A man looks at his email on a Blackberry

Photo: AFP

Are we getting better at saying "no" to work?

As high-tech gadgets creep into every corner of our lives, they unfortunately seem to bring work with them. Smartphones are making it even harder to get away from work, but it's not a new phenomenon. Years ago when many organisations started introducing schemes offering discount home computers for staff, I was suspicious that the real motive was to give us the tools to put in a few hours of unpaid overtime.

Smartphones give us greater flexibility during so-called "work hours", but at the end of the day it's important to put work aside. 

Once you've got a computer at home, it's not long before you start bringing home work. At first it's just a "once off" to catch up on a few things during an insanely busy week. But it's a slippery slope and pretty soon you find yourself working every night after dinner and maybe during your daily commute. As big organisations try to do more with less, you'll struggle to claw the time back.

Work-issued smartphones make it even harder to take your mind off work if they're constantly ringing, or pinging to alert you to new messages. I still think that smartphones have a role to play in work/life balance, as they can make it easier to get away from your desk for a while. I get annoyed at people who frown on parents checking their messages while they're at a school concert or playing with their kids at the park. If that parent didn't have the smartphone, perhaps they'd be stuck at their desk instead. Smartphones give us greater flexibility during so-called "work hours", but at the end of the day it's important to put work aside.

A new survey from Human Resources vendor NorthgateArinso claims that Australians are actually getting better at saying "no" to work. According to the survey results; 

- Fewer workers make work-related calls from home this year (24%) than last year (36%)

- Fewer workers check emails at home this year (38%) versus last year (46%)

- Fewer workers feel that work is intruding on their personal life this year (39%) versus last (52%)

- Fewer companies are providing employees with laptops this year 24% versus last (35%)

I'm quite surprised by these results, except for the last figure because more organisations are encouraging staff to use their own laptops for work. NorthgateArinso's ANZ managing director David Page thinks the shift could partly be to cultural change within organisations, as they realise that "online fatigue" can actually make workers less productive rather than more. This might be the case with some enlightened bosses, but I expect they're in a minority.

What's your boss' approach to working after hours? Are they becoming more understanding, or are we just getting better at saying no?