The Balance Network is directly linked to the following three research projects. Its purpose is to both facilitate links between the projects, and use them as a springboard to create a wider network of academics and non-academics for collaborative events and projects.

Digital Epiphanies

The advances in technology in recent years have had many positive effects on the ways in which people can combine work and personal life. For example, being able to access email via a smartphone means that many can work from home, or work a flexible work pattern that successfully fits around caring responsibilities.

However, the resulting "always-online" culture in which people expect almost instant responses to email messages, brings stresses and strains to those who feel under pressure to respond immediately and be available on a 24/7 basis.

Despite widespread and proliferating debates about the impacts of digital technologies on work-life balance, few empirical studies have explored how these technologies are being used and what impact their use is having on people's work and personal lives.

This project seeks to enhance our understanding of the paradoxical and double-edged effects that new technologies and digital practices are having on work-life balance.

Find out more about Digital Epiphanies

Family Rituals 2.0

Family Rituals 2.0 was developed during an EPSRC ‘Creativity Greenhouse’ held in July 2012 with the key theme of ‘achieving work/life balance in a digitally dependent world’. During the greenhouse process, the research team identified the daily rhythms and behaviours of family life, namely family rituals, as key features of prosaic family experience that may come into conflict with workplace demands, especially in the digital era of being on-line or contactable at any time. It was felt that in efforts to support work-life balance a deeper understanding of the evolving nature of family rituals within the digital age was required.

This research has at its focus one aspect of work-life balance: work that involves a physical separation of an individual from their families and home for extended periods of time.

The aims of Family Rituals 2.0 research are to:

1. Understand the domestic rituals people share and the values they place in them

2. Understand how existing technologies are being used to support in engagement in family rituals for mobile workers

3. Explore existing technologies that facilitate ritual activity, as part of work/life balance

4. Produce speculative designs around the novel reconfiguration of existing technologies to support domestic rituals

5. Understand how simple technologies can support inclusion in domestic rituals.

Find out more about Family Rituals 2.0.  

Digital Brain Switch

The Digital Brain Switch (DBS) project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is studying the changing nature of work-life balance as a result of digital technologies. It is a collaboration between Lancaster University; The Open University; Royal Holloway, University of London; and University of Kent.

The project members are particularly interested in how people switch between different work-life roles – parent, spouse, friend, co-worker, manager, employee – and how digital technologies either support this or act as a barrier.

In the age of modern communications, we all switch between multiple different roles on a daily basis. And these switches can be very rapid – one minute, we might check in with our friends on Facebook; the next we switch to work email; a minute later we go to Twitter where we see both work- and leisure-related information. How do we manage these very rapid switches? Do these rapid switches cause problems that we find hard to deal with? Or have we achieved a seamless integration of work and life where our various roles can co-exist?

Over a period of 22 months, DBS is carrying out an in-depth study of these phenomena and is developing new tools to allow us to manage switching between different roles. Some example images from our pilot study are included below.

Find out more about Digital Brain Switch.

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