Computing Canada poll exposes IT’s work/life strain

Technology has increased efficiency, but Canadians are having trouble integrating it into their lives, according to a Computing Canada poll published Tuesday.

The survey, which was conducted by Leger Marketing, asked 1,500 Canadians to assess the impact of technology on their lives. More than half said that they have to work more directly as a result of using technology on a daily basis. The result is that Canadians have less free time to spend with friends and family.

The fact that the BlackBerry has become a commonplace device both in and out of the office is one of the direct contributors to this issue, said Leger Marketing associate vice-president Scott Cho.

“These are all recent phenomena that are impacting people significantly. These technologies will require people to spend more hours working rather than spending time with their families,” said Cho.

“I think sometimes we forget it does break down day-to-day life. It’s important that we embrace technology and advancement but we need to be somewhat be careful about not losing sight of what’s important in terms of family and life outside of technology.”

Technology adoption rates are a classic example of a double-edged sword, added Ron Baecker, a professor at University of Toronto’s Knowledge Media Design Institute.

“The plus side, in my view, is that it’s given people far more flexibility in working where they want when they want – at home, the cottage, on an airplane, etc. The minus side is exactly the same thing – it gets harder to escape work and really get away,” he said.

What was surprising among the survey results was the degree to which parents’ frowned on the hours their children spent in front of computers, said Cho. Three-quarters of those surveyed said they spend too much of their free time using technology. Only three per cent said their children should spend more time.

“It may be a fact that we don’t understand what kids do on the computer,” said Cho. “But the fact is that technology has helped our efficiency in the workplace, that it has contributed significantly in our day to day life. So perhaps the amount of time (children) are spending depends on our perception of what’s acceptable.”

The upshot of all that computer time is that children will be more savvy about technology use when their time comes to enter the workforce, added Cho.

But adults that are surrounded by technology find it difficult to embrace life without it, said Baecker.

“I find many of my technologically-sophisticated workaholic friends are increasingly having to find holidays where they can expressly isolate themselves from technology,” he said. “I think some people will work out a healthy a balance themselves and others will get more and more insane. I’m sort of caught in the middle myself.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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