Work-Life Balance in the High-Tech Industry

Introduction

The given paper will primarily focus on the theory of work-life balance in the high-tech industry. The reason for selecting the topic is that the high-tech industry is fairly new, but its impact is substantial. Therefore, it is important to have an academic understanding of employee relations within the industry. As an example case, Google’s work-life balance approach will be presented in order to reflect on one of the largest high-tech giant’s strategies. The company was chosen because it is well known to offer its employees highly welcoming working conditions, but the company still struggles to maintain well-adjusted work-life balance. The critical evaluation will be helpful for individuals due to the overall importance of work-life balance, and they will be able to learn how to organisations can treat their workers without consuming exceeding amounts of time.

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The paper will argue that work-life balance is critical in order to induce more productivity and efficiency among employees, and thus, the high-tech industry needs to set clear boundaries between work processes and personal life. The theme is based on the notion that due to the high-tech industry worker’s availability through technology, he or she might not possess a properly outlined work-life balance. For instance, in case of many companies, such as Google, hyper-connectivity is major issue that does not allow workers to “disconnect” from work. The organisational context will revolve around a number of large tech companies, and Google will be assessed as a case example. The theoretical framework will be mostly focused on the holistic integration of non-work and work in one’s life.

Intricacies of Work-Life in High-Tech Industry

The concept of balance between personal life and work appeared in the high-tech industry in the late years of the previous century. It was used as a notion regarding the problem of roles mixing in an employee who desired to make money. However, at the same time, he or she should not forget about the marriage and family responsibilities. At the moment, this topic is studied mainly in the field of management. It is used as one of the major evaluation points measuring the employees’ effectiveness. It is important to understand that the lack of proper balance between personal and work spheres is associated with chronic fatigue, depression, stress, and mental disorders (Rehder et al., 2016). Therefore, it is not easy to achieve a harmony and plausible interaction between the given spheres.

The balance of one’s psychological dimension between various spheres of a person’s life is a process that is highly dynamic. It is important to note that the latter statement implies a constant progression in order to achieve the objective. The balance between personal life and work is subjective, but it is linked with the objective aspect of a person’s time or effort to the respectable areas. For each person, the optimal balance between these two areas is individual (Chung and Lippe, 2018). Thus, the problem arises of identifying the factors that determine the successful or unsuccessful achievement of such a balance, as well as its place among other psychological characteristics of labour activity and human life in general.

At the moment in high tech industry, there is a large number of definitions of the concept of balance between personal life and work, and many of them are fundamentally different from each other. Since this concept implies some idea of the proper and optimal balance or its absence, it is possible to streamline views on this problem by considering two approaches to its study. The first involves an overall assessment of the individual’s life situation, namely, his satisfaction and proper functioning at home and work with the least manifestation of role conflict (Mas-Machuca, Berbegal-Mirabent, and Alegre, 2016). The second structural approach implies that work-life balance has multiple components (Haar et al., 2019). The general concept of balance includes the balance of job satisfaction, balance of inclusion, and balance of time.

Despite the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, the overall assessment better explains the context of achieving balance, which is why this model is used in the issue resolution. The resources required to meet the requirements of both areas and achieve a balance can be identified as time and financial support, as well as control. Other resources of the personality, such as, for example, psychological, emotional, and social, are not considered in the context. Therefore, it is important to find the relationship between work-life balance and the work characteristics of the individual and his subjective well-being.

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In the context of an empirical study of work-life balance, it is important to define psychological well-being. Today, there are two main approaches to the study of mental well-being, such as hedonistic and eudemonistic (Oles and Jankowski, 2018). The latter considers well-being through a person’s personal growth, his ability to self-regulation by increasing the importance of the world, and his capabilities. The hedonistic approach describes well-being through contentment, that is, dissatisfaction with life and positive and negative emotions through an affective component. The latter notes two aspects of subjective well-being, such as cognitive and emotional (Smeltzer et al., 2015). The cognitive element can be attributed to the intellectual assessment of satisfaction with various aspects of a person’s life and the emotional mood.

Current Literature

In order to thoroughly analyse the concept of work-life balance, it is important to understand the current stance of the high-tech industry and the idea itself. There is currently not enough theoretical material in the study of work-life balance. This line of research is relatively new and most developed in modern management and psychology, while in some fields, it is more considered at the level of the politics of individual companies (Arenofsky, 2017). There is a need to develop effective psycho-diagnostic methods for studying work-life balance. However, for this, it is necessary to identify its connection with other constructs, which can be both a consequence and a cause of a successful or unsuccessful relationship between personal spheres and work in the life of a person (Sirgy and Lee, 2018). Thus, it is important to check whether or not work-life balance is related to the characteristics of the high tech industry. In addition, it is necessary to understand the aspects of human labour, as well as the correlation between balance and the personal happiness of the individual with life in general.

The focus of work-life balance on a positive correlation between family and work-related roles is established on enrichment in the high tech industry. Family and work enrichment includes a positive emotional state, personal development, material gains for raising the family’s standard of living. However, enriching the work of the family consists of using the skills acquired in the family, transferring positive emotions, and a sense of one’s own effectiveness while combining several roles (Neale-McFall et al., 2018). Reconciliation of the tasks of personal life and work lies in the area of ​​family-friendly politics. Some studies highlight the role of flexible working hours, second-time part-time jobs, and parental leave (Deery and Jago, 2015). Part-time work is understood from two points of view as a reduction in workload or as a fundamental change in the structure of working time.

The listed options of the provided policy are not without drawbacks. There is a place for wages, overwork, missed opportunities, isolation, reduced career chances, constant indirect involvement in high-tech networks through information technology (Shanafelt et al., 2015). Over the past several years, the positive effect of flexible work hours has been questioned, often only of formal significance (Kelliher, Richardson and Boiarintseva, 2019). For most, this means autonomy in work and an increase in the intensity of primarily high-tech activities.

Manifestations of WLB in High-Tech Industry

Interest in the concept of life-work balance has caused a substantial increase in the number of manifestations in the high tech industry over the past decades. The balance of life and work is recognized as a controversial term since it implies two mutually exclusive areas in which the responsibility for social change is placed on the individual. Therefore, alternative concepts began to appear, such as the integration of personal life and work alongside the harmony of life and work. However, they could not crowd out the original version, and the focus of research interest sets a different conceptualization of the concept, reflecting the gender insensitivity of the overwhelming number of works (Hari, 2017). In this context, the balance of life and work in high tech means an assessment of satisfaction and the effectiveness of combining various social and professional roles in accordance with the individual system of values ​​and life priorities.

The professional affiliation of an individual has an important role in the balance, since certain areas of professional activity, in particular their stringent requirements, can generate a strong conflict between life and work in the high tech industry. Over the past decades, high tech companies have been transforming under the banner of abrupt, dramatic changes, where high tech work has gone from being autonomous and safe to being risky and invisible (Starmer, Frintner, and Freed, 2016). Structural changes are caused by factors such as the market nature of relations, changes in high-tech industry consumption patterns, intensive commercialization processes, and the growth of managerial approach.

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These reforms caused a feeling of stress, a mismatch in the time budget between high-tech work and personal life. The uncertainty of the emergence of tasks and the strict time frames for their implementation, strict regulation, as a result, the formation of a new perception of labour, all these are the realities of modern high tech. This also includes the loss of creativity caused by the need to ration work hours against their true interests and hyper-connectivity. The latter is expressed in the sense of constant waiting for letters and calls, fear of missing something urgent, breaking away from current events, in general, this reduces the quality of life, negatively affects family life, and a sense of satisfaction (Hofmann and Stokburger-Sauer, 2017). Based on the ongoing changes in the high tech device, it is important to conduct a review aimed at studying the development of the discourse of the balance of life and work in high tech. It is necessary, firstly, to structure the existing framework, and secondly, to identify the gap and outline the perspective of future directions.

The Role of Technology

The rapid development of information technology is a characteristic feature of modern time, and it is especially true in the high tech industry. Due to information technology, the emergence of a global communication space has a strong impact on all aspects of society, especially the work environment. Fluid modernity in which everything has become open, permeable, and dynamic, embodies the main value of modernity, that is, freedom. The modern corporate environment in the context of fluid modernity is also determined to a large extent by the level of independence. The latter includes flexibility, mobility through the use of new technologies and media (Dawson, Eltayeb, and Marwan, 2016). The practice of widespread use of network connections in the work and personal sphere, denoted by the concept of hyper-connectivity, arises (Gaines, 2019). The assumption is that hyper-connectivity entails a number of not only positive but also negative consequences for the performance of both one person and entire organisations.

Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are exacerbating the blurring of lines between work and personal life in the high tech industry. This, of course, has a number of advantages, where, for example, a fairly wide range of employees now have the opportunity to work remotely, which gives more flexibility in the allocation of time. This is especially true for working high-tech parents who need to combine work and family responsibilities, as it provides them with the opportunity not to fall out of the work process (Cheong, Shuter, and Suwinyattichaiporn, 2016). The beneficiaries are primarily working women, for whom the period of active motherhood is usually associated with leaving the labour market, which leads to career losses.

Time is an important resource, the effective management of which has become a necessary skill of a modern person in the high tech industry. In a situation of living in a metropolis, the remote employment format allows employees to save time on the way to the office, makes it possible to use it for self-development and communication with family and friends. Another important aspect of using Internet communication and mobile devices for work is to improve the efficiency of the workflow. Prompt response to incoming requests from bosses, business partners, and colleagues saves time on solving work issues. It demonstrates the employee’s involvement in the process of official communication, his competence, and responsibility as an employee of a high-tech organisation.

However, hyper-connectivity is a complex social phenomenon, ambiguous in its consequences for the subjective perception of the quality of life of individuals. If the positive effects of this type of employment have already been repeatedly described by social researchers, then the negative consequences are rarely considered (Maietta, 2015). The “always in touch” format can be described as a process where emails and messages are where the workday begins and how it ends. People check their work email before bed, and then the next morning, as soon as they wake up, afraid of missing something important. Even when they sleep, the smartphone is always at arm’s length in case they suddenly write or call from work. At the same time, e-mails, and messages that come at night, on weekends, and during holidays can generate stress and destroy family life and reduce the subjective assessment of the quality of life of individuals.

The Case of Google

Google is one of the most prominent companies in the high tech industry. It is stated that the company makes a bold attempt to apply science to derive the correct method to ensure work-life balance for its employees (Bock, 2019). Mobile devices and Googlers’ corporate channels allow employees to respond quickly, constantly have access and exchange information, and make decisions faster. Also, among the advantages of using mobile devices is the ability to increase employee productivity and encourage cooperation between them. Using smartphones allows employees to be more productive for a certain amount of time. Realizing this, many organisations have begun to supply their staff with corporate smartphones and tablets.

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Google’s culture of constant involvement in professional life reduces productivity in the long term as workers do not have time to rest and recover. Hyper-connectivity, the continuous commitment of employees in official communication in a 24/7 format, is a threat to the organisation. The report from the Google employees suggests that many lack proper work-life balance due to the absence of clear boundaries (Edwards, 2015). It is important to pay attention to the decrease in the efficiency of employees who have to be constantly “in touch.” There is a correlation between smartphone use and subjective job satisfaction. Employees of this type can have higher job satisfaction, they will spend more time with themselves and their loved ones, and thanks to their feedback, people can learn more about these professions.

It is important for Googlers to be able to combine work and family responsibilities due to the fact that he or she does not have to be in the office all the time, and the performance of work can be included in the daily routine. Workers become more mobile and overcome constraints in their work (Castro, 2015). On the other hand, the constant availability of an employee due to the use of mobile devices has a negative impact on the quality of life. It is necessary to consider the negative aspects of using mobile devices as a way to balance work and personal life in the context of fluid modernity. The key concept when considering this issue is the “right to disconnect” (Hesselberth, 2018). The latter presupposes the ability to neutralize the negative consequences of hyper-connectivity as one of the characteristic features of the corporate environment of post-industrial societies. The “right to disconnect” is an addition to the list of labour rights that gives an individual the ability to “disconnect” from work, primarily from using types of electronic communications such as emails and messages for work purposes outside of business hours.

Implications

Work-life balance design in the high tech industry can be understood in terms of a number of key elements. Firstly, it is personal management where the responsibility falls on the individual, and the round-the-clock work mode is formed due to the inability to properly manage one’s time. Secondly, this is some form of an impossible task, that is, the secondary employment of employees in conjunction with the required workload. Third, work-life balance can be career-damaging where achieving balance is worth professional success, and avoiding an intensive work schedule minimizes career-related chances. Fourthly, this is an ignored topic in high tech, which manifests itself through an orientation towards the perception of fellow colleagues and the suppression of family responsibilities.

The main factor of stress is the conflict between work and non-work areas in the high tech industry, which arises when a large amount of energy is spent on a single role and neglect of other relevant areas of life. Violation of the equilibrium position leads to an appeal to the concept of conflict between life and work, reflecting the inability to combine the pressure of work and family responsibilities. The ambivalence of life and high-tech work is shaped by individual factors such as workaholism and intense conscious involvement. This is due to technological development, which has accelerated the pace of high-tech work. The consequences of conflict can have a greater impact on employees who are confronted with overlapping reproductive and career timelines, causing the synchronic model to fail due to stereotypical, sceptical attitudes.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is important to understand that the high tech industry is prone to lack of work-life balance due to the active use of technology and lack of proper boundaries. In a society of fluid modern high-tech industry, the boundaries between work and personal life that have characterized industrial societies are blurring. Among the positive aspects of this process is providing the opportunity for employees to be more flexible and mobile, to adjust the workplace to their needs and limitations in the high tech industry. Among the negative aspects is the risk of exploitation of the given freedom by the employer. While some companies, such as Google, are trying to make significant progress in protecting employee rights and introducing the “right to disconnect,” it must be recognized that many companies still have a long way to go to develop and implement a balanced work-life balance.

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