Anywhere email now everywhere

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Study: impact of intrusion on work–life balance concerning

Email is intrusive but employees do not want restrictions placed on their use of it at home, research by Avondale Business School shows.

More than 200 administrators, support staff members and teachers employed by Adventist Schools Australia and surveyed by academics from the school praised the increased flexibility anytime work email provided but condemned the unrealistic expectations it generated.

Responses to Peter Williams, Warrick Long and Dr Peter Morey’s study reveal anytime email leads to longer working hours and generates a sense of being overloaded. The irony, according to a paper the three have had published in the latest edition of the TEACH Journal of Christian Education: this is “contrary to [Adventist Schools Australia’s] espoused values of a work and life balance and the importance of family.”

Despite this, an overwhelming number of responses to the survey suggest administrators and teachers in particular feel limiting access to anytime email would be “too restricting.”

“We had respondents who indicated they were checking their email multiple times a day while on holiday,” says Peter Williams, the lead author and a former primary and high school teacher in Seventh-day Adventist schools. “It just shows how ingrained anytime email is in everyday work life.”

The survey also compared the work–life balance of the Adventist Schools Australia employees with those of other working Australians. It found the administrators and teachers but not the support staff members had higher levels of interference than any group in the national survey. The paper notes this “should be of concern” for Adventist Schools Australia because it supports “a holistic view of living including promoting periods of rest and disconnection from the work place.”

The problem, says Williams: “You can’t take away from employees what they want.” He suggests Adventist Schools Australia invest more in creating awareness about the management of anytime email and about the potential consequences of its overuse.

Adventist Schools Australia is proud of the commitment of its administrators, support staff members and teachers. “They continually go the extra mile to support students and their families,” says director Dr Daryl Murdoch. “Our schools are recognised as providing genuinely caring and supportive environments.” However, he encourages all employees “to place limits on the use of technology to ensure they’re maintaining a holistic approach to their lives.”

Murdoch advocates training for principals and teachers “so they feel they have the permission to disengage from technology and enjoy a balanced lifestyle. We all struggle in this area,” he adds, “given the high level of commitment to our work.”

Read the paper in TEACH

Brenton Stacey

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Brenton is Avondale College of Higher Education’s Public Relations Officer. He brings to the role a decade’s experience as a communicator in publishing, media relations, public relations, radio and television, mostly within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific and its entities. He is also co-convenor of Manifest, an Avondale-led movement exploring, encouraging and celebrating faithful creativity.