Does technology make us more productive workers?

With technology increasingly blurring the lines between work and home a survey released on Feb. 19 by Randstad US shows that constant connectivity does not mean increased productivity for women workers. The Engagement Index study reveals that while 42 percent of women believe it is increasingly difficult to disconnect from work while at home, the majority (68 percent) do not believe that the blurring of lines between work and home has increased their productivity.

Kristin Kelley, a Boston-based Randstad employee who served as the company’s executive vice president of marketing answered some questions on productivity—and how both men and womean can disconnect from work—in an email interview.

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Boston.com: Are people currently more productive than they were before the easy availability of modern communications technology?

Kristin Kelley: On one hand, modern technology affords us to get more work done at a much faster pace as employees are able to connect to the workplace anytime, anywhere. On the other hand, the increased use of technology has led some employees to feel they are unable to disconnect from work, and that doesn’t necessarily lead to greater productivity.

It’s important to differentiate between being busy and actually getting work done that achieves results. Increased connectivity can be an incredible advantage in terms of getting work done quickly and efficiently. But it’s crucial for employees to learn how to work smarter and to be able to draw the line between work and home life.

Boston.com: Are there benefits to this “available at all times” culture?

Kelley: The increased use of technology is rapidly changing the workplace. Business is moving at a much faster pace, communication is more enhanced, and it gives greater flexibility for workers due to the accessibility from any location. There’s also a downside to this culture because sometimes workers feel that in such a fast-moving environment, they’re obligated to be available at all times and that by disconnecting, you risk falling behind at work. In the end, too much connectivity can lead to burnout, undue stress and poor work/life balance.

Boston.com: Is there a way to draw a line between work time and family time?

Kelley: Certainly! Employees can set proper boundaries between work and personal time if they keep in mind that by doing so, they’re preserving their physical and emotional health, which leads to greater work productivity in the end.

Making a conscious choice to disconnect from work means having a more balanced life and that enables you to approach work with a mindset that is more focused, refreshed, and energized. Employers must also recognize the benefits of encouraging work/life balance for their workers and not expect them to be available 24/7.

Time off is important for employees and it’s a win-win for both employers and workers: employees get a chance to recharge and employers get a more committed and engaged workforce. Managers must also be in tune with their employees and recognize the signs of burnout and if needed, step in and encourage them to take some time off.

Boston.com: Do women feel the pressure to separate work from home more than men do?

Kelley: According to our research, both men and women face challenges in disconnecting from work during off hours. Our survey results show that 42 percent of women and 47 percent of men believe it is increasingly difficult to disconnect from work when at home. Additionally, 32 percent of women believe the blurring of lines between work and home increases their productivity, compared to 41 percent of men. What this shows us is that this is not a gender-specific issue. This constant connectivity is felt by everyone—and the good and the bad that comes along with it.

Boston.com: Do you find that people find it harder to take time off with work always a smartphone away?

Kelley: Yes, with business moving at such a fast pace in this hyper-connected world, some workers feel that they’re obligated to constantly check email and they’re never really able to take time off. But again, maintaining work/life balance is a conscious choice. You have to take time for yourself and knowing that, it enables you to be more productive and produce better results. Companies also must make a commitment to offering work/life balance benefits to employees because that leads to a more committed and engaged workforce.

Boston.com: Is there any data that shows that people are more productive when they define specific work and home time?

Kelley: Numerous studies have shown that companies that offer work/life benefits to their employees have a happier and more committed workforce. According to our own research, 49 percent of women say their company is flexible and accommodating in terms of hours or working arrangements and this is very likely due in part to increased connectivity. They also choose flexibility/adaptability as an important skill to grow their careers.

This points back to how increased connectivity is extremely beneficial to the workplace—as long as employees take the time to draw proper boundaries between work and personal time.