question ‘Thinking about your use of Internet Technology and
software since the lockdown period began, how has your confidence in the use of work-based
IT changed?’ sought to understand if enforced remote working had improved participants’ confidence
in their ability to manage work-related technology. This open-ended question potentially established
if being ‘forced’ to engage with IT software, without the in-person support of other team members or
IT department, could increase or decrease a participant’s confidence with IT use, and therefore
potentially impact on levels of stress. The data obtained for the open-ended question was optional
for participants and was not analysed by any strict qualitative analysis but was designed to be grouped
thematically for inclusion in the results section for added context to the main findings. Despite this
question being optional, all but one participant (99%) answered the question (n = 96). The open-
ended answers were grouped into quantitative answers, as the majority of the qualitative answers did
not elicit detailed responses. Participant answers were categorised as ‘Less confident’, ‘Has not
changed’, ‘Not much change’, ‘More confident’ and ‘Much more confident’. The wording used for
these categories was chosen from the most used participant phraseology of those who fell within each
group.
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
3.4.4. Schedule Control during Covid-19 Remote Working
Schedule control was measured using the single schedule control question from Schieman and
Young’s (2013) study. The original study sample size of 5,729 Canadian workers included 48% women
and 52% men. The average age was 40 years old. A total of 53% worked in a for-profit business and
27% worked as professionals. This scale was taken directly from Schieman and Young’s (2013) study
and was included to establish the participant’s ability to control their own work schedule. Schedule
control may determine the ability to positively manage the balance between the demands of both a
person’s work and home lives. The question asked was ‘How much control do you have in scheduling
your work hours?’. The response options included a 5-point Likert scale ranging from: ‘None’ (1), ‘Very
Little’ (2), ‘Some’ (3), ‘A Lot’ (4) and ‘Complete Control’ (5). The original scales grouped participant
responses into three contrasting areas. These groupings were, low level of control for those
responding ‘None’ or ‘Very Little’, participant responses for ‘Some’ or ‘A Lot’ were grouped as having
moderate control and those responding ‘Complete Control’ were grouped as having a high level of
control over their schedule.
3.4.5. Job Autonomy
Nevin and Schieman’s (2020) three item Job Autonomy scale was included to measure participants’
overall job autonomy. The original study sample included 4,570 full-time Canadian workers over the
age of 18 who were either self-employed or working in a paid job. An example item included ‘It is
basically my responsibility to decide how my job gets done’. Response options were measured on a
4-point Likert scale from ‘Strongly Disagree’ (1), ‘Disagree’ (2), ‘Agree’ (3) to ‘Strongly Agree’ (4). The
higher the score, the greater the degree of autonomy the individual has within their role. Along with
the ability to schedule their work, the ability to decide how their work gets done and the level of
control an individual has over what they do within their role may give them a greater ability to manage
any stress and demands that correspond with the responsibilities their role within the company
demands. The scale was therefore included to understand the level of correlation job autonomy may
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
have with ICT use during private hours. The Cronbach’s Alpha in the original scale was .74 and .89 for
the scale used in this research.
3.4.6. Spill-Over / Work-Life Balance (WLB)
Berkowsky’s (2013) Work-Life and Technology three item survey was included to measure the extent
to which the quantity of work required to fulfil a job role impacted on the ability of participants to
spend time with their family and fulfil home-based responsibilities, and the extent to which this
impacted on participants’ work-life balance perceptions. The original study included 865 employed
adults over 18 who resided in the United States. An example of an item is ‘The demands of my job
interfere with my ability to fulfil family or home responsibilities’. A 5-point Likert scale was used to
record responses from ‘Strongly Disagree’ (1), ‘Disagree’ (2), ‘Neither Agree nor Disagree’ (3), ‘Agree’
(4), ‘Strongly Agree’ (5). The scores were totalled to indicate the degree to which work-based ICT
impacts home life. The Cronbach’s Alpha for the original scale was .81 and for this study was .82.
3.4.7. Boundary Blurring
Schieman and Glavin’s (2016) five item work role blurring scale was used to examine the degree to
which participants actively engaged with work-related communication during their private hours.
These actions may differ from their stated intention to keep work and personal roles separate. The
original study included a total sample of 4,527 Canadian participants who were over 18 years old and
working in an income-producing business. An example item was ‘How often did you read job-related
email or text messages when you were not at work?’. The responses were measured on a 5-point
Likert scale that included ‘Never’ (1), ‘Rarely’ (2), ‘Sometimes’ (3), ‘Often (4) and ‘Very Often’ (5). The
responses were totalled, with higher scores meaning participants were more likely to actively engage
in work-based ICT use during private time. The original scale had a Cronbach’s Alpha of .90 and a
slightly lower Cronbach’s Alpha of .79 in this research.
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
3.4.8. Segmentation Strategy
One question was included from three of Kossek et al.’s (2006) Boundary Management Behaviour
scale to ascertain participants intention, or preference, to integrate or separate work and private
activities. The 245 U.S. respondents from the original survey were mostly professionals (80%), with
slightly more being female (57%) and almost half (49%) having children under 18 years old. The
question asked was ‘All in all, do you currently see yourself as someone who tries to keep work and
personal roles separated most of the time, or someone who tries to keep them integrated?’. The
response options included a 2-point Likert scales with (1) indicating ‘Separated’ and (2) indicating
‘Integrated’.
The additional questions included in Kossek et al.’s (2006) original study, but not in this current study,
were: We now want to ask you about how your workspace at home is set up at home, Do you use
this space in your home only for work? and ‘Does your family use the space when you are not there?’.
These two items were not included as they were only applicable outside of the context of a lock-down,
remote working scenario.
3.4.9. Self-Efficacy
Pejtersen et al.’s (2010) Copenhagen Psychological Questionnaire included a six item self-efficacy
scale. This scale measured an individual’s level of self-efficacy and was used to ascertain a
participant’s feelings of helplessness and their ability to recover quickly from setbacks. The original
survey, conducted in Denmark, included 3,517 respondents across all social classes within the private
and public sectors. The respondents had an average age of 42.3 years old and had slightly more female
responders (52.6%). This question is more generic than computer self-efficacy and sought to
understand if there was a link between general self-efficacy and computer self-efficacy and to what
degree this impacts stress and perceived burnout. The original question set-up was ‘How well do
these descriptions fit you as a person?’. In order to ascertain the participants’ feelings of self-efficacy
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
within the lockdown period, this was changed to ‘These questions are about how you have been
during the last month. How do you describe yourself as a person?’. An example item included in the
scale was ‘Regardless of what happens, I usually manage’. Response options were measured on a 4-
point Likert scale from ‘Does Not Fit’ (1), ‘Fits A Little Bit’ (2), ‘Fits Quite Well’ (3) to ‘Fits
Perfectly’ (4). Responses were totalled. The higher the score, the greater the level of participant self-
efficacy. The original Cronbach’s Alpha for the original scale was .80 and for this scale was .74.
3.4.10. Stress and Anxiety
Cohen et al.’s (1983) fourteen item Perceived Stress Scale was included to measure the level of
stress the participants had felt in the previous month. The original scale was used and validated
amongst two US college student groups of 332 (121 male and 209 female) and 114 (60 males and 53
female) participants. The scale showed substantial reliability and validity in measuring the degree to
which life’s situations were perceived as stressful. An example item is ‘In the last month, how often
did you feel that you were effectively coping with the important changes that were occurring in your
life?’. Response options measured on a 5-point Likert scale from ‘Never’ (1), ‘Almost Never’ (2),
‘Sometimes’ (3), ’Fairly Often’ (4), ‘Very Often’ (5). The perceived stress score was obtained by reverse
scoring the positively stated items 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10 and then summing all the items. The higher the
overall score, the more perceived stress the participant had been feeling. The Cronbach’s Alpha for
the original scale was between .84 and .86. The Cronbach’s Alpha for this research was .91.
3.4.11. Perceived Burnout (Personal and Work-Based Burnout)
All thirteen items from Kristensen et al.’s (2005) Copenhagen Burnout Inventory scale were used to
establish the degree to which a person felt burnt out and exhausted, both from a personal
and professional perspective. The original study comprised of 1,914 participants working in Denmark,
83% of whom were women. The original measure was primarily used to establish burnout amongst
those within the human service sector, it included three sections: personal burnout, work-related
ALWAYS ON, ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Page
burnout, and client-related burnout. As this survey was to establish burnout amongst knowledge
workers, the client-related burnout section of the scale was not included. The first two sections;
personal burnout and work-related burnout were included to ascertain the potential correlation
between personal and work-related ICT use during private time and burnout. An example item
included in the scale was ‘How often are you physically exhausted’. Response options were measured
on a 5-point Likert scale from ‘Never/Almost Never’ (1), ‘Seldom’ (2), ‘Sometimes’ (3), ‘Often’ (4) and
‘Always’ (5). The scores for each participant were summed. The higher the overall score, the more
burnt out they feel, personally and/or work-related. The original scale Cronbach’s Alpha was .87. The
Cronbach’s Alpha for this research was .90.
3.5. Data Analysis
The data was imported into SPSS Version 26. The data was cleaned, and relevant questions reverse
scored. As indicated in section 3.2, a total of 101 participants completed the survey, but 4 were
removed for not meeting inclusion criteria or completing full consent. Total scores were then
calculated for each of the main study variables following any reverse scoring where appropriate. A
Cronbach’s Alpha was run on individual scales, to verify that the scales within the study were all still
reliable (as reported within Section 3.4 above). A correlation study was run on the interval and scale
variables. A hierarchical multiple regression analysis was run to investigate the relationship between
the variables so as to test the research hypotheses. Finally, two independent samples t-tests were
run on the binary gender and segmentation strategy variables to understand if gender or intended
segmentation strategy had any relationship to any of the independent or outcome variables within
the study. This is explained further in the results section.